Where did “the Shag” dance originate?

I recently received a challenge on my “Southern Tidbits” column regarding the origination of  “the Shag.” The commenter claims the birthplace was not Myrtle Beach, SC, but Carolina Beach, NC. (See comment under “Contact” category).

There is quite a bit of controversy over the birthplace of “the Shag.” I don’t think anyone has come up with solid proof for either NC or SC. However, because we’re friendly states, I’m willing to concede to whomever can show solid proof either way!

Let’s hear from some other readers? Was North Carolina or South Carolina the birthplace of the Shag? (Leave your comment below.)

24 responses to “Where did “the Shag” dance originate?

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  2. Shannon Lacombe

    Carolina Beach, NC, is where it originated. However, as Carolina Beach was not a national tourist destination like Myrtle Beach, it did not gain attention until it was brought to Myrtle Beach. Therefore, I would say that CB is the birthplace, but Myrtle Beach popularized the dance.

  3. Interesting reading. I grew up at Carolina. Beach and knew shag as dancing. It was a hopping place in the summer. I began to learn to dance at the REC there in the late 50s, early 60s. MOTOWN music was perfect for the shag. The town produced some super dancers: Jimmy Fergus, Danny Sikes, Jimmy Ford, and on and on. I was alive Guard at the beach and all the life guard team danced what is known now as the shag. As we because drinking age we shifted to the Ocean Plaza. A lot of great times were had there! In the winter we would shift to Wrightsville and often up to the Embers Club or – when there was a band- Williams Lake near Dunn. I don’t want anything I have said to take away from Myrtle and OD. What a dancing destination that was. I know that Chicken Hicks was a corner stone at CB. I suspect he contributed mightily at Myrtle also. The Vietnam war split us all up, as did employment opportunities elsewhere in the nation. I don’t think you will find people shagging at Carolina Beach much anymore. That’s a shame. But the memories remain. I flew up from Florida awhile back and had a cold beer with wonderful Norman Melton at the Silver Dollar on the boardwalk. Memories came back including dancing to the Tams at the OP back in 1970 the night before I flew away. Keep dancing! R/ dennis frisbee

  4. Google Charlie’s Place by Frank Beacham….This will answer your question.

  5. Sandra, here is what I have as links to my research on “the shag dance.”

    The big apple dance. Judy Pritchett
    Carolina shag, wikipedia

    These are a good start. The idea is embroiled in controversy about it’s origin. I personally visit The Big Apple building regularly, being a history buff myself.
    Thanks for the inquiry.

  6. The Shag, better known as The Big Apple Dance, originated in Columbia, South Carolin in a nightclub called The Big Apple. Located at 1318 Park Street, the Big Apple was a popular nightspot for African-Americans. The dance, itself, was created by Frankie Manning of the African-American dance troupe, Whiteys Lindy Hoppers.
    It is a derivative of jazz danced to swing music. It became popular when, according to Movietone Newsreel documentations, a white businessman from New York witnessed the dance and took it back home.
    In a time when America was still recovering from The Great Depression and concerned about Hitler’s intentions in Europe, African-Americans dealt with the dilemma through dance.
    According Judy Pritchett, in her book,[ produced by Dancetime Publications and Savoy Style Productions] Dancing The Big Apple, two white teens came into The Big Apple, learned the dance and took it back to Myrtle Beach.
    Whomever has the story right, the dance appears to be a Columbia creation.
    The Big Apple was originally a Jewish synagogue. It was moved to Hampton Street as a historical landmark.

  7. I am going to wait and more than likely agree with whatever Hook comes up with as factual, if he does as I don’t believe anyone on the planet has done as much research on this dance and culture as John has. For myself, I believe it to have been originated at Carolina Beach. One thing for sure though, this debate will go on and on ..

  8. You ask a great question, but you need to ask where ” fas dancing ” or now called shag or Carolina shag started.

  9. Lots of wonderful folklore here. The Shag had origins outside all these explanations. Documentation and Proof coming in 2014.

  10. My grandfather was bobby hicks and my uncle was chicken hicks. They are not with us anymore but when they were, I was always being filled with information and history of shagging. My grandfather and chicken hitchhiked to Carolina beach and found themselves hanging out in the sea breeze community with all the colors dancing andhaving a good time. Long story short they stolethose records and brought them down to the Carolina beach clubs. They played those albums and shook their hips in a way thy most people in that town frowned upon. Tu get kicked out of Carolina beach and move to myrtle. My
    Family. Legends

  11. Maybe they are adding “Carolina” on it to show it was their version of the original. I’v worked SoS events for 30 years and my parents and grandparents all love to shag. I’ve never heard a single shagger claim it was invented anywhere but NMB/MB. Its really sort of rotten a couple people are saying this. I’ve not once heard of any kids coming fron hours away to go shag at Carolina beach.

  12. Its common knowledge The Shag is South Carolina born & bred. I guess tarheels are trying to claim it 60 years too late for unknown reasons. Nice try though but facts are facts.

  13. According to what “Chicken” Hicks, told me and many others Shaggers, that I know, the Carolina Shag started at Carolina Beach, NC. We also know that the term, “Carolina Shag” —originated at Carolina Beach, NC.

    I’m sure, if Hurricane Hazel never came up the Cape Fear River, which pretty much destroyed Carolina Beach—the famous Ocean Drive of Shaggers—more than likely, would have been located at Carolina Beach, today. Of course, Carolina Beach was slow to rebuild after Hazel, and Myrtle Beach rebuilt quickly and took the lead as the hottest vacation spot in the Carolina’s, if not, the entire east coast.

    Carolina Beach has never received the recognition for the Carolina Shag as it deserves. Without question, it should would help its economy and bring back the Shaggers on the “Boardwalk.”

    The article below is about what “Chicken” Hicks told me and the other Shaggers when we asked him about it. “Chicken” Hick started dancing at “Carolina Beach,” Beach”, then “Chicken” Hicks migrated to Myrtle Beach, NC.

    Link to article below: http://www.oceandrivemovie.com/chicken-hicks/

    Chicken Hicks was one of a kind.

    Malcolm Ray “Chicken” Hicks was an early pioneer of “shagging” or the “Carolina Shag.” Coastal historians credit him, along with Billy Jeffers, with its evolution and popularity throughout the 1940s–’50s. Chicken’s love of the R&B sound, then called “race music,” helped introduce this new genre to white audiences throughout Eastern beach communities.
    During their teens and twenties, Chicken and younger brother Bobby Hicks would visit the “colored” areas around Carolina Beach, NC to check out the “jump joints.” Picking up moves from black dancers, they would electrify audiences with their flashy style.
    Chicken was tall and lean with bleach-blond locks. His rebel attitude and unique dance ability quickly gained him popularity among women, as some are rumored to have waited hours for Chicken to sweep them off of their feet.
    Chicken Hicks, along with Jim Hannah, founded a Carolina Beach dance spot called the Tijuana Inn. Chicken persuaded Jim to include the “race music” in the jukebox, which did not go over well with local white dignitaries. After several fights and alleged killings, they had the doors permanently closed. In the early 1950s, Chicken Hicks was eventually forced out of town. That was when the shag scene shifted to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, where it currently resides.
    Chicken Hicks was admitted to the Shaggers Hall of Fame on Memorial Day, 2004. The Cape Fear Museum proudly displays his signature white “shaggin” shoes.
    Chicken Hicks passed away July 4, 2004. He was 78.


    • Southern-Traveller

      Thanks for posting this. Great background info that’s fascinating to read. I don’t know if the issue will every completely be resolved, but you state a good case for Carolina Beach.

    • Southern-Traveller

      OK Lee, thanks to you, I’ve decided to amend my “Southern Tidbit” about the Shag dance originating in Myrtle Beach. I have changed it to read “either Carolina Beach, NC, or Myrtle Beach, SC,” and leave it to the reader to check out the facts and comments.

      Thanks for raising the issue. It’s always fun to dig deeper.

  14. According to two of my Carolina Girlfriends that shag…have all of their life. Shagging orginated at Carolina Beach and migrated to Myrtle Beach later on.

  15. I agree in shag’s jitterbug and lindy hop roots, but add that these were african-american roots. A friend of mine mentioned a beach area in sc (maybe atlantic bch, sc? – not nc) where african-american/’black’ people frequented and danced the lindy and jitterbug.

  16. The shag originated in the late 1930’s in clubs in Myrtle Beach, SC. The
    shag has roots in jitterbug and Lindy Hop Swing, which date to the 1920’s.
    Early Shaggers called themselves “Jitterbugs.” The early swing music was
    fast, big band swing. The term “Shag” came about over a decade later. By
    the early ’50s, shag adopted the tempo and feel of rhythm and blues.
    Certain individuals, such as Billy Jeffers and “Chicken” Hicks are credited
    with developing the early aspects of the dance in Myrtle Beach, SC.
    My wife tells me, there was a Carolina Beach originated dance called the “Carolina Beach Shuffle” which greatly resembled the Shag, but Myrtle Beach is still accredited as the origin of the Shag. Some have also speculated that it was Atlantic Beach, but Myrtle Beach is the origin.
    ( “….Association of Carolina Shag Clubs” )
    My wife, a Wilmington native of some 67+ years, actually “shagged” with “Chicken” Hicks in Myrtle Beach where the Shag Hall of Fame now exists…

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