[Extracted from Fessa' John Hook’s oral history, “Jim Hannah, One of the Two Original Beach Music Pioneers, 1920-2010.” Published in “Dancing on the Edge Journal,” Vol. 1, Issue 1. February 8, 2010. Available from amazon.com or beachshag.com ]
The Birth of Shag
Jim Hannah was born on October 7, 1920 and grew up on a farm in Mecklenburg County. He played Class D baseball in Mooresville in 1938 (“same as Class A today”). Although it was only a farm team, Jim had the opportunity to play two games against Ted Williams at the time. That same year he moved to Norfolk to work in the shipyards. When his superiors learned he was not only sharp in reading blueprints and that he could lay a ship down from the keel all the way up to the shakedown cruise he was sent to the Wilmington Shipyard.
Jim mustered out in 1943 and hung around Carolina Beach for a few years. In 1945 he opened the Tijuana Inn (ground floor of the Ocean Plaza Building) on the Boardwalk. “The Tijuana Inn was one of the two first “Beach Music” clubs in the Carolinas, i.e. clubs that offered Black music on jukeboxes in establishments serving a white clientele.”
Jim’s bar and grill offered boardwalk cuisine and beer without a name over the door. A few weeks later his friend Chicken Hicks returned from a vacation that started in 1943 with his friend Chuck Green. They hitchhiked to the West Coast – Phoenix, Los Angeles, then down to Mexico. When Chicken returned in spring of 1945, he suggested Jim call the place the “Tijuana Inn.” He put its new name over the door in May 1945.
To say that Chicken and Jim were “Beach Music” pioneers is a gross understatement. In fact, in 1945 there were no white establishments anywhere which carried black music on their jukeboxes. More accurately, white kids weren’t allow to listen to black music anywhere.
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