It’s beach season, y’all! And you know what that means: beach music.
Beach music is one of my favorite genres. It always has been. I can’t remember the first time I heard it. It’s just always been there – somewhere in the background. That’s what happens when you spend your summers splashing off the shore of Carolina Beach.
It’s hard to imagine Carolina Beach without beach music, but in 1940 there wasn’t a single place to listen to R&B. If you wanted to hear “race music,” you had to cross the intracoastal waterway and head towards Freeman Beach.
That changed in the early 1940s when Jim Hannah opened the Tijuana Inn on the bottom floor of the Ocean Plaza building. The club was the first white-only establishment to offer a jukebox featuring popular black artists. In a time when white teens weren’t allowed access to R&B, Tijuana Inn broke racial barriers.
Tijuana Inn became the busiest club on the boardwalk, thanks to the groundbreaking music attracting young beachgoers. Jim Hannah capitalized on his success by opening two more “jump joints,” Bop City and the Ocean Plaza Ballroom. From there, beach music spread down the coast to Myrtle Beach, where the shag was born.
From the mid-1940s through the early 1960s, white teenagers congregated in Carolina Beach, where they listened to beach music and shagged on the boardwalk. Though they probably never thought about it, those teenagers unwittingly served as early Civil Rights activists. By shagging at Tijuana Inn, they took some of the first steps toward embracing black culture.
The popularity of beach music wanned in the late 60s, but it made a resurgence in the 1980s. I was born right after it made it’s big comeback. So my summers spent on the beach were accompanied by The Four Tops, Sam Cooke, and so many other legends. Thankfully, the tradition survives to this day.
20 Songs to Add to Your Beach Music Playlist
Below you’ll find 20 songs to add to your beach music playlist. These are some of my favorites. Enjoy!