By Brian M. Howle
We all have an inborn love of the place we were born and raised: our home, our base, our never-ending love of who we are and where we are from, and the memories that form that sweet, precious feeling.
And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that, when it comes to memories, one of the strongest triggers known to humankind is music. We have all become familiar with the phrase, “soundtrack of our lives,” because that’s exactly what they are – and audio scrapbook that coalesces all those wonderful times in our lives that we each hold dear in our minds and hearts.
So what better way to document life in South Carolina than an actual soundtrack of all the tunes related to or about life or artists in one of the sweetest places on God’s green earth?
Answer: The S.C. Soundtrack.
This project was put together back in 2007, but knowledge about music and musicians from one’s home state never gets old. SCIway.net, the South Carolina Information Highway Web site, has put together a South Carolina soundtrack, with songs either about the Palmetto State or by artists who were born here.
These folks suggested songs and took suggestions from readers, and then narrowed down the South Carolina soundtrack to 15 South Carolina- inspired songs, including beach music, country, blues, bluegrass and even some rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and jazz.
Songs receiving the most votes (a tie) were “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor and “Carolina Girls” by (the late) General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board.
The rest of the songs were selected based on popularity. The SCIway site, http://www.sciway.net has more details about why the songs were chosen in the “liner notes” section.
Here they are, in no particular order:
The Twist – Chubby Checker
Hailing from Spring Gully (near the town of Andrews along the Georgetown / Williamsburg county line), Chubby Checker (aka Ernest Evans) was born in 1941. He grew up in South Philadelphia. Mostly known for his 1960 summer hit, The Twist, Checker was instrumental in changing the way people danced to music. The Twist introduced people to the concept of “dancing apart to the beat” (as opposed to slow dancing). In 1964, Chubby Checker married Catharina Lodders, Miss World 1962. He is still touring and promoting his line of snack foods (Chubby Checker Snacks). Find out more at ChubbyChecker.com.
I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown
Even though Georgia repeatedly tries to claim Brown for its own, The Godfather of Soul was actually born in Barnwell County. He spent the last 30 years of his life on an estate in Beech Island, near Aiken. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, he is South Carolina’s most famous and widely-renowned musician. Dubbed “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” he was a tireless performer – a singer, dancer, and organist who is said to have burned 700 calories per show! In addition to recording numerous soul ballads, he helped bring about the “funk revolution” of the 1970s.
Carolina in My Mind – James Taylor
In the interest of full disclosure, we have to admit that this song is actually by a Bostonian who grew up in North Carolina. James Taylor spent his childhood on the banks of Morgan Creek near Chapel Hill, and his years there were almost surely the inspiration for this gentle tune. That said, anyone who has ever longed to be back in either of the Carolinas can surely find comfort here, a feeling evidenced by the fact that Carolina in My Mind came in tied for first place (along with Carolina Girls) among our SC voters.
Would You Go With Me – Josh Turner
A native of Hannah (near Florence), Josh Turner has made it big in the country music scene. The album this song is on went double-platinum in 2006, and Josh was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in October of 2007. His latest album concludes with South Carolina Low Country, one of only a few songs that specifically mentions South Carolina instead of just Carolina. It’s worth listening to as well!
Carolina Girls – General Johnson & the Chairmen of the Board
A favorite among shaggers and beach music lovers, the song’s popular refrain declares Carolina Girls are “the Best in the World.” (And who are we to argue?) The group did not originate from South Carolina, but enjoyed much success here during the heyday of beach music along the South Carolina coast. The late General Norman Johnson ultimately turned down offers from Motown Records to stick with Surfside Records, which he formed after moving to the Carolinas in 1979.
Heard it in a Love Song – Marshall Tucker Band
The Marshall Tucker Band formed in 1972 in Spartanburg. The origin of their name is attributed to a rehearsal in an old warehouse, when one of the band members looked at the key tag to the building and it said “Marshall Tucker.” Marshall Tucker was actually the name of a blind piano tuner that had rented the building before who, using it for his piano tuning business. The name stuck. Heard It In a Love Song was #14 on the 1977 Billboard “Hot 100” singles list. For more info, visit The Marshall Tucker Band website.
Stay – Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs
This song went to #1 in 1960 and then returned to fame when used on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in 1987. Born and raised in Lancaster, Maurice is still recording and is a member of the South Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love) – Swingin’ Medallions
The Swingin’ Medallions, a beach music and 1960s rock group with heavy R&B influences, hail from the town of Ninety-Six near Greenwood. Many of its members attended Lander University while traveling around the Southeast, playing gigs at colleges and fraternity houses. The band’s second single, Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love), was released in 1966 and sold over a million copies. Aptly known as “The Party Band of the South,” the Medallions continue to perform today. The current line-up includes both original and new members and proudly boasts “at least a four piece horn section.”
Hold My Hand – Hootie and the Blowfish
This is one song we think Southern Living definitely got right! Hold My Hand was Hootie’s first studio release, appearing on Atlantic Record’s Cracked Rear View in 1994. The album sold over 16 million copies and is the 12th best-selling album of all time. Of course, many South Carolinians knew about Hootie long
Outskirts of Town – Josh White
Josh White was born in 1914 in Greenville. His life and musical career led him from growing up in the “colored” neighborhoods of Greenville to performing on the biggest stages in Manhattan. A friend of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the 1930s, Josh White was also an ardent voice of the early civil rights movement. He is most remembered for introducing blues, folk, and gospel to a world audience. Outskirts of Town first appeared in a 1944 recording, Josh White Sings Easy.
Groovin’ High – Dizzy Gillespie
Born in 1917, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie grew up in Cheraw. He taught himself to play trumpet at age 12 and began recording at the age of 20. From his early years with Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, Gillespie was known for his adventurous trumpet playing. He played a major role in the rise of bebop and modern jazz, which he also popularized with his likable personality. Gillespie’s trademark upswept trumpet was supposedly adopted by the artist after one of his trumpets got bent in an accident in 1953. Groovin’ High is an original Gillespie composition and was first recorded in 1945.
Ridin’ That Midnight Train – Yeehaw Junction Bluegrass Band
Proud to call Charleston home, the Yeehaw Junction Bluegrass Band adds its traditional sound to the vibrant South Carolina bluegrass scene. Rising from the hills and mountains of rural Appalachia, bluegrass has enjoyed a rebirth in our state, which hosts many weekly events and yearly festivals. Ridin’ That Midnight Train appears on the band’s first album, High On The Hog, released in 2003.
Big Front Porch – Danielle Howle and the Tantrums
In the realm of cosmic justice, Danielle Howle’s last name cannot be an accident. Put another way, if there had been an ancient goddess who was half gangly bird and half wild beast, that would have been Howle in a previous life. (Don’t worry – having seen this Columbia folksinger in concert many times, we think she might actually take this as the compliment it’s intended to be.) In short, Howle is all at once delicate and soulful. She also puts on a heck of a show. As a bonus, her between-song musings elevate hysterical rambling to an art form. Visit her website here.
Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters
This classic beach song is a favorite for performing our state dance – the shag. The Drifters made a name for themselves in the 1950s and ’60s with their soulful vocals and catchy choreography. Bill Pinkney from Dalzell (Sumter County) sang with the group after both serving time in the Army and pitching in the Negro Baseball League. Although he was not a member of the Drifters when this song was recorded, he went on to form “Bill Pinkney and the Original Drifters,” whom he sang with until he passed away this summer.
I’ll Fly Away – Reverend Gary Davis
Originally known for his blues music and meticulous self-taught guitar skills, Davis eventually became a respected gospel musician and guitar teacher known as the “Harlem Street Singer.” He was born in 1896 in Laurens County and played until his death in 1972. He is considered an inspiration for many musicians, including Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead who said, “Rev. Davis taught me, by example, to completely throw out my preconceptions of what can or can’t be done on the guitar.” By many accounts, Reverend Davis was quite a character, as evidenced by this interview with him on one of his former student’s websites.
People can download these 15 songs from SCIway’s iMix at iTunes for 99 cents per song. There is also a custom CD cover available that lists each song and artist for all those who would like to make their own CD. Visit sciway.net for more information or to vote for another South Carolina favorite tune.