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Beach music and musicians honored in induction ceremony

Beach music is viewed as more than a sound, a groove or a beat. It’s part of the culture and history in coastal Carolina.

The home of the Beach Music Hall of Fame, Coastal Carolina University in Conway, will have its second annual induction ceremony at 6 p.m. Sunday in Wheelwright Auditorium, off U.S. 501. This ceremony will honor music from or before 1957 with these inductees: Chuck Berry, Earl Bostic, Ray Charles, The Coasters, The Embers, The Inkspots and The Platters, as well as a tribute to the late Etta James.

The 10 hallbound recordings include “In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins, “Just a Gigolo” by Louis Prima and “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and his Comets.

Dino Thompson, chairman of the Beach Music Hall of Fame advisory board, said the induction each year becomes a walk back into history, with biographies of the featured artists through videos, or at least, audio clips of the music and photos of the artists.

“Essentially, it ends up being a documentary,” he said.

The inaugural induction gala last year saluted artists and songs from 1955 or earlier.

“That’s where the music started transitioning from jazz, swing and be-bop into what we call R&B,” Thompson said.

Selecting the inductees takes quite a “process,” Thompson said, for the committee members each submit a list of 20 names, and in narrowing them down, they’re scored “like a golf game” to reach the top vote-getters.

He called this music, whether charting as pop, rock or rhythm and blues hits, a fabric of the times, with lyrics lacking meanness or misery.

“It’s upbeat,” Thompson said. “We jitterbugged, shagged and kissed to it. Black and white, rich and poor, danced to share music and memories.”

He remembered going out dancing in his teen years, when people had to sit in certain sections of a club, “but we all met on the dance floor.”

“The music still does bring us together,” Thompson said . “You just want to enjoy and share it.”

Asked for one influence whose music moved his world, Thompson named Louis Jordan, an inductee last year who was active in music from the 1930s into the ‘60s. Accolades that Chuck Berry gave Jordan, calling him “the greatest person I played rock ‘n’ roll with,” who was “playing it before any of us” – remain freshly imprinted in Thompson’s mind and ears.

“He had the greatest back beat,” Thompson said, “not dark blues; just fun, danceable stuff.”

Thompson said he’d love for young people to appreciate beach music by all the artists in the Beach Music Hall of Fame.

“No matter what kind of music you’re listening to,” he said, “it’s all standing on the shoulders of these many people I just named.”

Most R&B players were influenced by these honorees, Thompson said, “with the back beats, guitar riffs and back sounds.”

Beach music also prevailed on the coast and in jukeboxes in the 1940s and ‘50s, when black music had not yet gained entry onto radio, he said.

“When you came down to Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, you heard them,” Thompson said, citing Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, among the 2011 inductees, as well as the Coasters, being feted this Sunday, as ambassadors in their time.

“You just turned it loud on your car radio and cruised on the boulevard,” he said.

Milton Bullock, who first met Platters leader Herb Reed in 1957, lent his tenor to the group from 1964 to ’71 in what he called its “second generation.”

“North Carolina played a big part in pioneering beach music,” Bullock said by phone from his home in Princeville, N.C., near Rocky Mount. “North Carolina helped open that door in that era, and that was a hot spot.”

Bullock, who will perform for North Myrtle Beach-area Lions Clubs’ events on Sept. 10 and Nov. 10, said “it’s a blessing” Platters music, from “Only You (and You Alone),” “The Great Pretender” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in the 1950s to “I Love You 1,000 Times,” “With This Ring” and “Washed Ashore (On A Lonely Island In The Sea)” in the later 1960s, have retained longevity, despite an aging fan base.

He takes pleasure that people still want “ to hear some of the music that they remembered ... from a time when they fell in love and raised their families.”

Active in Lions Club functions nationwide, Bullock said he had just gotten back from entertaining in “a little place called Monroe,” outside Charlotte.

“The people there were from an age group that remembered the songs,” he said, “and they danced and romanced, and oohed and ahhed.”

Bullock was thrilled to hear the Beach Music Hall of Fame saluting the Platters this year and that he later was part of “such as a wonderful group who were pioneers in the classic doo-wop style.”