Malcolm Ray “Chicken” Hicks was an early pioneer of “shagging” or the “Carolina Shag.” Coastal historians credit him, along with Billy Jeffers, with its evolution and popularity throughout the 1940s–’50s. Chicken’s love of the R&B sound, then called “race music,” helped introduce this new genre to white audiences throughout Eastern beach communities.
During their teens and twenties, Chicken and younger brother Bobby Hicks would visit the “colored” areas around Carolina Beach, NC to check out the “jump joints.” Picking up moves from black dancers, they would electrify audiences with their flashy style.
Chicken was tall and lean with bleach-blond locks. His rebel attitude and unique dance ability quickly gained him popularity among women, as some are rumored to have waited hours for Chicken to sweep them off of their feet.
Chicken Hicks, along with Jim Hannah, founded a Carolina Beach dance spot called the Tijuana Inn. Chicken persuaded Jim to include the “race music” in the jukebox, which did not go over well with local white dignitaries.
After several fights and alleged killings, they had the doors permanently closed. In the early 1950s, Chicken Hicks was eventually forced out of town. That was when the shag scene shifted to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, where it currently resides.
Chicken Hicks was admitted to the Shaggers Hall of Fame on Memorial Day, 2004. The Cape Fear Museum proudly displays his signature white “shaggin” shoes.
Chicken Hicks passed away July 4, 2004. He was 78.
Carolina Beach in the 40’s – As told by Chicken Hicks – to ‘The State’ , July, 1994
The Movie – Ocean Drive is a feature length, historical drama chronicling the birth of beach music and shagging in the Carolinas during the 1940s–’50s. The story follows Chicken Hicks, a brave young man whose love of dance and music inspire him to cross racial divides, but is met with opposition from a puritanical Southern society led by the father of our hero’s one true love.