The Beachwagon was an old converted skating rink on Hwy. 17, near 10th Avenue South. It had a huge dance floor and stage. The band even had it’s own dressing room! There was a mechanical bull inside and lots of seating. They would have major acts like David Allen Coe, Earl Thomas Connelly, The Whites and many more. Garth Brooks even played there before he hit it big!
The nightclub was owned by the Pressley family out of Charlotte. They would later open The Blindhorse in Greenville and Coyote Joes in Charlotte. The manager was a man named Marvin and the person in charge of the door was Sue. They helped me adapt to my new job and surroundings and were very nice to me.
The main entertainer at the club for many years was a legendary gentleman named Big “Red” Fletcher. The Pressley’s loved Red, but Red was in ill health and slowly becoming unable to perform. About two weeks after O’Dell and I arrived at The Beachwagon, Red announced that he just couldn’t perform anymore. With Red gone, Silver would become the main attraction at the club. Silver was always a great band, now they had the chance to shine. James Austin Charping (Jimmy) was the lead singer and guitar player and had been performing there for about 9 years! Mike Ridgell was on piano and keyboards, Mike Norton was on bass and O’Dell on drums. Mike Norton would later leave and be replaced by Tony “Tater” Culbertson from Walhalla, SC.
O’Dell championed me to become the new sound tech for the group and I moved out of the kitchen and into the sound booth! Now we’re talking! At least I was part of the band! My pay increased some so that made me happy and a little more secure. The Presley’s son owned the singlewide trailer I was sharing with the club’s bouncer Danny, so each week they would take the rent money out of my pay. A few weeks went by and Silver began to let me sing a couple of songs each night. Jailhouse Rock had become my signature song over the years and it never seemed to get old.
The PA at the club was pretty good for it’s time, a 24 channel Peavey board, easy to operate and road tough. I also ran spotlight for the band. It was a huge commercial spot that was incredibly hot to stand next to. I met a lot of people there and even had friends stop in while they were on vacation. Country music was just coming out of the “Urban Cowboy” phase. Urban Cowboy was the movie with John Travolta and Debra Winger that inspired a lot of wanna be cowboys to put on a hat and boots and head to the local honky tonk to blow off steam. For several years it was “trendy” to do this but, it was a fad.
With country music settling back to normal, artists like Dwight Yoakam began to appear. George Strait was gaining an audience too. Vern Gosdin, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Alabama, Earl Thomas Conley, John Anderson, Vince Gill, Clint Black, Eddie Raven, Eddie Rabbitt, The Judds and many more artist were ruling the radio in the ’80’s. It was a great time for country music. As I write this, I’m actually watching George Strait on the 50th Annual ACM Awards! Lot’s of great things turned 50 this year!
Top 40 radio was happening too. Don Henley, ZZ Top, John Mellencamp (before he dropped Cougar), Glenn Frey, Michael jackson, Prince, Queen, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt were all topping the charts. It was a great time for ALL music. I know we often say that the music of our youth was the best because that’s when we were happiest too. This was no exception. Whenever I hear “The Boys Of Summer” or “Sunset Grill” by Don Henley, In my mind I’m riding down Hwy. 17 By-Pass at 3:00 am going home from the Beachwagon. That’s what music does for me.
My golf game improved greatly as I played about 5 days a week! The courses there loved to take care of the locals especially during the slower tourist times. I could play 18 holes with a cart for $12.00, and walk for $9.00. I think my handicap went down to @9. Occasionally, Mom and Dad would come down and stay and Dad and I would play a couple of times that week.
Several times during the summer I went fishing at one of the 2 State Parks. I love to surf fish on the beach and the State Parks are a great place to go in the afternoons. One time, the band and the staff at The Beachwagon went deep sea fishing…..that was a fun day. We took bets to see who would get seasick first. I didn’t lose. Silver played other gigs from time to time. We went to The Bowery a couple of times and did the Sunday matinee. We also went to play the Chicken Bog festival in Loris, SC. We had a contract and it rained right after we set up, so we got paid anyway!
I turned 20 in April of ’85 and the Summer kicked in full swing! There were tourists, girls and all kinds of people who came down just to have fun. I’m not going to elaborate, let’s just say it was a great Summer! Recap: Job at the beach, golf game the best ever, life was great….
Then another coincidence changed my life!
Part 7 – Click Here