Beach music, as it is known in the South, originated in the coastal Carolinas in the years following World War II. The term referred to African American “race” music (later called rhythm and blues, or R&B) that could be found in South Carolina only on jukeboxes in the beachside jump joints and saloons.
With the notable exception of WLAC, a 50,000-watt radio station in Nashville whose signal blanketed the South, most regional broadcasters refused to play the raw, sexually suggestive songs. WAIM in Anderson proudly advertised that it aired “No Jungle Music.” The “race” recordings were mostly sold by mail order.
However, along the coast, the decline of big-band swing prompted young white dancers to seek out alternative music. George Lineberry, one of the young white dancers who worked for a local amusements company in Myrtle Beach until 1948, took it upon himself to install “race” records on jukeboxes in white establishments, including the popular oceanfront pavilion in the heart of the tourist district. Lineberry chose records that he and his friends had discovered on visits to black nightclubs. Because it was mostly heard at the beach, this exciting, hard-to-find new music genre became known to white visitors as beach music. “This was the devil’s music—you just didn’t listen to it in the average white southern home,” said Marion Carter, founder of Ripete Records, a beach music specialty label in Elliott, South Carolina.
In later years a tamer version of the music grew in popularity as it became associated with the popular shag, now the state’s official dance. An offshoot, a pop version of the R&B sound often called “bubblegum beach,” is distinguished by simplistic lyrics celebrating youthful romance, alcohol highs, and a carefree life at the Carolina beaches. In 2001 beach music (without a firm definition) was designated South Carolina’s official state music.