When the Rolling Stones got in hot water
with Myrtle Beach’s finest,
it was Jimmy Lathan who came to their rescue
Horry County native Jimmy Lathan doesn’t consider his job a job. It’s too much fun. He’s the live production engineer for Sea-Cruz, one of the most sought-after Carolina beach music groups in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He has a blast, even getting involved with some of the skits and routines.
“I’ve known Dino [Dino Fair, Sea-Cruz keyboard player and vocalist] for some 40 years … I met him when I was working for Burroughs & Chapin … Myrtle Beach Farms back then … and he was with the Shakers and they were playing the Pavilion at the Magic Attic, back when it was still the Pavilion Ballroom & Dance Hall.
Jimmy was the go to guy for the Pavilion for about 30 years. You needed something, you went to Jimmy. A contractor, handyman, electrician, diver, golfer, music lover and more – officially, he was general services manager at Myrtle Beach’s famous Pavilion from 1966 to 1997, and he’s got some stories to tell.
“I booked the entertainment for the Pavilion, the national acts that came in and played upstairs plus all the free acts that we put out on the beach.
“The Flying Wallendins used to perform on the beach, at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Their shows lasted anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes.”
Jimmy’s stories tend to remind him of other stories, which is what happened here.
“Do you know that the beach here used to be much, much deeper? Back in the fifties, Slim Mims [musician/comedian who also owned Uncle Ugly’s Record Shop in Florence, S.C.] used to emcee a country night at the Pavilion. He would fly his own plane from Nashville to Myrtle Beach and land right there on the beach … what is now the horseshoe at Main Street in North Myrtle Beach. The beach was so wide, nobody cared. Mr. Husted used to go pick him up and at the end of the night, he’d bring him back to his plane.”
According to Jimmy, Husted was originally a traveling carny. When the Pavilion first opened, he used to bring his rides for the summer and then move on to the next gig. The company wanted to keep them longer, so they bought them and Husted came on as general manager.
While Edward Burroughs was alive, Jimmy had a standing weekly golf date with him. “In the early 70s, every Wednesday at 1 p.m. – and I don’t mean 12:59 or 1:01– I mean I p.m. – Mr. Burroughs, Mr. Husted, the general manager for Myrtlewood Golf Course and I would play. Every Wednesday. It was another part of my job.”
Jimmy also coordinated all the Sun Fun activities with the Pavilion. “I loved meeting all these people … the dignitaries … the inductees. Mickey Spillane was inducted into the Sun Fun Hall of Fame in 1988 along with Alabama and the Thunderbirds. Mickey was all dressed up on the red carpet; thousands of people were wanting his autograph. An hour later, I noticed him on the beach in his shorts and a Miller shirt and not a soul knew who he was. ‘I like it this way,’ he told me. I like that guy!
“I loved the free acts, too. There were monster trucks, wrestlers. Andre the Giant used to work the Pavilion. Man, that guy was so big he could drop a silver dollar through his ring.
“The Ballroom held some 3,000 people. The dance floor was made out of South American Maple, milled to perfection, tongue in groove. It was beautiful.
“Back in the 60s, late 60s, maybe ‘66 or ‘67 or ‘68, I was running the free bands, working the side doors. There was no AC, no fan. But it was a great time.
“The music then … we didn’t call it beach music. It was Motown. I was fortunate enough to see that era of entertainment. The Drifters, the Platters, Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Tams – with Joe Pope, The Temptations – with David Ruffin, Sam & Dave, Little Anthony and the Imperials. In fact, when Anthony was in town for the Carolina Beach Music Awards last year, he told me he remembered me working the side door.
“You know, we didn’t realize that the music being played at the Pavilion was dictating what was being played east of Mississippi. We didn’t even know.”
“We used to have the best regional groups come through. We’d have General Johnson and Jackie Gore on the boardwalk.
You never knew who was going to stop by the Pavilion and either sit in or just hang out.
“In the 70s, there was a southern rock band I liked a lot – Eastern Seaboard. They had a banjo player. He used to play ‘Rocky Top’ for me all the time. They knew I liked it. Well, one day, they started playing it, I looked up and there’s Alabama and Charlie Daniels up on stage with Eastern Seaboard … playing Rocky Top. I just loved it.
“I met some great people. One night, in 1974, I was back in my office, and one of my staff came back and said, ‘This guy out front just wants to come in and listen to the music. So I went out front, said hello and let him through. Later on, he stopped by the office, poked his head in and said in his English accent, “I just wanted to thank you for letting me come and see your bloody pub.’
“At that point, I had to say to him, ‘I don’t know if you’re him, but you look like someone I saw in concert five years ago.’
“And he said, ‘Oh, you were at Woodstock. I’m Pete Townshend.”
It turns out Pete Townhend was into the teachings of Indian mystic and spiritual leader Meher Baba, and came to Myrtle Beach on occasion to visit the Meher Spiritual Center, a retreat which, ironically, had been established in the forties by Elizabeth Chapin Patterson, daughter of Simeon B. Chapin, one of the original developers of Myrtle Beach. (Ah, synchronicity)
Years later, in Greensboro, N.C. at a Van Halen after party, Jimmy would run into Townshend again, and this time the Brit introduced him to another buddy, Roger Daltry.
“We had the Stones at the Pavilion, too,” Jimmy tells me.
“In 1978, they were playing the Convention Center. Well, it seems that Keith Richards got in a little trouble with the local police. They wanted to put him in jail. I got involved and said, ‘Let’s not put him in jail; let’s make them do another show. So the police agreed and the Rolling Stones came down to the Pavilion and did one song: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Jimmy Lathan had a lot of other special nights at the Pavilion, too.
“Some nights were just magic. Mother’s Finest put on one of the most dazzling, fast-moving shows I’ve ever seen. In the 70s, Eastern Seaboard was one of my favorites. Then Sugar Creek came along in the 80s. What a great band.
“Harry Deal and the Galaxies used to play the Pavilion. You know he still owns a chicken farm in Taylorsville, N.C. and still has a group.
“Steve Perry from Journey used to come by. Gerry Rafferty sat in once.
“I loved the music, but it was more. “We had some pretty weird people, too: the fattest twins in the world, Billy and Bobby McGuire. Police used to have to stop traffic to give them time to cross the street.
“And there was this sword swallower. One night I hear Eastern Seaboard playing. Well, Vernon Dick, the lead singer, had met the sword swallower drinking beer and had him on stage. Too funny.
Along the way, Jimmy has put together one of the most comprehensive Pavilion memorabilia collections around.
“I have a parchment I’m going to donate to the Horry County Museum. It’s dated 1801, signed by the governor and it’s a death warrant.
“I’ve been collecting stuff forever. I have a 1929 Horry County dog tag, a Sloppy Joe’s free bingo token, bath house tickets from 1948, posters of lots of the acts and events.”
Jimmy has amusement ride tickets at every denomination ever produced for the Pavilion rides: ten cents, which were used during the 50s; 15 cents, from the 60s; 20 cent tickets; 25 cent tickets; and the new tickets: 60 cents, 75 cents, 90 cents and the most recent one-dollar tickets.
“I also bought the last five tickets ever purchased at the Pavilion in 2006,” he said. “I gave three of them away and I’ve kept the last two… the last two tickets.
About two hours into the interview with Jimmy Lathan, it crossed my mind that he should write a book.
“Well, I am working on a book,” he says, “with Freakin’ Deacon.”
Gary “Freakin’ Deacon” Dawson is a longtime Myrtle Beach deejay. These days you can hear him on QROCK. Back then, he was in the WKCQ booth at the Pavilion.
Until they finish what is sure to be one of the most colorful, interesting books written about the Pavilion and Myrtle Beach, look for Jimmy whenever Sea-Cruz is in town and get him to tell you a couple of his stories. He’s the man!
You simply can’t have a conversation about the hottest vocal groups to come out of the New York scene without including Little Anthony and the Imperials. Lead singer Anthony Gourdine gave a voice to teenage passion and angst back in the fifties and continues to push the boundaries of contemporary R&B today.
Gourdine was visiting the Grand Strand last week as part of a promotional tour, and I had the chance to talk to him about the man, the music and the upcoming Little Anthony and the Imperials concert recording at Myrtle Beach’s Palace Theater on Sunday, Sept 13.
I’m here to tell you that anyone who pigeonholes Anthony Gourdine as a blast from the past is missing the mark.
His – and the group’s – longevity in the business is due at least in part because they refused to let others define them. “I’ve always followed my instinct … don’t allow anyone to define me,” Anthony Gourdine told me emphatically, and it would become a theme of the afternoon’s conversation.
“I’m a creative human being, that’s what I am,” he went on to say. “I’m a singer. I’m an actor. I’m a writer. I’m working on a book right now, with a ghostwriter. I’m in a perpetual state of growth.
“My music teacher Mrs. Ethel Mannix was the first person to open me up to art. When other kids were out playing sports, I was listening to Beethoven.”
Gourdine’s father, who was a jazz musician himself, didn’t support the teenager’s interest in music. He felt the life was too hard.
But the budding vocalist was already friends with Clarence Collins, who founded the precursor to the Imperials – originally named the Chesters – when he was 13 years old. “It’s as though there was a hand on us, moving us in a certain way,” Anthony told me, “I like to think it was God himself. It’s destiny. I’ve always been an adventurer. My mother encouraged me in music.”
The young Imperials would have a record contract with End Records within a year, change their name to the Imperials, and have a double-sided hit record. The A side was “Tears On My Pillow” and the flip side hit was “Two People In the World.”
Also singing with the teenage Imperials was a second tenor named Ernest Wright. Amazingly, this core group – along with singer/choreographer Harold Jenkins, a member of Little Anthony and the Imperials and later the Imperials during the 70s – make up today’s innovative R&B group, Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary for the group. “People love survivors,” Anthony laughs, “and we are definitely survivors.”
Unlike so many other 50s vocal groups relegated to anachronistic reunion shows or tours, Little Anthony and the Imperials celebrate their past without living it all over again. A tangible example of this is You’ll Never Know, the group’s CD, produced by Clarence Collins and released in 2008. Clearly a labor of love, it pays homage to the past even as it reaches to the future.
The 12-track disc includes a combination of new jazz-driven arrangements of old favorites and original tunes that – in Anthony Gourdine’s words – are going to surprise people. The album’s featured single is Gourdine’s duet with Grammy award winner Deniece Williams, known for her pop R&B tunes including “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” her duet with Johnny Mathis.Also included is a new version of the 1964 hit “Hurt So Bad,” (performed during the group’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show), and it is definitely not the same old same old. A new arrangement by Mary Ekler leaves no question that that this group isn’t rehashing old material.
Talking about the CD, Gourdine said, “People will be surprised. It’s what happens when folks come to our shows. They’re surprised.”
Who are their fans, I wanted to know. “We’ve had an influx of people in their 30s and 40s, whose parents told them about us, and we have folks in their 50s and such. We’re a contemporary R&B group, so our fans are anyone who loves R&B.
Little Anthony and the Imperials were honored last year with induction into the Carolina Beach Music (CBMA) Hall of Fame.
“You know, we used to play the beach towns … quick gigs here and there … and we never realized we were part of building something … it’s humbling,” Anthony said.
Despite growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gourdine’s family is from the Charleston, S.C. area. “I think it’s in the DNA,” he told me, “because even though this isn’t my home, I feel at home. I hear the Geechee and I know it. I live in Las Vegas now, but it feels good to be on this tour through the Carolinas.”
The concert at the Palace Theater stands apart from the rest of the tour because this show is being recorded for broadcast purposes. Tickets are $45 and are available at the theater’s box office or online at www.palacetheatremyrtlebeach.com. The theatre is located at Broadway At the Beach. For more information, call toll-free 800-905-4228
In addition to the event at the Palace, the Carolina tour includes stops at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, N.C.; War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro, N.C.; Odell Williamson Auditorium at Brunswick Community College in Supply, N.C.; and other locations. S.C. shows include the Peace Center Concert Hall in Greenville, the Newberry Opera House and the North Charleston Performing Arts Center among others. For a complete schedule, log onto the website at http://www.littleanthonyandtheimperials.com or visit the group’s MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/littleanthonyandtheimperials.
Me, I can’t resist being part of history in the making. I’ll be front and center at the Palace Theater on Sept. 13. What song do I want to hear most? Surprise me, Anthony.
©2009 Dariel Bendin. All rights reserved. This will also be published in Beach Newz in Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine.