Save The Last Dance For Me

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In Save the Last Dance for Me, the late Phil Sawyer and I retell the story of the legendary dance and its iconic presence at Ocean Drive, Myrtle Beach, and other South Carolina beaches. While contributing memories of shagging on Ocean Drive, we also discuss the actual dance steps that make up the shag. With the retelling of the shag story comes the unique story of the Society of Stranders. Formed in 1980 after a Red Sea Balsam bottle containing an SOS note washed ashore, what resulted was increased national publicity and five thousand “stranders” flocking to Ocean Drive Beach to show their support for the shag culture. The Society of Stranders, or SOS, and the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs together now consist of more than fifteen thousand members. The shag’s past, present, and future are described here with archival and contemporary photographs. Dance on ’til the sun breaks over the waves.

A Fortune Passed Through Here


A machine that helped change dance history


Shaggers’ Anthem

16 thoughts on “Save The Last Dance For Me

  1. Tom,
    This is so exciting and the cover looks fantastic. I love the new title and I know the book sales are going to be great. Again thanks for your dedication in making sure this books tells the true story of shag and our love of the dance and its music. Dr. Phil and you make a great team.

    Doris Keaton
    SOS Board Member

    • Thank you Doris. I fell in love with the history, the story, and the SOS writing this with Phil. I did my level best to capture all the angles and tell the story true. It is one for the ages. You and all shaggers will like this book. tom

  2. Thank you for writing about a subject I love. So looking forward to having my copy of your book. I too fell in love with the history of the Carolina Shag, as well as the music and the dance. Hope you come to North Myrtle for a book signing sometime.

    • Hi June. I enjoyed writing the book with Phil Sawyer. I will be down at NMB for signings late this summer/early fall and look forward to meeting you and signing your book. —Tom

  3. Grandaddy (John P. Drinkard, Sr.) once told me that I would never amount to anything because all I wanted to do was ready trashy paperback novels and listen to that god damn African jungle music. That music eventually became “rock and roll” with the whole world tuning in. I love the groups with “soul” like the Fiestas, Falcons, and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. The Catalinas and other lily white sounds never rang my chimes. Betty Pope taught me to shag in her bed room on “Courthouse Street” and Sarah K. called it “hot supper music.” I would go home and practice the shag holding on to the bed post in my room on Humphrey St. Even though nobody in Athens ever mistook me for Warren Beatty, I had lots of dates and invites because I could dance. Aunt Helen T. was responsible for what little bit of polish I acquired. She corrected my pronunciation of saLmon and sawsage and made me chew with my mouth closed. But hot supper music, Betty Pope, and the shag paved the way to whatever social success I achieved including leading me to the love of my life and wife for 45 years. She was called “The Dancing Fool” at the Theta house and never would have dated let alone married someone who couldn’t dance.

  4. Glad I found this site! I wondered what was the state of the book. I sent you a contribution a while ago about my romance with the music and dance and my then husband, David Vaughan. Just wanted to be sure you knew that David died two years ago and guess what I have on his tombstone? Save the Last Dance for Me!

  5. Hey,
    Cannot wait to read your book. A friend of mine, Tom Shipman, who has been
    in touch with you as well, told me of your book. I so identify with what I have read so far.
    As a young girl, I outgrew all the boys and was so afraid I would never have a date! I learned to shag by watching the best dancers at the Beach and just as you did,
    going home and dancing with the bed post. It was so exciting when I finally “got it right”!
    I too had dates and invites because I could dance. Didn’t matter if one was short or tall — if he could dance! If he couldn’t, I taught him…Life was so much more simple “back in the

    Met one of the Fiestas (So Fine) in an elevator in NYC. Still think Sexy Ways by Hank Ballard is one of the all time best Beach Music Songs. And then there is Rocking Crickets by the Hot Toddies — always be a favorite as learned to dance to that!

    You are lucky you married your sweetheart who loved to dance as well! My native New
    Yorker husband could have cared less. Don’t know how that happened…

    Still live in NYC but keep in touch with old friends and family in the South.

    • Kay … how nice to receive your response to the book. I, however, did not grow up in the shag culture. I grew up landlocked in Georgia and only heard of the shag about the time it was making a comeback in 1980. Nor am I married but none of that stops me from appreciating what the shaggers accomplished. The book will be out in August. I remember Tom. Your story is echoed by many and I think you will really enjoy the book.

  6. Hi Tom!

    Congratulations on the successful completion of your project. I know you will find a strong market for your book. I will have to get a signed copy for my father, who spent many, many hours shagging at the beach. He had some smooth moves! Please post your signing schedule when you know. Take care.

    All the Best,

  7. I live at Sunset Beach, NC and want copy of your book for present for my husband Please let me know when book available and when you might be N. Myrtle area for signing. Thanks

    Sandy Eller

  8. Will you be in Florence, SC for a signing, and if so, when? Though I am from the Midwest, I fell in love with The Shag after seeing a movie called Shag with Phoebe Cates. I have just moved to Florence, SC and hope to take lessons soon. Though I am from the North, I’ve always felt like I belonged in the South, people here are so friendly and laid back.

  9. Tom,
    Thanks to an excellent article in the Coastal Observer about you and the book, I have a ticket to the Moveable Feast luncheon at Litchfield on Friday. I am so excited to meet you and to get the book autographed. I live just a few miles from the luncheon and am coming with several friends who grew up shagging. Such good fortune to be able to see you in this venue, AND the next day is my birthday!

    See you Friday,

    Carolyn S. Vaughan

  10. Tom,
    I have enjoyed the beach, the music, the friends, and dancing at OD for the last 23 years. Of course I have anxiously awaited Dr. Phil’s book. I saw the co-author was Tom Poland. Then one day I wondered if he could be someone I knew a few years ago. Yes! I knew you at Columbia College in 1976 or 1977. I know the book will do well.

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