Just What Is "Shag" Music?
(NOTE: This article
was written by David Sessoms while he was
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and Go To The Play List Sampler
Secretary of the Association of Beach & Shag Club DJ's,
and has been published in numerous newsletters and magazines.)
There are a lot
of terms that are used loosely out there to describe the music (or subsets
of it) that we (Shaggers) dance to and occasionally sip a few beers to.
These include "Shag Music," "Beach Music," "Smoothies," "Boogie Woogie,"
"Bubblegum," and even "Tourist Beach Music," which, of course, all true
shaggers loathe! Since none of these terms mean the same thing to any two
Shaggers, you can imagine how difficult it is for the DJ who gets a request
for a "Good Shag Song," where the requester can't give a single title or
artist that he can identify as the type he personally associates with "Good
In fact, there
is such a variety of types of music out there that is enjoyed by different
people or regions, although they are all legitimate Shaggers, that I am
firmly convinced that if a DJ were to compile a list of 100 proven and
well known Shag songs, and then ask ten well-versed Shaggers to select
their ten favorite songs, that they would generally be in agreement on
about 20% of their selections. And there is nothing wrong with that! That
is one of the great things about Shag music, there is something out there
So just what
is this thing we call "Shag Music?" Personally, after several years of
enjoying it after the military transferred me back to Fayetteville in 1986,
I still can't quite pin it down. Part of the reason is that the music has
expanded it's R&B roots to include all types of music, as long as that
special beat is there.
As a DJ, this
is one of the strengths, and also one of the weaknesses of trying to play
"Shag Music" to the various types of people who love it. I call it a strength
because no matter what your previous personal tastes in music were before
you became a follower of this special dance and music, there is something
there for you. R&B, Country, Big Band, and Pop (and we can even say
Latin with Hansel Martinez' "Love Potion #9" and Julio Iglesias' "Moonlight
Lady" and "Begin The Beguine") have been played regularly at popular Shag
It is also a
weakness because there are a few out there who firmly believe that "Shag
Music" is one and only one style of music, THEIR kind. Now, I have no problem
with anyone who enjoys this music. Where I have a small disagreement is
with anyone who tries to restrict the sincere enjoyment of this dance by
others by acting as a censor on the music by trying to pressure the DJ
in a given club to play only a particular type of "Shag Music." Being forced
to listen to something you really don't like does not ensure that you will
learn to like it. More than likely, it merely means that you will find
another diversion and location where you will devote your spare time and
I've been told
(I wasn't around back in the early days of the Shag, although I sincerely
regret missing it) by some that "Shag Music" should be only old hard core
"R&B" as it was "in the beginning." I've also been told by others that
what the dance really began with was more of the smooth Big Band sound.
Now, I'm not smart enough to determine whose memory has failed them, who
has selective memory retention or who is simply misinformed, but it does
seem to me that what is important is keeping the numbers who enjoy it growing
and making sure that it is not going to die with our generation.
So, as far as
I am concerned (for what that's worth), I would like to suggest that we
stop arguing among ourselves about what is a proper "Shag" song. I would
propose a simple definition. That is, that a "Shag Song" is any one that
makes people want to get on the dance floor and start shagging and enjoying
themselves while doing so. There may be some very good Shag songs that
I personally don't like, but who am I to say that it shouldn't be played
if there are people out there that would like to dance to it. Besides,
I can't dance to every song, so why not let those others have their time
on the floor.
Having said this,
I never doubt for a moment that "Shag Music" will always have a heavy R&B
base, and certain standards will always be heard. But at the same time,
let's take advantage of those country, pop, or even Latin songs that have
our type of beat.
I've been to
parties where through "censorship" imposed by either the DJ (certainly
not one of our association members!) or one of the hosts, only one style
of Shag music was played. The majority of the attendees/guests, or at least
those who were heard to express an opinion, did not particularly enjoy
My final bit
of advice is to give the DJ a request that you would like to hear. Most
of us will do our best to work it in as quickly as possible. If you don't
know the names of any of your favorite songs, you only know them when you
hear them, try to help the DJ our in the future. Since most of us aren't
clairvoyant (who the possible exception of Mike Lewis who can do anything),
when you hear a song that you really like, ask the DJ playing it what it
is. He would probably even be willing to write the title and artist down
for you. Then the next time you want to make a request, but once again
can't remember any songs, pull this out of your wallet or purse and march
up to the DJ booth and make your request.
Betty B's Note:
Shag music covers a broad spectrum
of formats. Even Shaggers don't agree on the best songs or styles of music.
I had hoped to include a variety of audio sounds here to let you actually
hear some of the various types of music. However, my server informed me
that I've overloaded . . . sooooooo . . . I'll just have to list the a
few songs that you might recognize.
You may be familar with either the
artist or the song . . . perhaps by another artist. Shake, Rattle, &
Roll, as example, has appeared on the Shag circuit by Lowell Fulson,
Bill Haley, Billy Swan, Joe Turner, Jackie Wilson, and Huey Lewis &
The News!!! It seems when a great song comes out . . . it stays around
a long time!
How many versions of these
(A different version, different
format, different artist;)
Rhythm & Beach Top 40
song have you heard???
The following play list
sampler is just that! The songs and artists that are included in no way
shape or form represent ALL of the songs. AND, some songs may, in your
humble opinion, be more suitable under a different format. But, this is
only a SAMPLER -- it's not written in stone -- just the net!!!