The Fayetteville [NorthCarolina] Observer, Sunday, May 28, 2000, Article 1 of 3

"Carolina tradition of beach music still going strong"

King and queen


Harry Driver, who was dubbed ''Father of the Shag,'' was from Dunn. He was 66 when he died of a heart attack in March 1998. He was president of the Shaggers Hall of Fame, and was enshrined as a charter member in the 1980s.

Though the father of the shag may be gone, ''the Queen of Shag'' is still with us: Clarice Reavis of Fayetteville. ''She was voluptuous and beautiful and completely alluring, and a bunch of 17-, 18-year-olds fell in love with her,'' Bryan said. ''She was strong as train smoke. You take a deep breath, she'd knock you out.''

As far back as the '30s, Reavis was dancing at White Lake's Goldston Beach, where there was a dance hall called the White Lake Pavilion that extended out over the water. During the war years, she would dance at the U.S.O. clubs in Fayetteville. ''I was dancing myself to death,'' said Reavis, who turned 85 on Thursday. ''We were doing the rock 'n' roll as hard as we could. And the bands were playing the rock 'n' roll. And then we started to slow it down after a while.''

In the late '40s, she met an Italian named Jimmy Cavallo, who had an R&B combo called the House Rockers. Bobby ''Spider'' Wrenn played drums with the band. Now 69, he sells real estate in Fayetteville. ''Back then there was a group that went to all the dances at the service clubs. Somehow we just got connected,'' he said. ''She was like a big sister to us. She would give us rides, peanut butter sandwiches. She wound up being a band mom and, finally, she and Jimmy Cavallo were sort of going together.''

"The things that took place in Fayetteville and White Lake and at Carolina Beach in the '40s make for a great story," Bryan said. ''It was impossible to convince the shag crowd that something unique happened around the dance that they loved and the music that they grew up to. A little vignette in the rock 'n' roll lexicon was born with them,'' he said.

''They kind of pass it off like I'm trying to blow smoke at them. I've called rhythm-and-blues aficionados all over the world, but the music let loose in 1949." That's when Jimmy Cavallo and the House Rockers were playing their brand of R&B for crowds all over North Carolina.

''It was -- without a doubt -- the beginning of beach music,'' said Wrenn. ''We'd get kids in crowds from every town in North Carolina.'' Bryan said, ''They were probably the first white band ever in the history of rock 'n' roll to cover songs by black artists, like Elvis Presley would do later.'' But by 1950 the House Rockers had called it quits. Only five of its original members are still living: Wrenn, who continues to play with the Paul Reichle Band; Cavallo, the lead singer and alto saxophonist, who plays club dates in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; bassist Max Alexander; and tenor sax player Bobby Hass, who has a Dixieland group in Raleigh.

''We were good. Damn good,'' Wrenn said. ''I don't mean to brag. We were the Beatles of Fayetteville. I swear we were.''