A local club formed earlier this year was born from one man’s love for shag dancing and beach music, and along with bringing an already-popular monthly venue where that lifestyle can be shared with others, an upcoming club event will benefit an extremely worthy cause.
“There’s a long history of shagging and beach music in Sampson County people don’t know about,” said club founder and professional dancer John Bradshaw.
While the annual Williams Lake reunion at the Agri-Exposition Center and the Alive After Five summer concert series has brought beach music and shag back to the forefront locally in recent years, “there is nothing really on a monthly basis” throughout the year, Bradshaw said.
For years, Turkey native Bradshaw brainstormed how to bring a regular shag event to Sampson County, knowing the interest was there. After years in the works, he filed the articles of incorporation for SamCo Shag Club in January and held the first meeting in March at Coharie Country Club, hosting 152 people. Still in its infancy, the club already boasts 132 members.
While a private organization, anybody with a love of beach music is invited.
There is a $30 annual membership fee, which gets members into events, held the first Friday of each month, for $5. Guests are $10 and discounts are also offered for other local shag clubs.
“The shag community around here in the southeast and all around the Carolinas is so big that people travel,” said Bradshaw, noting attendees at the SamCo Shag Club have come from Jacksonville and Raleigh. “It’s generally an older crowd that is attracted to shagging and beach music. It’s just a party. We are a nonprofit organization so everything we raise we give back to the community and charities.”
That is especially true of its upcoming Pre-S.O.S. (Society of Stranders) Party and Silent Auction slated for Friday, Sept. 6, at Coharie Country Club. The event, sponsored by Nissan of Clinton, will start with a dance lesson given by Bradshaw from 7-7:30 p.m., followed by the party from 7:30-11:30 p.m.
There will be a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle, all to benefit CAMP KEMO.
CAMP KEMO is one of the many programs put on by the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, but perhaps its most recognized. It is a weeklong summer camp for patients ages 5-18 and their siblings. CAMP KEMO allows campers to swim, boat, hike and simply be children, with the ultimate goal being to provide a normal camping experience for children with cancer, as well as a respite for their parents, who know their children are in the hands of the same physicians, nurses and staff who provide their treatment throughout the year.
The camp is overnight for four nights — this year it was held June 10-15 — and hosts more than 100 children each year. The cost to send one child to camp is $500.
The cause is especially significant to Bradshaw and his family. Bradshaw’s older brother was born with cancer, only living to be 1 year old.
“My parents, growing up going to S.O.S. in Myrtle Beach they were always a part of CAMP KEMO, because it supports the kids with cancer. I’ve always been to the auctions and it’s touching to see a lot of shaggers and the beach music community giving so much money to these kids,” said Bradshaw. “There are a lot of organizations that support children with cancer as far as their bills and things like that, but there is nothing that really gives them a lot of joy and happiness like camp.”
On the last Sunday of every S.O.S. — the two-week long S.O.S. festivities are held twice a year, once in the spring (Spring Safari) and one in the fall (Fall Migration) — Harold Bessent, the owner of Fat Harold’s Beach Club, raises money every year to benefit the camp. This past June, a check for nearly $40,000 was presented to CAMP KEMO by Fat Harold’s Beach Club.
“It’s like a beach music Woodstock,” said Bradshaw of S.O.S.
Many shag clubs around the Carolinas regularly pitch in toward the CAMP KEMO effort, and Bradshaw looks forward to SamCo being one of them.
“We’re going to set up a couple tables and have a silent auction,” said Bradshaw.
Among numerous other donated items to be auctioned off, there will be a gift basket from Southern Smoke BBQ, a framed beach print from Beach Memories in North Myrtle Beach, a fall door wreath from Front Porch Designs, two spray tans from House of Style, a donation from Baggett’s Jewelry and a surprise donation from Jim Quick & Coastline.
Ted’s Charcoal Steakhouse, NAPA Auto Parts and Warren Engines have also donated gift certificates to be raffled off as part of the half and half drawing. Coharie and Timberlake Country Club will also be donating free golf passes. A box will be set up for anyone wishing to make other donations to CAMP KEMO.
“Some people have already said they would donate,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said the goal is to have a good time while being able to benefit a good cause. Teaching more people about the history of shag, and how to dance, is a bonus.
“All the kids love this beach music. They love Jim Quick and Coastline, they love Chairmen of the Board, but these people don’t know how to shag,” Bradshaw said. “They get out there and have a good time. I have a lot of friends who like to do that, but then they really want to know legitimately how to shag.”
People are taken aback when they discover that Bradshaw, 34, founded the local club, because the shag community tends to be an older one. But Bradshaw has been around the shag and beach music community for 26 years.
“I started dancing when I was 8 years old,” he said. “I know a lot about the shag and the Sampson County history.”
Bradshaw’s parents Jesse and Anna Bradshaw went to dance lessons at Fisher Drive, and soon invited their son to come with them. The parents frequented Boogie Shoes in Clinton, Club Faces in Dunn, Shenanigans and S.O.S. in North Myrtle Beach, often taking their son along.
Bradshaw recalled fondly going to Goldsboro every Wednesday night with his parents, eating at K&W Cafeteria and then going over to the Comfort Inn, where Shenanigan’s Lounge was located. “People would just get together and dance for a couple hours and have a good time,” Bradshaw said. “It was crazy. I miss those days, being young like that.”
The love only grew from his childhood days. He enjoyed success dancing competitively with partner Amber Cava in the Competitive Shaggers Association, and now dances with Crystal Treadaway. Along the way, he has given lessons to others at the Wellness Center and at Oasis Oyster Bar, and still offers private sessions.
He received a positive response to the lessons, with nearly everyone saying they wished there was an outlet to dance regularly.
“That’s really the drive and motivation I had to do the shag club,” said Bradshaw. “There were a lot of people who were coming out and said they wished there was something to do around here, somewhere to go once a month or every two weeks.”
With the help of fiance Tabitha Simmons and Cava, and guidance from his good friend and DJ Joey Warren, Bradshaw went to work developing the SamCo Shag Club.
“The shag club has been a thought in my mind for the last 12 years, at least. I think about it a lot,” said Bradshaw. “I think about how I can make it successful, how I can do it, but the problem was where.”
Coharie Country Club was the perfect place. He pitched the idea of having the club’s meetings at Coharie with the club’s golf professional and general manager Dickie Walters and accounting specialist Amanda Kornegay, and they presented it to the Coharie Board of Directors, which approved.
“I’m just glad they worked with us,” said Bradshaw. “And it helps the club too to have something out there every month.”
He said the shag community is a big family. While there are heavy hors d’oeuvres served at each monthly event, it turns into a potluck dinner with everybody bringing a different dish.
“Everybody is so nice, and everybody dances with everybody, because that’s just how shag people are. It really is a lifestyle,” Bradshaw said.
And it is not one that is simply limited to shag, as far as SamCo Shag Club is concerned.
“We’re trying to promote the shag and beach music as a whole,” he remarked. “A lot of people have a misconception that if you cannot shag you are not welcome or you’re not going to fit in. But we have people who come out and just love to listen to beach music. We’re trying to promote everything, not just the shag. If you’ve never shagged a day in your life, come on out.”
For more information on the SamCo Shag Club and the Sept. 6 event, visit www.samcoshagclub.com.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.