Play List

Just What Is "Shag" Music?

(NOTE: This article was written by David Sessoms while he was
Secretary of the Association of Beach & Shag Club DJ's,
and has been published in numerous newsletters and magazines.)

Skip The Article and Go To The Play List Sampler

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 Shag Songs."

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 for everybody.

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 clubs.

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 dollars.

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 the experience.

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
Rhythm & Beach Top 40
song have you heard???

Some Enchanted Evening - The Temptations

(A different version, different format, different artist;)

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!!!

Now...The Play List Sampler


Alimony Womack & Womack
Alligator Walk Mojo Blues Band with A.C. Reed
Baby What You Want Me To Do Etta James
Caldonia Muddy Waters
Footprints on the Ceiling Ruby Andrews
I Ain't Drunk Albert Collins
I Want A Big Fat Woman Chick Willis
Laying In The Alley Big Joe Turner & The Dynaflows
Lil' Brown Eyes Theodis Ealey
Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On Gloria Hardeman
Middle Age Blues Saffire
Shanty Jonathan Edwards
She Can't Fix Grits Rick Strickland
Something You Got Luther Johnson
Sweet Home Chicago Ebs Allstar Blues Band


39-21-46 Showmen
Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy The Tams
Carolina Girls Gen. Johnson & The Chairman of The Board
Girl Watcher The O'Kaysions
Hey, Hey Baby Swinging Medallions
I Love Beach Music The Embers
Miss Grace The Tymes
My Girl The Temptations
My Guy Mary Wells
My Little Red Book The Drifters
Rainy Day Bells The Globetrotters
Stay Maurice Williams
Under The Boardwalk The Drifters
What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am The Tams
With This Ring The Platters


Club Savoy Rockin' Louie & Mamma Jammers
Green Eyes The Ravens
Honky Tonk Bill Doggett
I Use To Cry Mercy, Mercy The Lamplighters
Just A Gigolo Louis Prima & Keely Smith
Lovey Dovey The Clovers
Monkey Hips & Rice The Five Royales
Nip Sip The Clovers
Quiet Place Garnett Mimms
Saturday Night Fish Fry Duane Evans
Six to Eight Sticks McGhee
Sixty Minute Man The Dominoes
Thank You John Willie Tee
White Cliffs of Dover The Checkers
Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart The Coasters


City Full of Memories The Spinners
Do You Love Me The Contours
Integrity Aretha Franklin
Loving By The Pound Otis Redding
Old Fashion Love Smokey Robinson
Pull Myself Together Marv Johnson
Release This Love Edwin Starr
Respect Aretha Franklin
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning Thelma Houston
Sexual Healing Marvin Gaye
Stoned Love The Supremes
Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.) Edwin Starr
Take Me In Your Arms Kim Weston
This Old Heart of Mine The Isley Brothers
When She Was My Girl The Four Tops


60 Seconds The Mills Brothers
Flamingo Earl Bostic
Happy Ever After The Bee Gees
How Do You Stop James Brown
In The Still of The Night Neville Brothers
Lady Soul The Temptations
Lazy River Bobby Darin
Misty Lloyd Price
Moonlight Lady Julio Iglesias
Night & Day Earl Bostic
September In The Rain Dinah Washington
Slow Boat To China Ronnie Dove
Some Enchanted Evening The Temptations
Wind Beneath My Wings Lou Rawls
Witchcraft Frank Sinatra & Anita Baker


Blowing In The Wind Etta James
Great Gosh A'Mighty Little Richard
Jesus Is Your Ticket The Tams
King's Highway Louise Davis
Operator Manhattan Transfer
Rough Side of The Mountain F. C. Barnes & Janice Brown
Save Me Mary Love
Sisters & Brothers Maria & Shaw
Take Me To The River Al Green


All I Wanna Do Sheryl Crow
Baby Likes To Rock It The Tractors
Dumas Walker Kentucky Headhunters
Earthquake Ronnie Millsaps
Everytime I Roll The Dice Delbert McClinton
Good Man, Good Woman Bonnie Raitt & Delbert McClinton
Heartbreak Radio Delbert McClinton
I Feel Lucky Mary-Chapin Carpenter
Sexy Ways Hank Ballard
Something To Talk About Bonnie Raitt
That'll Work Johnnie Johnson & The Kentucky Headhunters
Walkin' After Midnight Oak Ridge Boys
Four O'Clock In The Morning Roy Clark & Gatemouth Brown
Chain of Fools Clint Black & The Pointer Sisters


A Rockin' Good Way Dinah Washington & Brook Benton
And The Night Stook Still Dion
Club At The End of The Street Elton John
Don't Leave Me This Way Thelma Houston
Fannie Mae Buster Brown
Gotta Hold On To This Feeling Junior Walker & The All Stars
Green Onions Booker T & The MG's
Hot Legs Rod Stewart
Little Bitty Pretty One Thurston Harris
Love I Lost Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
Love Is A Wonderful Thing Michael Bolton
Never Gonna Give You Up Rick Astley
The Motown Song Rod Stewart & The Temptations
The Wanderer Dion
We're Having A Party Sam Cooke / Rod Stewart


A Brand New Me Aretha Franklin
Brenda O. C. Smith
Don't Take Away My Heaven Aaron Neville
Fallen Johnny Mathis
How Long Have You Been Loving Me Chuck Jackson
I Just Called To Say Teddy Pendergrass
Lady Love Lou Rawls
Let's Stay Together Peter White
Love Is Here Tonight George Benson
Lovin' Proof Celine Dion
Show You The Way To Go The Jacksons
Simple Johnny Mathis
Since I've Been Lovin You Alexander O'Neal
Talk It Over Grayson Hugh
You'll Never find A Love Like Mine Lou Rawls


Ain't Got No Home Clarence "Frogman" Henry
Can't Play the Blues The Blues Brothers Band
Can't Stop Rockin' The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Don't Mess With My Man Irma Thomas
Fine and Fancy Free Dana Gillespie
Good Rockin' Daddy Ball, Barton, Strehli
I Thank You Sam & Dave
I'm Good Bonnie Lee
Lucille B. B. King
Mama Talk To Your Daughter Ray Sharpe
Something You Got Luther Johnson
Start It Up Robben Ford
Tangueray Johnnie Johnson
Way She Shakes That Thing Earl Thomas
You and Me, Me and You B. B. King


All Shook Up Billy Joel
Baby Workout Jackie Wilson
Drinking Wine Spo-Dee O-Dee Jerry Lee Lewis
It's Better To Have Don Convoy
Johnny B. Good Elton John
Midnight Special Paul McCartney
Mother-In-Law Joe Hughes
My Blue Heaven Fats Domino
Old Time Rock & Roll Bob Seger
Return To Sender Elvis Presley
Shake, Rattle, and Roll Bill Haley
Stagger Lee Lloyd Price
Sweet Little Sixteen Chuck Berry
Twistin' The Night Away Rod Stewart
You're Sixteen Ringo Starr

BJ's Carolina Coast site has sound clips of several of the above songs.

The DJ's

1st Officers of the DJ's that set the standards!

Sid Pruitt, Gene Petty, Harold Beaver, Butch Metcalf, Phil Wells, Mike Lewis, and Steve Baker