RALEIGH — Beach music is the defining sound of the Carolinas. Propelled by African American rhythm and blues, boundary-crossing teens in the late 1950s and early 1960s created a culture with its own signature dance (the shag), its own beloved stars (The Embers, The Catalinas, Chairmen of the Board and the Tams, to name just a few), and its own rich memories that have endured across the decades.
The North Carolina Museum of History’s newest exhibit, “Beach Music: Making Waves in the Carolinas” — opening Friday, Sept. 18 — shares not only the hits and the dance moves, but also the fascinating stories behind the music. The gallery is rich in sound, alive with color, and interactive for all ages.
Visitors to the exhibition will hear familiar sounds and music, as well as gain new insights into the history that created the scene. Newcomers to the genre will discover a core element of Carolina culture and identity.
The exhibit offers museumgoers a cross-generational experience, including an interactive instructional video on the basics of shag dancing. They can listen to their beach music favorites, selected on a vintage 1965 Wurlitzer jukebox playing 45s (no quarters needed!). Visitors can also view the flashy costumes worn by some of the stars of the scene, including Band of Oz, The Embers, and Chairmen of the Board.
Visitors can also take a seat by the in-gallery dance floor and listen to original interview excerpts in which fans reflect on how the music has shaped their lives.
And what is an exhibit about beach music without the beach? Daydream of being at the coast in front of a large-screen live feed of Carolina Beach.
The North Carolina Museum of History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, collects and preserves artifacts of state history and educates the public on the history of the state and the nation through exhibits and educational programs. Admission is free. Last year, more than 465,000 people visited the museum to see some of the 150,000 artifacts in the museum collection. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
For information about the North Carolina Museum of History, call 919-814-7000 or access ncmuseumofhistory.org .