I first met Jim Allen a little over a year ago at Captain Poo’s on the Waterway in Little River, South Carolina. He was with his wife, Betty, who, it turns out, works with my sister. So we sat around, havin’ some good rowdy fun watching Donny Trexler up on the bar and listening to Calabash Flash berate poor Jimmy Buffet who thinks Paradise is somewhere way south of here.
The next time I ran into Jim was at HOTO’s in Cherry Grove, and he had a mighty fine camera in his hand. It belonged to his friend Laura Jean, who owns a karaoke bar in Rock Hill. Well, Jim is experimenting with this pricey gadget, and he’s composing some very cool photographs.
Fast forward a few weeks, it’s the beginning of August, Sunday at HOTO’s, Jim Quick & Coastline are playing. I’ve been working on a feature story to run in Coast and Alternatives – about the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival. Time’s getting close, and I don’t have an image for the cover yet. So, I think, Coastline is playing the festival … and Jim Quick is always good for some crazy antics; maybe I can get a decent shot of these bad boys.
But wait, there’s Jim Allen sporting his very own, brand new Nikon D70 digital camera. To make a long story short, Jim’s shot came out a whole lot better than mine, and that’s what wound up on the cover of Coast Magazine.
Right after that, Jim hooked up with Jeff Landrum of Ocean Drive Happens, and now uploads many of his crowd and band shots to http://www.oceandrivehappens
, where they are avail
able for purchase. He also works with a growing list of Ocean Drive Happens clients that include Fat Harold’s, HOTO’s, Captain Poo’s, Deckerz, Wango Tango, Printing By Designs, Classic Air Ventures and many more.
“People go to the website once they get home,” Jim says, “They find themselves, and we’ve sent photos to the Bahamas, California, all over the place.”
Jim’s most recent shots have been taken hundreds of feet in the air at speeds of 180 miles per hour. “I’ve been going up with Phil from Classic Air in his 1941 Model Waco, and man, I love it! I can’t wait to do it again. We’re moving so fast, I have to anticipate. I focus ahead of the plane. Right now, we’re working on a deal with a helicopter.”
Some of his most popular aerial shots are views that include the horseshoe in North Myrtle Beach; the O.D. Resort, Deckerz, Two Blondes on the Beach and Fat Harold’s on Main Street; HOTO’s, the pier and the new Prince Resort in Cherry Grove; and Captain Poo’s at Anchor Marina. His favorite, though, is the new Tilghman Resort next to HOTO’s.
Although not a professional photographer, Jim has been working with cameras for years. He got his first one, a 35mm Nikon EM, back in 1981 shortly after he and Betty had moved to Texas. He started off snapping pics of the late model sportsman’s cars and drivers at the Big H Motor Speedway dirt track in Houston.
After the couple moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina to be closer to family, they started hanging out at Country City USA. There they got to know folks like Randy Travis, Mark Chestnut, Trace Atkins and other stars. And Jim photographed them all.
“I got a shot of a teenage Tanya Tucker in KMart when she released her first record.” Jim told me, “Then when she came to Cowboy Joe’s about 1990, I showed the photo to her son. He took it and showed it to her, and then came and brought us backstage to meet her. We know her now.”
Jim and Betty moved to Little River in 2005 after vacationing at the beach for most of their lives. “So we’ve been listening to beach music for a long time,” Jim explained.
When I asked Jim if he had a favorite performer or group, he got a pained look on his face, like a father being asked to choose one child over another.
I can tell you, though, that Jim and Betty had their first taste of recent beach music at HOTO’s. “We were on the beach at Cherry Grove with a bunch of friends and went into HOTO’s to get a beer. Well, Sea-Cruz was playing … Molly was singing “Open Arms,” and we’ve been fans and friends ever since.
“You know, that picture of Coastline that went on the cover of Coast? That was the first time I pushed the button on my D70. It’s opened up a lot of doors for me and now? Now I’m just having the time of my life.”
It’s hard to imagine, but Jim Allen went through some dark years. In fact, if you ask him when his birthday is, he’ll tell you he was born in May of 1981.
That was when Jim made some life-altering decisions.
“I served in the Army from 1967 to 1974. Being in the military made me a person, but it also made me crazy for 15 years.”
Betty and Jim had grown up together in the same town. They starting dating somewhere around 1965 and married in 1969.
“I’ll tell you, Betty stuck with me through a lot. I was not good to be around, but she stayed. She wasn’t going anywhere.
“I didn’t go out. I didn’t like the world. Weekends I’d go out in the woods with my guns. One year, my family gave me a surprise birthday party. I found out about it and refused to go.
“I functioned at my job [law enforcement], but that’s all. From 1969 to 1981, I wasn’t in a good place.
May of 1981 is when Jim fortunately met a group of veterans who helped him come to terms with his experiences in Southeast Asia, put them behind him and move forward.
“Girl, I lost some good years,” Jim smiles, “but I’m making up for them now.”