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Windlesoul

Features: Bob Meyer and the Rivieras

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I know segregation was still fully in force in the Carolinas into the early to mid 60's and was only outlawed by federal statute (against local polititian's desires). So mixing of the races hardly ever took place until just prior to the mid 60's.

Is that the reason why lots of Carolina based beach groups were all-white outfits if formed prior to say 1963 ?

If so, it seems strange to me that soul music was the most preferred genre that they all played.  

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Well, this further excerpt from my book below might help answer the phenomenon of white Carolinian interest in black music in the 1960s, at least in part:
 
    ........Beach music technically encompasses a range of musical genres, not exclusively soul music. The term itself was a retrospective one, coined in the late sixties and early seventies. However the beach ‘scene’ can actually be traced back at least a couple of decades from here. 
 
By the 1950s kids (black and white) were listening and dancing to national bands who played blues orientated race music and doo-wop. Artists  like The Clovers and Clyde McPhatter were popular. Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith was a household name in the Carolinas. He was a talented country composer, guitar player, fiddler and radio presenter (and the original writer of the “Duelling Banjos” instrumental which was re-recorded and used on the 1972 film Deliverance). Arthur became successful after the Second World War with his Calling Carolina radio show and the Arthur Smith Show on the Charlotte NC WBTV channel. In the mid to late 1950s through his talent hunt search, he discovered doo-wop acts such as The Embers, Harry Deal & the Galaxies and Maurice Williams who would later go on to become big beach names of the sixties and beyond. Other TV shows also followed suit, particularly around NC, as a showcase for teenage music and dance talent. 
 
Motown, soul and R&B had arrived by the 1960s and could be heard all over the south east from radio stations with geographically wide broadcasting capabilities, both inland and along the coastal areas. These fresh sounds were an immediate hit with local high school and college students as well as vacationing teenagers and many local bands picked up on this. Of all the phases of the beach music scene, this period is undoubtedly the most prominent on the scene. Indeed, soul and R&B has remained the primary influence for beach bands that have followed in subsequent decades. 
 
Students played a major political role in the civil rights movement as discussed earlier, but also had a role in developing and supporting the 1960s beach music scene. Southern college and university fraternities by the 1960s had become social living communities notorious for drinking, sex and partying hard. The emerging sound of soul appealed to black and white students alike. Local bands, usually made up of high school or college students, were frequently hired to play at frat parties and high school proms and made their bread and butter in this way. It is not surprising then that many groups, including those discussed here, were a ‘live act’ or revue first and foremost, and vinyl recordings were sparse. 
 
Bob McNair, a (white) North Carolina resident, has been a fan and collector of beach, soul and R&B music for pretty much all of his adult life. Brought up in Sanford and now residing in Winston-Salem NC, he recounts his earliest memories of his record buying days. “I distinctly remember my very first 45 record purchase" says Bob.  "In 1961, my best friend at the time, Billy Neal and I combined our funds (50 cents each) to buy “Blue Moon” by the Marcels at Buchanan’s TV-Appliances-Music store in Sanford, NC.  Buchanan's had a fully stocked record shop inside of the appliance store.  The shop was sound proofed with thick double paned glass so that you could crank up the volume on the high end stereo system with a manual turntable.  The little shop was loaded with all the current 45s and LPs of the day including pop, rock, soul, country and black gospel. Mr. Buchanan had a private airplane and he would fly with his wife weekly to Charlotte, NC to stock up on all the latest releases and hot sellers.  I worked in the shop sometimes on the weekends. Often for free, or for a couple of records. They had many black customers who would buy the latest R&B, soul and black gospel, like the Blind Boys of Alabama.  I loved this music and got exposure to songs I may never have heard otherwise. Screw Pat Boone, the Beach Boys and the Beatles. We wanted James Brown, Joe Tex, Booker T. & the M.G.s, The Temptations, The Tams, Wilson Pickett, The Showmen, Gene Chandler, The C.O.D.s and many more. That was only the beginning of a lifetime of  loving soul music."

Racial tolerance and intolerance among artists and fans

 
“We were all what you might call middle-class white - our neighbourhoods looked like Beaver Cleaver’s of the 1960s” says Nat Speir, founder member of Bob Meyer and the Rivieras. “But we were always very aware of the race issue and the sensitivity of our black acquaintances. We talked a good bit to Curtis and The Impressions about this when worked with them - but things were usually so rushed there was little time for that in most situations. Some of my friends’ parents became heroes to me by inviting four young black men from the Bedford-Stuyvesant project in New York to come and spend a summer with us in our homes, sponsored by an ecumenical group. They were singers too - fancying themselves as younger Little Anthony and the Imperials or The Manhattans. We gigged together for about four months and we all learned a great deal. Yes there were many tricky situations with these guys and with some of the national acts. But booking agents protected the groups somewhat. They wanted to make money. Also Charlotte was never like Mississippi. It was usually cool in Charlotte, or Greensboro, or Columbia - not everywhere was though in the early to mid 60s. The larger cities and towns were segregated in many ways of course. But the "the deal" with the south east was that there were many ways we did interact. Middle class whites wanted black music. Some find this hard to understand. Why would the Charlotte Country Club Deb Ball want Hank Ballard instead of The Beach Boys for their entertainment? But I was right there every chance I got. I heard and got to know many soul and R&B acts in those places. On my turf of course. I doubt I would have been welcome on their’s. And that's fair.”
 
Despite the racial tolerance in at least some areas of the Carolinas, The Rivieras did experience tensions when out on the road with coloured artists in the south east:
 
“The Barbara Mason gig in South Carolina, 1966 was one of those things that reminds you of how small and powerless you are." says Nat. "The Rivieras were playing at a small college for women in the Darlington area. Barbara Mason along with our band and singers provided the entertainment. It was a good gig. Nice audience. No trouble. At the end of the gig we were packing up our gear and looking at the girls file out of the auditorium when some of us noticed that talmost everyone she was appointed to find out if we could help. After a few minutes she reported back that Barbara was tired and upset because she couldn't find a place to stay - the motels on the nearby highway were white only. Georgia insisted that we do something. We would go get her a room, pay for it ourselves, and get her moved in so she could get some sleep, seemed like the perfect answer. Of course it wasn't. Ms. Mason politely declined saying that it wouldn't work and we'd be found out. We slowly got the message that pride and dignity might be involved too. Georgia couldn't let it go - but we had to. Ms. Mason said that she and her guitar player would just point the car North and drive all night if need be. It was a good gig but we were all quiet as we hit the highway in our van. I know it turned out ok. This kind of situation was probably played out over and over in the early days. Within a couple of years all the motels and hotels were integrated.”
 
When further refining the term 'beach music' in the context of the 1960s, a reasonable approach may be to reserve beach music for local and national acts (black and white) that particularly had a whole or partial R&B / soul repertoire along the coastal areas of the Carolinas at the time, or were big hits on the beach then. But even this is an over-simplistic view. As Greg Haynes’ work demonstrates, a myriad of teenage garage bands existed well outside of the Carolinas, who were aware of the emerging appeal and accessibility of the ‘new’ black sound of R&B and soul to a white audience, particularly on the beach resorts. Some tapped into this, even though their own individual musical approach may previously have been more mainstream pop orientated. A few bands briefly explored soul, some stuck with it, and others started with the specific intention of providing this music. 
 
Many bands and vocal groups were actually based inland. With the exception of the Wilmington NC-based group The Generation, or Ron Moody’s outfit from Richmond VA, all the acts described in this book were from areas which lie anywhere between 150 to 500 miles from the coast. Key R&B radio stations broadcast throughout the whole of the south east, ensuring access for teenagers even in remote locations. Inland pools and lake pavilions with jukeboxes were dotted throughout the Carolinas, which offered a ‘substitute beach’ environment where teenagers could swim and listen to music. Take as an example the Williams Lake rural resort near Fayetteville NC, which was originally built during the Second World War and continued to be a popular venue throughout the 1960s. Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five played there in Easter ’65. Other bands included The Monzas, The Aqua Lads, Gene Barbour and the Cavaliers, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, and national acts like Jackie Wilson, Barbara Lewis, Eddie Floyd and Mary Wells. That said, many inland bands also regularly travelled hundreds of miles (despite the dangers outlined by Nat Speir earlier) to play gigs at the coastal resorts. Long running groups like The Embers, Harry Deal and the Galaxies and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs travelled extensively to both coastal and inland venues. 
Edited by Windlesoul

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Lawn promo and the ironically much harder 2nd release (although it was still a 60s release) on Casino. Some other bits and bobs were re-released on Casino i.e. the Spontanes "Share my name", Sapphires "Who do you love" (see the Philly Lawn / Swan connection) and one other I think. The Spontanes was not strictly a 'reissue' at least on 45 format, as it had only appeared on their LP. The Casino 45s are all quite tough.

 

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Edited by Windlesoul

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