The Bowery, a downtown Myrtle Beach honky-tonk, is one of the Grand Strand’s legendary institutions.
Its patrons have been enjoying cold draft beer and live music through World War II, the carefree ’50s, the turbulent ’60s, 14 presidents and countless storms. In the 1970s supergroup Alabama got its start there playing for tips and working on songs that would lead the band to the distinction as the best selling group in country music history. Which band might be the next Alabama? Lee Travis and The Bounty Hunters, with fiddler Philip Swaby as its featured soloist, wouldn’t mind being the next.
Customers walking up and down Ocean Boulevard and the recently completed Boardwalk are drawn in by the live music from The Bounty Hunters, a band Bowery owner Victor Shamah manages. One of the band’s newest members, since July 2007, Philip Swaby, is a curious sight in this rebel-flagged-bedecked unashamed redneck Mecca.
Swaby, 46, is from the Washington, D.C., area and is of Jamaican descent. He’s a classically trained violinist, who’s been playing the Charlie Daniels’ hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” almost since the tune hit the airwaves in 1979. “I’ve been asked to play that song thousands of times,” said Swaby, who is tall, rail thin, eloquent and an intellectual who knows he’s in an unusual position as a black man playing country music in a South Carolina honky-tonk. “I realize how unusual it is to be an anomalous musician,” he said, “but I’ve never had any problems.” Shamah agreed. “The crowd reaction is fantastic,” he said. “People love him.”
How does a classically trained violinist from D.C. end up in Myrtle Beach? “Mom was a vocalist and a pianist,” said Swaby, who remembers music as a part of his life since his earliest recollections. “I was trained classically very young, but heard jazz fiddle on my parent’s shortwave radio and realized the extent of what the violin could do. I met Victor while I was on vacation here, and kind of asked politely to sit in with the band one night. We played ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ and a few other songs, got such a positive response that they asked me on the spot to join the band. I thought about it for about two seconds and said ‘yes.’
“Myrtle Beach reminds me a little of Kingston, Jamaica, and old Georgetown in D.C.,” said Swaby, “I like it.”
Article by GrandStrand Magazine
© Copyright 2011 The Bowery Corporation. All rights reserved. All logos and souvenir designs are copyright of The Bowery Corporation and may only be used with permission of The Bowery Corporation.
Bowery, The Bowery, 8th Wonder of The World, Ya’ Can’t Beat Fun, and The Bounty Hunters are registered trademarks of The Bowery Corporation and may be used only with permission of The Bowery Corporation.