Site of famous Charlie's Place night club may become historic si - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Site of famous Charlie's Place night club may become historic site

Herbert Riley, Myrtle Beach Resident Herbert Riley, Myrtle Beach Resident
Roddy Brown, Myrtle Beach Resident Roddy Brown, Myrtle Beach Resident
History Charlie's Place on Carver Street in Myrtle Beach. History Charlie's Place on Carver Street in Myrtle Beach.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) -  When you look at it now it's hard to believe great singers and entertainers, like B.B. King, Etta James, and James Brown, performed and stay on the vacant lot and abandoned motel located on Carver Street and  21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. 

But, members of the Carver Street Economic Renaissance say back in 1937, say a black man by the name Charlie Fitzgerald, was the mastermind behind Charlie's Place, once said to be the hottest nightclub in the south.

During a time when racial segregation was tense, the popular Myrtle Beach club and entire Carver street area would see all walks of life come together, connected by the universal language of music.

Community members, that remember the history of the spot known as Charlie's Place want to share that piece of the city's history with others. The Carver Street Economic Renaissance Corporation went to the city with an idea, to purchase the property to plans to revitalize the area, and turn into a museum. 

Herbert Riley, a longtime resident of Myrtle Beach, and head of the committee is passionate about the history of Charlie's Place. "It's an old story that nobody knows about because it was covered up." said Riley. 

Members of the Carver Street Economic Renaissance say back in 1937, a black man by Charlie Fitzgerald, was the mastermind behind Charlie's Place, once said to be the hottest nightclub in the south.

"Ella Fitzgerald, sang there, we know Billie Holiday sang there," said Riley.

Roddy Brown, also a longtime resident of Myrtle Beach, just like Fitzgerald, his father owned a business on Carver Street and Brown's father was good friends with Charlie. Brown said as a 10-year-old boy at the time living next door to Charlie's Place, he saw a lot of the excitement.  

"Being little boys we were curious and used to see the stars coming off the trailway buses, that's what they had, those type buses," laughed Brown. 

Brown and Riley both recall numerous entertainers as headline performers, at the club, with people traveling from Wilmington, and Charleston to dance.

"Ella Fitzgerald, sang there, we know Billie Holiday sang there," said Riley.

Brown added, "I saw the buses start coming in,  the performers would have their name on the buses, like James Brown, you either saw it on the front of the buses or on the side."

Little Richard was even there. "Sara is Charlie's wife, she would brag about how she would to raise Little Richard, because he was so young we he first got out there," explained Riley, who is also a local musician. 

During the 40's and 50's Charlie's Place was the only place African Americans could be entertained and stay, and it was located in a predominately African American neighborhood, but Brown says that did not stop white teens from coming there. 

"I know because I witnessed some of the whites and blacks there dancing. I could hear the music from where I lived," said Brown.

Brown said Charlie's Place broke down the racial barriers. "It didn't matter what happened during the day in Myrtle Beach, at night people would come together at Charlie's Place, and that was something you just didn't see at that time," Brown emphasized. 

Both Riley and Brown want to take the story of the past, to build a strong future." You've got a rich history, we want to revive and restore and cultivate
new interests this is another generation and you build on the past," said Brown.

A few weeks ago the city of Myrtle Beach purchased the property for $150.000, but the details of how they plan to restore have not been decided. 

But preliminary plans include transforming the old abandoned area into tourist attraction centered around the history of the club, and the great music and dances that generated from inside its doors.

Riley said, "I think this is going to be a community, city, and private corporations partnership."  The committee is currently in the process of raising funds to help with the revitalization project. The idea is use the site to bring life to the area that was once vibrant. Brown said they want to encourage other businesses to come to the area, using Charlie's Place to bring in new business.

"When we redevelop that piece of property some people might think a cultural center, but the truth of the matter is the only way we are going to get the tourists over here, is to have something that will attract them, and the story of  Charlie's Place will attract anybody.

Riley said the committee and the city leaders plan to come together in 45 days to discuss a concrete plan for the future of the site. 

Continue to follow WMBF News to get updates and more history of Charlie's Place. 

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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