“Big George” Lineberry (left) and Harry Driver in 1994 at Fat Harold's Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Lineberry invented the “belly roll” and Driver the “smooth pivot” in the shag, the state dance of the Carolinas. Photo by Frank Beacham
Due to the unique ploy of a talented young white dancer, George Lineberry, black music found its way onto the jukeboxes in the white dance halls and pavilions along the Carolina beaches after World War II.
“Big George,” as he was nicknamed, was hired to install records on the coin-operated jukeboxes, then called “piccolos,” for a local amusements company in Myrtle Beach.
Lineberry was told which records to place on specific jukeboxes. Playlists were strict in this time of segregation. Black music in the day was forbidden from the jukeboxes in white establishments and was designated for black clubs only.
Lineberry ignored his bosses and took it upon himself to switch records, placing the most popular black records from the jukeboxes in the black clubs, including Charlie’s Place, to the jukeboxes in the white dance halls. It was this switcharoo by a single young worker that changed music along the coast for generations to come.
Big George, who died in 1999 at age 76, was an immensely popular fixture at the beach at the time and was often slipped a few bucks by concerned parents to dance with a daughter who needed a boost in self-esteem.
With great ceremony, he made it a point to “test” each new record installation with a personal spin on the dance floor. He often single handedly introduced new black records.
Soon after Lineberry serviced the jukeboxes along the Carolina coast, the “forbidden” R&B that could be heard only at the beach joints became known as “beach music.”
As a dancer, Lineberry was also a major contributor to what today is known as the “shag,” the state dance of the Carolinas.
“I first heard the term shag at Charlie’s Place,” Lineberry, who left the beach in 1948, told me in an interview. “They called it the shag on the Hill (Charlie’s Place). I think the shag and dirty shag came out of Charlie’s nightclub.”
Lineberry, who was a first generation member of the Shaggers Hall of Fame, had warm memories of his nights at Charlie’s Place—many ending at daylight.
“Charlie once told me, ‘George, you got a little black in you.’ I knew the black music had a better beat. It would turn me on a little more. I was the best at the belly roll and the dirty shag. I could lay it on them.”
In fact, Lineberry is credited with inventing the belly roll as used in today’s shag.
For young Dino Thompson, the belly roll—or “vertical sex” as it was also called—was the ultimate shag step, a move that was perfected by Lineberry at Charlie’s Place.
In his personal memoir, Greek Boy, Thompson offers a description of the belly roll: “Boy pulls girl close enough to touch belly buttons. Then, in rhythm, they throw one leg out together, then the other. Slick and sexy.”
The belly roll and a 10-cent song on the jukebox, recalled Thompson, was “your license for romance. Pick out the girl of your dreams, lead her out to the dance floor, ease her out of a fast sweaty pivot into a tight belly roll and bruise your excited private parts all up against hers. Then, right as the lyrics get down and dirty, burn her down with your Tyrone Power eyes.”
Lineberry later turned his love of music and dance into a career. He owned and operated Southern Amusement Corp. in Virginia Beach, Virginia. An avid shagger until he died, Lineberry later gave his fellow dancers their own jukeboxes loaded with their favorite music as a gift.
Lineberry’s story is in “Wild History,” Frank Beacham’s current Kickstarter project.