Columbia Shag Club
Columbia Shag Club friends
The place is Saint Nick’s. It’s Tuesday night about ten o’clock or a little after. DJ in residence Butch Davidson cues up a Delbert or maybe a Bostic shaggers fill the floor and the regular meeting of the Columbia Shag Club is in full swing. The dancing continues until well after midnight, longneck brown bottles empty or well on their way line the standup bar and the dancers who never seem to get enough keep on doing what shaggers have done for well over four decades – keep on dancing.
This is the Columbia Shag Club. With 350 members and enough money in the bank for the next keg of beer, this all for fun and pleasure organization, just over three years old, swings into its fourth with the quiet confidence of a centuries old society knowing that it has found the right philosophy to keep beach music and shagging alive in South Carolina Midlands for many years to come.
Now it’s Wednesday night in the spring of 1980. The place is Wit’s End, a new club with delightful ambience. The music is hard core beach and the longneck brown bottles are ubiquitous. A little band of shaggers, all good and all dedicated to the last breath in their bodies to this dance and music are getting to know each other. The word passes, the group grows: Wednesday s become Fridays and Saturdays and soon, every night is shag night. One didn’t have to be a sage to predict what would be. Switch to September 1980. Still not organized, these shagging friends suddenly are in Ocean Drive for the SOS, whatever that is. We don’t quite know on Thursday but by Monday we know and we know we will never forget. Our world will never be the same again.
Back to Wit’s for the winter with an occasional foray “across the river” to Fanny Teague’s, the seeds of organization begin to grow. Like a baby, the club demands to be born. The winter turns to summer and the gestation continues. New clubs spring up all over town. Beach is in the clubs and on the radio. The big question of the day is “where y’all going tonight?” “Across the river to start with but we gonna be back on this side by midnight.” The group began to splinter. Some of us here, some of us there. We have to get it together.
In the fall of 1981, an event of gargantuan importance to Midlands shaggers occurred: Pug Wallace opened Fanny’s Beach Club. Fanny’s was an enormous success from the beginning and we found a home. Talk of a Columbia Shag club continued. Nick & Sherri Mathis, pillars of the old Wit’s End crowd began to talk with interested dancers in the kitchen at Fanny’s ad the club idea took shape. Along with Nick & Sherri, Ronnie & Jean Boston, Don & Sandra Bryant, Dick & Linda Terry, Ann Arnold, Joy Perry, Bill Holler Nand others became movers in this early effort. They did more than talk. They drafted a charter, passed information to known shaggers and the blessed event happened in February, 1982. The club was formed, the charter adopted, and officers elected.
President Nick Mathis, Vice President Norman Holliday, Secretary Sandra Bryant, and Treasurer Dick Terry began to develop the identity of the club. The first thing to do was to establish a regular night for shaggers to gather. We tried Wednesdays and Fridays but the scene was all too familiar. As soon as we established a great night, word would spread around town and dancers of various other inclinations would crash the action. This was of course unacceptable to shaggers.
Nick finally settled with Fanny’s on Tuesday nights, which was then an off night for every club in town, with the complete agreement that it would be beach and shaggers only and the rest is history. It has been Tuesday night ever since for the Columbia Shag Club.
During the summer our membership increased and we hosted our first statewide party at Pine Island on Lake Murray. It did not have a name then but we knew it was destined to become a stellar event. SPA contest shagging came to Columbia and the Christmas gala was the highlight of the holiday season. The first year ended with an election party in March. With 140 members, funds to party with, a great year behind us, we were on our way.
Form and Structure
The club entered the second year with Phil Sawyer President, Norman Holiday Vice President, Reta Regle Secretary, and Dick Terry Treasurer. Shag clubs throughout the state were well established and there were numerous activities everywhere. The beach weekends at Fat Jack’s and Harold’s were “musts’ and the spring and fall SOS were fixtures on everyone’s calendar. In short there was a lot to do.
Two things happened at the beginning of the second year that were soon recognized as the strengths of the club. The Newsletter which would arrive at every member’s home on the first day of each month was published and the club made its inaugural out-of-town trip as a group to the Spring Fling in Rock Hill.
The Newsletter contained much more than announcements of upcoming events. Each issue featured articles about beach music and shagging, people stories, humor, satire, and a welcome to new members. Members began to look forward to the arrival of The Newsletter with the same degree of anticipation as their income tax refund.
The trip to Rock Hill party began the tradition of large numbers of Columbia shaggers attending the statewide events of other clubs. We got to know the shaggers from Charleston, Greenville, Florence, Charlotte, Atlanta, Winnsboro, and the beach and they got to know us. Our mutual bond was our love for the music and the dance and nothing else mattered. We were friends.
Tuesday nights at Fanny’s was well established as the best shag party in the two Carolinas. The dancing and music were surely equal to any other mid-week beach party anywhere. Butch Davidson anchored the DJ booth and his music as well as the regular reminders in The Newsletter were largely responsible. An axiom is that shaggers will follow the music and we always had the best. Along with Butch, Herb Matthews, Henry “Professor” Johnson, Johnny Walker, Jim Boineau, Gary Bass, and guest DJs from Greenville, Charlotte, and Spartanburg made sure of this.
In September, over one hundred of our members registered for SOS II and took along with them a very important document: a proclamation by Governor Richard W. Riley making the week SOS MIGRATION AND SHAG WEEK and urging “all citizens to preserve and enjoy this wholesome activity not only during this designated week, but throughout the year.”- An admonition which we freely and joyously obey.
The Pine Island party became the Pine Island Invitational, a two day even that drew shaggers all the way from Atlanta to West Virginia. Over 285 attended Pine Island II. At this party the presidents of the established clubs meet and laid the groundwork for the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs. An organization was born in the fall of 1983 which would see 145 shaggers take a five day cruise from Miami to Mexico and firmly establish two great beach week-ends at Ocean Drive. Remarkable.
PM Magazine on WIS-TV featured the Columbia Sag Club in a ten minute segment in December which was viewed by an estimated one hundred thousand persons. The segment was filmed for over three hours at a Tuesday night party at Fanny’s. An avalanche of applications for membership followed the program. The shagging piece was so popular the hosts used it for background footage for many programs to come. PM Magazine in many other cities throughout the country also used this feature.
During the late winter the club found another formula for success. Sunday afternoon parties, especially in January, February, and March became regular events. The club provided free beer and wine, and the hours were late afternoon to early evening: just right to end the week-end and celebrate the first day of the new week. This tradition will long continue.
In May 1984, Jerry Brazell as Vice Present and Jean Charleton as Secretary joined Phil and Dick as the officers and the third year was off to a flying start. Imagine our pride as we gathered in Governor Riley’s office as he signed the act making the shag the Official Dance of the State of South Carolina. The celebration at Beau’s, sponsored by the Honorable John J. “Bubba” Snow, Jr., sponsor of the legislation, was a notable event of the year. It has already achieved “annual” status.
Things kept getting better as 1984 rolled along. Our membership grew each month. The parties were well attended and we went to out of town parities in large numbers, often in vans or busses. Hordes of shaggers also came to Columbia. Pine Island III in October, the Association Christmas Party in December, and the Bon Voyage Party co-hosted with Rock Hill in February were the best attended parties of the year.
The winter of 1984 ended on a sand note. Our beloved Fanny’s closed. For as long as they both had lived, Fanny’s Beach Club and the Columbia Shag Club had been together. But shag places are like living beings. They are born, live their life, and die, and Fanny’s passed on. She was a great lady. She was the locus of our formation as a club and she nurtured us in a way that will long be remembered. We will miss her.
But we are not orphans. St. Nick’s is now our home and this is where our little saga began.
Since its inception in 1982 the Columbia Shag Club has held fast to two principles which we consider to be essential to the success of shag clubs. First, we serve our members. The new member immediately receives a membership card, information on the club, and the latest issue of The Newsletter. Our parties are scheduled regularly and we keep them just that- parties. We plan them well in advance, promote them in The Newsletter, and send post card reminders a day or two before each one. We keep our members informed. Second, we are never distracted from our purpose to promote shagging and beach music in the Columbia area. We do not get involved in other activities. We spend the money we raise on our members and on parties.
The club is well into its fourth year. Bill Loving is president and he along with Steve Marsha, Harriett Burgess, and Dick Terry will guide us as we do what we do best. The Pine Island IV committee meets each week. You’ll come and won’t regret it. We had South Carolina barbecue at our first big Sunday party and something good was made even better. You’ll see us often at the beach and whenever another club has a party we’ll be there.
Now the year is 2000. The place, the DJ, who knows? The vagaries of shaggers are well known. But there will be a place and there will be music and there will be the dance. There may be a new step or two or something new in the music but the basics, born on the beach, will be the same. Why? Because IT Will Stand
This article was written by Phil several years ago. I know some of you have read it before but others have not. Enjoy some history about our Columbia Shag Club.