Charlie’s Place, Which Made the Shag Famous, is Subject of ETV Documentary

By Adam Parker, [Charleston] Post and Courier

Charlie’s Place, established in 1937 by Charles and Sarah Fitzgerald, was the home of “Beach Music,” or early rhythm and blues, which spawned the Shag. It was a key stop on the old Chitlin’ Circuit where black musicians — Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Lena Horne, Fats Domino, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Billy Eckstine, Louis Jordan and many more — came to play. These famed musicians often performed in the big hotels on the beach, but they were not permitted to stay overnight, so they found their way to Charlie’s Place.

This history, and the current effort to remake Charlie’s Place into a community center and museum, is the topic of a new documentary by SCETV. The idea for the 30-minute film was first broached in November 2016 when Herbert Riley, a Grand Strand musician and civic leader, contacted Newman. They met at Big Mike’s Soul Food on the periphery of the old black neighborhood to talk about the fascinating history of Charlie’s Place and the effort to save that history for future generations.

The city of Myrtle Beach purchased the property about a year ago. Block grants were secured to pay for a restoration project. Carter Architecture and project leaders devised a three-phase initiative based on community input.

Carver Street is home to the Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival, which aims in part to raise awareness about the historical importance of Charlie’s Place.

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