Dance to the Oldies With These Shag Music Hits

Beach Music Beats to Put a Swing in Your Step

People Dancing
 Hero Images/Getty Images

If you love to swing dance and you love oldies music, you might be interested in expanding your repertoire to the Shag. Also known as the Carolina Shag, this dance is thought to have originated in the 1940s at the clubs dotting the strands along the beaches of North and South Carolina, although it may have older roots. Since mainstream radio stations in the South during this time didn't play Black music, white teenagers flocked to these beachside clubs, where they could hear, and dance to, a wide range of music being played on the jukeboxes.

While it's impossible to tease out which came first, the Shag or the particular style of music to which it is danced, by the late 1940s the two went hand in hand. The dance itself is a six-count, eight-step pattern, similar to swing, that is performed with a partner to what is now known as "beach music," which combines elements of R&B, blues, and rock and roll. 

You may have seen the dance featured in the movie "Shag," starring Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates, and Annabeth Gish. It was also referenced in the 1997 Alabama song "Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard." The Shag remains popular, with dance competitions held annually throughout the United States.

The Music Behind the Dance

A variety of songs and artists are a part of the shag music genre, but two bands, in particular, stand out: the Chairmen of the Board and the Tams. You may know the first band from their 1970 hit, "Give Me Just a Little More Time," and the latter from their 1962 hit, "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am" (later covered by Bill Deal and the Rhondels in a more up-tempo version that's also prized by the Shag faithful). 

Top Oldies Shag Songs

These shag songs set the stage for the genre, but older as well as more recent hits also qualify. Here are some of the most popular of the traditional shag songs:

  • Billy Ward and the Dominos, "Sixty Minute Man"
  • The Platters, "With This Ring"
  • The O'Kaysions, "Girl Watcher"
  • Lil' Bob and the Lollipops, "I Got Loaded"
  • The Showmen, "39-21-46"
  • Willie Tee, "Teasin' You"
  • Bruce Channel, "Hey! Baby"
  • The Foundations, "Build Me Up Buttercup"
  • J.J. Jackson, "But It's Alright"
  • Jackie Moore, "Sweet Charlie Babe"
  • The Swingin' Medallions, "Double Shot of My Baby's Love"
  • Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs, "Stay"
  • Brenton Wood, "Gimme Little Sign"
  • The Fiestas, "So Fine"
  • Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, "Too Late to Turn Back Now"
  • Archie Bell & the Drells, "Tighten Up"
  • Ben E. King, "Stand by Me"
  • Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, "Work With Me Annie"
  • Freda Payne, "Band of Gold"
  • The Temptations, "My Girl"
  • Jackie Wilson, "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"
  • Gene Chandler, "Duke of Earl"
  • Benny Spellman, "Lipstick Traces"
  • The Globetrotters, "Rainy Day Bells"
  • The Clovers, "Nip Sip"
  • Louis Jordan, "Saturday Night Fish Fry"

Want to make the most of listening and dancing to shag music? Play it from a record on a record player. There's something about hearing these songs as they originally were played and recorded that really takes you back in time.