Question: How did the Shag phenomenon originate?
Ground zero for the shag phenomenon has always been Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where "jitterbugs" swing-danced at open-air beach parties during the Thirties and Forties. This was one of the first examples of African-American culture bleeding over into the mainstream: white college kids would routinely visit racially segregated dances, pick up the moves, and bring them back to the beach. In addition, these kids pushed hard for local radio stations to play rhythm and blues as soundtrack for their party, creating a movement so sturdy that there are still radio stations in the Carolinas with "beach music" playlists.
Billy Jeffers and "Chicken" Hicks are two of the main shaggers credited with developing the dances we know now, helping to slow down the tempo of the original jitterbug and incorporate sexier, looser movements into it. The phenomenon faded in the Seventies, enjoyed an early-Eighties renaissance, faltered again slightly when clubs began restricting those under 21, and flourished again in the Nineties. Today, shag is an established segment of Southern culture. Indeed, the basic dance is now the official dance of the state of South Carolina.