It's Still Rock n' Roll to Me

Reflections on the local music scene

Just as summer was nearing and appearing on a steamy Lowcountry horizon, back in the day when I was long, lean and newly twenty-one—finally—at the onset of June in 1980, I recall that the music scene in Charleston was popping.

It was dominated by some terrific bands, duos and numerous lone guitar-playing singers, interspersed with an occasional original composition. Together with friends, we’d sometimes venture downtown to hear Childsplay at Whistler’s or Hunter Hill doing a late set at Myskyn’s, or head out to the islands for Phil n’ The Blanks at the Windjammer on a Friday. We’d go back the following night for a rocking dose of The Hollywood Squares.

Big regional bands that seemed on the verge of widespread popularity like The Parrots, Cruise and of course, The Killer Whales each made their mark night after night while bouncing from venue to night club to outdoor gigs on decks—from Folly Beach to the legendary Bert’s on Sullivan’s Island. Two of my favorite spots were the Olde Side on the Front Beach, maybe to hear Ed Honeycutt (sigh, was anyone handsomer? Oh, that’s right—his brother), or spend an evening, two doors down, tapping a toe with Ricky Myatt, everybody’s favorite mailman at the bar, Malibu East.

While I made my way from my late teens to my early 20s, Mount Pleasant had very few spots featuring live music. Just a mere four decades later, I can barely recall where we would go to hear performances in Mount Pleasant (except for maybe Ronnie’s Cabana and to the Shem Creek Bar & Grille, occasionally). Then again, J. Michaels Roadhouse, Mupps–tucked off Coleman, and Whiskers, come to mind.

The music of our coming of age, perhaps more so than any other soundtrack we are exposed to, lasts in our memories. These days, it’s all about digital downloads on devices the size of a cigarette lighter.

I had an eight-track player in my first car (before MTV made its debut) and romancing was often conducted with mix tapes shared on cassette. I would tease a friend relentlessly for having an overabundance of Captain & Tennille or too much sappy Loggins & Messina.

On the radio, Eddie Salen, Alicia Mendicino, Booby Nash, Rick Tracy and Madeline, the Disco Queen of the night would be playing new sounds like Funkytown by Lipps Inc., the number one smash that summer. Chart toppers like Blondie, Paul McCartney & Wings, Linda Ronstadt and Boz Skaggs were among the top 40, and The Cars was finding its way onto the airwaves.

Billy Joel seemingly reflected the acceptance of these new genres with his mainstream hit, “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me.” And it still is. I love rock ‘n roll with a local flavor, remembering David Fuller on vocals backed by The East Coast Party Band at yet another friend’s wedding at The Sand Dunes Club.

Maybe I’ll just put another dime in the jukebox, baby. And remember. . . don’t just live ~ create a life, baby.