Music of South Carolina

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South Carolina is one of the Southern United States and has produced a number of renowned performers of jazz, rock, blues, R&B, country, bluegrass and other styles. In 1766, Charleston became the home of the St. Cecilia Society, the first musical society in North America. At the time, Charleston was a cultural center, attracting a number of musicians from Europe.

Official music[edit]

South Carolina is noted for being the birthplace of beach music, an offshoot of early R&B and rock'n roll that featured a shuffling beat which spawned the dance called The Shag. This Myrtle Beach-area dance is the official State Dance, although South Carolina has also produced two other famous dances, the Charleston in the 1920s, and the Big Apple in the 1930s. It also has two official state songs: "Carolina", with words by Henry Timrod and music by Anne Custis Burgess, and "South Carolina on My Mind", by Buzz Arledge and Hank Martin. South Carolina also has an "official music", Negro spirituals, sacred Christian songs originally developed in the 19th century.

Notable bands and musicians[edit]

Perhaps the best known rock band to hail from South Carolina is Hootie & the Blowfish, but other groups such as The Marshall Tucker Band, The Swinging Medallions, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, and alternative metal band Crossfade also hail from the Palmetto State. Pinkney "Pink" Anderson along with Reverend Gary Davis were both from Laurens, S.C. Pink Anderson is best known for being one of the namesakes for the band Pink Floyd.

Chris Potter

Jazz saxophonist Chris Potter from Columbia has released over 15 CDs as a leader and performed as a sideman on more than 150 other albums.[1] He is the leader of the Chris Potter Underground and has regularly performed with many world-class jazz musicians including Dave Holland and Pat Metheny. In the December, 2014 issue of Down Beat magazine, which featured the results of the annual readers poll, Potter was named the number one tenor saxophonist in the world.[2]

Other prominent musicians and singers born and/or raised in the state include James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Chubby Checker, Eartha Kitt, Peabo Bryson, Arthur Smith, Cat Anderson, Tom Delaney, Freddie Green, Drink Small, Johnny Helms, Jabbo Smith, Bill Benford, Tommy Benford, Nick Ashford, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner, Bill Anderson, Edwin McCain, Duncan Sheik, Rob Thomas, John Phillips, Walter Hyatt, David Ball, and Champ Hood.

The state's bluegrass scene has produced such bands as The Hired Hands featuring 3-finger banjo pioneer Dewitt "Snuffy" Jenkins and old time fiddler Homer "Pappy" Sherrill, The Hinson Girls, featuring four sisters from Lancaster, and Palmetto Blue, featuring South Carolina Folk Heritage Award Recipients Chris Boutwell and Ashley Carder.

Crossfade's "Cold" was on the compilation Now That's What I Call Music! 17 (U.S. series) in 2004, and Trevor Hall's song "Brand New Day" was on Now That's What I Call Music! 40 (U.S. series) in 2011. The doo-wop song Stay (Maurice Williams song) was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. James Brown's soul and funk song I Got You (I Feel Good) was #3 on the Hot 100 in 1966. Peabo Bryson's r&b song A Whole New World from Aladdin was #1 on the Hot 100 in 1993. Hootie & The Blowfish's roots rock song Only Wanna Be With You was #1 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart in 1995. Toro y Moi is currently the state's most successful electronic artist and the most successful rapper was Lil Ru. Both are from Columbia.

Urban centers in the state including Greenville, Clemson, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston are home to thriving rock and hip hop scenes.

Prominent venues[edit]

The region of Myrtle Beach has been home to the well-known Carolina Opry, a country music-based variety show, established in 1986 by singer, producer and entrepreneur, Calvin Gilmore, South Carolina's official country music ambassador, who continues to produce and perform in the show today. The Carolina Opry was the first live family entertainment venue on the Grand Strand and helped turn Myrtle Beach into one of the major centers for country music on the East Coast. Local venues include the Dolly Parton's Pirates Voyage, one of many attractions owned by Dolly Parton, the Alabama Theater, named for the band Alabama, and the Palace Theatre. Other artists tried their hand with their own theaters which did not last, such as Ronnie Milsap and the Gatlin Brothers. Myrtle Beach is also home to the South Carolina State Bluegrass Festival.

Outside of Myrtle Beach, the town of West Columbia is notable as the home of Bill Wells of the Blue Ridge Mountain Grass; he is the owner of a local music shop, which hosts a weekly bluegrass show at the Pickin' Parlor.[3]

Lesser known venues include Ground Zero in Spartanburg, New Brookland Tavern and Conundrum Music Hall in West Columbia, House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, The Plex in North Charleston, the Music Farm in downtown Charleston as well as in Columbia. The Five Points district in Columbia features a variety of bands each year at its St. Patrick's Day festival.

List of some musicians and bands[edit]



  • Byron, Janet (1996). Country Music Lover's Guide to the U.S.A. (1st ed. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-312-14300-1. 

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