MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As the top musicians in modern country music take the stage at the Carolina Country Music Festival in downtown Myrtle Beach this weekend, nearby is a place that’s been home to country music for decades.
Almost as iconic as the Pavilion and the Grand Strand shoreline itself, The Bowery is a Myrtle Beach institution that is celebrating its 75th season.
“It’s one of the old, the old-fashion beer joints, honky tonks in the country left,” said owner Victor Shamah. “And the longevity for 75 years is pretty outstanding.
In those 75 years, Shamah is only the third owner of the business, a New York boy who in 1981 took over after spending many of his formative years in Myrtle Beach.
“Back in those early, in the late fifties, Myrtle Beach was just 10 weeks in a year. It was Memorial Day to Labor Day,” he said. “So my father used to come here and work.”
In 1973, a new house band took over at The Bowery, where signs from all 50 states still hang around the bar.
“Alabama was called ‘Wild Country.’ We came there in ’73 in March,” said Jeff Cook, a founding member of the band Alabama.
Cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Cook started the band.
“At that point in time, our current bass player was the drummer and we recruited another one of our cousins to play bass, and we did one song, one Merle Haggard song, ‘Sing Me Back Home,’” Cook said.
Shamah said Wild Country was difficult to trademark.
“So they didn’t have a name and the Alabama sign that’s right over there – still, still over there – when they didn’t have a name up there, people would say, ‘Hey Alabama, play this. Hey Alabama play that. Hey Alabama,’” Shamah said.
The owner thinks the band and the bar having something in common.
“That’s the secret about Alabama, is when they come on stage and when they do their shows, they’re dynamic,” Shamah said. “They know how to entertain; they know how to talk to the people.”
That’s virtually identical to The Bowery’s mantra, and it’s one they’ve adhered to through the years, whether in 1950 or 1990 or 2018.
“You just sit there and watch the show and we’ll help to entertain you,” Shamah said. “We’re 100 feet from the ocean right in the heart of Myrtle Beach in the same spot we’d been forever. Nothing’s changed. We’re still serving beer out of a mug.”
For 75 years, the bar has stayed true to itself.
“It’s a tradition. It’s an institution. I think it ought to go on another 75 years,” Cook said.
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