Wednesday, March 18, 2009

National Shag Dance Championships

The National Shag Dance Championships were held this past weekend. Even though I was not in attendance this year, this event is very near and dear to my heart. I have a long list in my book of memories dedicated to the "Nationals." Before I share some of those memories, let me say congratulations to all the folks who competed, placed, or won. Also "koodo's" to the folks that did support this great event by attending.

I have, over the years, participated as a spectator, a stage daddy, a DJ, and an emcee. Yes I said emcee. My friend, Barry Thigpen, would probably like to erase this fact from his Nationals memory, but it's one of my personal favorites. I'm not sure of the exact year, but it was the late eighties. In those days I tended to get a real fast start on my buzz, and that Friday night was no exception. I had already tossed back three or four adult beverages in quick succession, when Teresa Dew ( then a member of the Nationals committee) found me and told me that the emcee was a no show and informed me that I would be the emcee for that night. My confession of having had a few cocktails didn't seem to deter her. Maybe because in those days, drinkin and smokin in a honky tonk was what you did and there were no political correctness police to call. But I digress. Teresa took me over and introduced me to Barry, who quickly handed me the list of contestants and the microphone and said "let's get started".

I nestled in to my seat next to the dance floor, lit up a cigarette, took a big hit off my vodka drink, and introduced the first couple. Previous to that night my only experience doing a big time dance contest was Ducks Across The Street's Halloween shag contest. I figured what the hell, it's the same thing, I'm just not playing the music. I thought the night went pretty well, all things considered. All the contestants got to dance, I got drunk, I had fun, and...I got drunk and I had fun. Later that night at breakfast Barry asked me if I would show up at Studebaker's the next day about two, for the non-pro cut, in case their guy was a no show again. He was a no show, but before we started that day Barry said to me," just introduce the couples and keep your comments to yourself." That Saturday afternoon the contestants danced, I didn't get drunk, I didn't have as much fun, but I got the feeling that Barry enjoyed it a lot more. To this day, I'm the only person who has both DJ'd ,and Emceed the Nationals. To me that's a pretty special memory. Thanks Barry.

In the early nineties, a group of new junior shaggers burst on the Nationals scene. Among others, there were names like Beaver, Smith, Best, Key, and a kid named Hamrick. There were others of course who would go on to leave their mark on our dance, but I mention these five for a specific reason. Some of the most special memories I have of the Nationals, are of the long, cold, windy afternoons spent waiting in line outside Studebaker's. Harold Beaver, Stacy Smith, Pete Best, Ken Key, and I would get to Studebakers about noon to stake our place in line. There were other folks as well in line, but these were my "buds". We all had our favorite table we just had to have by the dance floor, to see our "babies" dance. We spent untold hours in those lines each day and each year at the Nationals. We would take turns holding each others spot in line for bathroom breaks, food, and beer runs. We shared cigarettes and swaped lies. There were a lot of words between us over the years, but never a cross one. Yeah I'm sure that all of us wanted our child to win, hell I know I did, but we never talked about winning, just that we hoped they all had a good dance.

Am I glad I don't have to sit in that line any more? You bet your ass I am. But if I had to again, those are the guys I'd like to have there with me.


  1. Tommy you da man !!!

  2. Mr. Hamrick, I don't know that I've actually met you in person... but boy would I have loved to have been a part of the mystique and history that was the Nationals back then. I actually briefly spoke to Barry Thigpen about this very subject over the weekend. This was my first Nationals; dancing in the Non Pro division and ultimately finishing 3rd. I saw Don Bunn's comments, and I found it ironic. Before our Saturday night dance, just after we found out we made the Finals... I was underneath the dancer's room where the pool table and barber chair are, dancing... practicing... taking in the moment. As I was running through all our together steps, Le Ann Best came up to me (I work with her mother and am from just outside of Clinton) and told me not to worry, but to enjoy it; we had made the big time, and were dancing in the Finals at the National Shag Dance Championships. I thought to myself... if she only knew. I have spent many an hour of my life watching old tapes, taking in every step... every song, every moment. Watching William and Kristen dance to Danny's All Star Joint, watching Sy with his purple shirt on spin around and jump through his leg to take Overall in '91 I believe... to know I was about to dance on the same floor, was overwhelming to say the least. Watching Don Bunn, Charlie and Jackie, Sy and Dana, all of them... Bucky Dudley and Le Ann... over and over again. I would have loved to have been a part of that. At any rate, I enjoyed reading your post!


    Martin Jackson

  3. Martin,
    Thanks for your comment. That's some pretty "high cotton" your throwing my name around with (Charlie, Jackie, Sy, Dana, LeAnn). I'll take that kind of talk anyday.
    It was a great time then and it still is now!
    Don Bunn

  4. Martin,
    It was everything you could ever imagine. Great time and even better people. What a wonderful experience. All the best,
    Bucky Dudley

  5. Martin,
    It was everything you could ever imagine. Great time and even better people. What a wonderful experience. All the best,
    Bucky Dudley

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