Men of Distinction were popular at UGA as well as The Coachman & Four; some had appeared earlier as members of Gene Barbour & The Cavaliers
Coach and Four Reunion. It starts on June 10th; it is much more than a blast from the past. It's shaping up to be "The Party To End All Parties" if you know what I am talking about. All you need to do is read about it below in Fessa Hook's story. I know where I am headed Friday morning and I have rounded up some copies of the book which will be available for purchase. However, I am taking a couple of books I hope to get signed by some of the musicians most of whom are pictured in the book. I hope to have a number of photos for the blog beginning next Monday. I have sort of been on vacation from the blog. The real world of industrial real estate has attracted most of my attention... but this weekend I am headed to hear the sounds of authenic Carolina Beach Music featuring a lineup that will probably never be matched again.
Coachman and Four Club and Restaurant 45-Year Reunion
Fessa John Hook
The Coachman and Four Club and Resturant in Bennettsville was a beacon for Beach Music enthusiasts in the Golden Era from 1964 to 1974. It was more than the Temptations, the Four Tops, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, Jr. Walker, the Tams, Jimmy Ruffin, Mary Wells and a host of other Beach Music all-stars. It was also the cradle and proving ground for dozens of bands who grew from regional obscurity to headliner status.
‘Beach Music’ at the time named a new genre of music in the Southeast. As the phrase became part of regional entertainment, high school and college kids were caught up in the magic of a culture that now spans generations.
An Atlanta road trip in the mid-60s triggered the inspiration which led the Wade R. Crow family to establish a new club for Marlboro county youth. Little did they know it would become an icon of the era as one of the exclusive venues for Rhythm & Blues performers that set the bar for future entertainment. The Coachman became one of the hottest live entertainment showcases in the Carolinas.
Both lanes of U.S. 15-401 were soon jammed with fans streaming from the north and south on weekends and holidays. As one of the pivotal centers of a Southern mini-tour for national and regional bands, the Coachman was a magnet to a generation that hungered for the unique experiences they found there and few other places.
From its origins as a drive-in movie, the original property added a skating rink, a restaurant and a dairy bar. Its metamorphoses into a club came from two inspirations during that mid 60s trip to Atlanta, when Wade Crow’s family saw the enormous excitement in a Go-Go Discotheque and had breakfast at the famous Atlanta Coach and Four Restaurant.
Modest renovation allowed for a stage where bands could be seen throughout the club and not bump their heads on the rink’s low ceiling. Bathrooms were added and a new dancehall was born, along with hundreds of stories still told today about the memories that have grown into the stuff of legend.
One measure of its popularity is the stories which remember that although it was only 10,800 square feet, it often took an hour to move from one end of the club to another. And moving they were, to the music of the Georgia Prophets, the Monzas, the In-Men Ltd, Willie Tee & the Magnificents, the Catalinas, and the original Men of Distinction.
Few other clubs achieved the status of the Coachman and Four. Although regional names like the Cellar in Charlotte, the Castaways and Jokers Three in Greensboro, the Embers Club in Raleigh, and the Beach Club at Myrtle Beach were big draws in their area, the Coachman and IV was central to both Carolinas drawing fans and musical talent from more than two hours away. During its heyday the club’s location between Charlotte, Raleigh, and Myrtle Beach, profited from groups booked in their respective dancehalls as well as entertainers at the fraternities and sororities of regional colleges and universities.
From the parking lot of the Coachman, one could see that Beach Music not only touched innumerable Carolinians, it shaped their musical lives forever. We will celebrate the Coachman’s pioneers, management, bands, bouncers, bartenders, romances, love affairs and the countless nostalgic memories which carry its legend.
The five-day June reunion (June 10 -1 4) comes 13 months after the demolition of the Coachman and IV Mecca of 60s Beach Music and forty-five years after it mushroomed to become a milestone of the Carolina Beach Music legacy. The story will continue on ... hope to see you there.
“Fessa” John Hook is director of the Endless Summer Network and author of “Shaggin’ In the Carolinas,” and “Beach Music Guide 1945-2006,” and historical consultant to the Coachman & Four Reunion committee.
I am on my way out the door to the Windy City but I am going to take my external drive and will post some photos used in the book of some of this week's line-up in Myrtle Beach. If you are looking for something special, grab you Bass Weejuns and head to the Mecca of the Beach Music world.