The Greatest GREATEST HITS Albums

I have never considered “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of” collections as REAL albums. Most of them are simply a record company’s device for easy profits, often issued with no approval or assistance from the artist, and sometimes, against the artist’s wishes. However, for many artists with just a handful of hits, “Best Of” collections are usually the only album most of us will ever need to own.

However, there are a few collections that have had such enduring success, and in some instances re-defined an artist’s career, to the point that they are essential additions to their catalogue. Here are my greatest “Greatest Hits,” listed alphabetically by artist.

ENDLESS SUMMER / The Beach Boys (1974)

Endless Summer was compiled by their old label, Capitol Records, following the success of the film American Graffiti, in which several Beach Boys songs were featured. After years of lukewarm sales, this album revitalized the band’s popularity and inspired nostalgia for their early surfing and hot rod-themed music. Four months after its release, the album reached number 1 in the United States and Canada. It was the group’s second chart-topping album in the US and returned them to a level of commercial success they had not experienced since the mid-1960s. A pale version of the Boys tour every year on the Oldies circuit, mainly because of this album.

1962-1966 – (Red Album) / The Beatles (1973)

1967-1970 (Blue Album) / The Beatles (1973)

These two compilation albums were released simultaneously and helped cement the Beatles’ legacy for the next generation (Me) who were too young to remember the initial Beatlemania. We grew up with the solo Fab Four on 70s radio. The legacy of the Beatles was assured well before these releases, but these two double albums served as a portal for the discovery of their collective brilliance retroactively for kids into the 90s.

The success of these two compilations inspired Capitol’s repackaging of the Beach Boys’ 1960s hits with the Endless Summer the next year.

CHANGESONEBOWIE/ David Bowie (1976)

Eleven songs from the 1969–1976 period, starting with “Space Oddity” to “Golden Years.” It also included single versions of both “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City.” 

CHRONICLE, VOL. 1 / Creedence Clearwater Revival (1976)

This collection of 13 A-sides and seven B-sides from Creedence Clearwater Revival. For a band who ruled AM radio from 1968-71, putting eighteen songs on the charts (14 in the Top 10), this is an essential collection.

LEGEND / Bob Marley (1984)

The best-selling reggae album of all-time, with over 12 million sold in the US, and an estimated 25 million copies sold globally. It contains all ten of Bob Marley’s Top 40 hit singles in the UK up to the time, plus three songs from the original Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston in “Stir It Up,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” and “Get Up, Stand Up.”

THE HITS 1&2 / Prince (1993)

Unless you are a completist … for the casual fan this is the ONLY Prince release you need to own. Chock full of B-sides and alternate takes, while also featuring the dozen+ of Prince’s most popular songs.

HOT ROCKS 1964-1971 / The Rolling Stones (1971)

It became the Rolling Stones’ best-selling release of their career and an enduring and popular retrospective. The album includes a mixture of hit singles, such as “Jumping Jack Flash”, B-sides such as “Play with Fire”, and album tracks such as “Under My Thumb” and “Gimme Shelter.”

The album has gone 12-times Platinum in the United States and traces the Stones from their initial hits “Time Is On My Side”/“Satisfaction”/“Under My Thumb” years to “Sympathy For the Devil” and “Brown Sugar.”

DECADE / Neil Young (1977)

This one is rare: a Greatest Hits collection from an artist who actively complied it, which became a template for the box set collections that would follow in the 1980s and beyond. Decade is a extensive deep dive into the first decade of Young’s career, 35 songs recorded between 1966 – 1976. The liner-notes were written by Young himself, giving the collection a rare insight that is often missing in most “Best Of” collections.  

R.I.P. Gary Rossington

“Whiskey bottle. Brand new car. Oak tree you’re in my way.”

Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on March 5, 2023. No cause of death was given, although Rossington had battled several heart problems, including emergency heart surgery in 2021. He is survived by his wife Dale, and two daughters.

Rossington, 1976

I was a teenager in South Carolina during the 1970s and Skynyrd was a major part of the soundtrack of those years. Their music was blasting from every car 8-track player in our small town. Now, at age 63, after attending more than 200 live concerts in 50 years, I can safely say Skynyrd was the greatest live band I ever saw, and the greatest concert I ever attended was in 1976, The Outlaws & Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Gary Rossington with wife, Dale Krantz-Rossington

Rossington’s death of what most would call “natural causes” was something of a miracle for a man who lived a successful, turbulent, and somewhat charmed rock star life. Labor Day weekend 1976, while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he crashed his new Ford Torino into a tree, which led to their song, “That Smell.”

Rossington’s Ford Torino which he rammed into a tree.

Thirteen months later, Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, as well as backup singer Cassie Gaines, a road manager and the pilots.

Despite breaking both arms, legs, wrists, and ankles, as well as his pelvis, Rossington recovered from his injuries. He battled serious drug addiction throughout the next several years, largely the result of his heavy dependence on pain medication taken during his recovery from the plane crash.

Skynyrd plane wreckage, 1977.

In 1980, Rossington co-founded the Rossington Collins Band with fellow Skynyrd guitarist, Allen Collins. During that time Rossington married fellow band member, Dale Krantz. The band released two albums but disbanded in 1982 after the death of Collins’ wife, Kathy.

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.

Gary Rossington and Allen Collins.

U.S. Custom House – Charleston, SC

By the 1840s, due to increased Atlantic trade, the U.S. Custom Service had outgrown their office in the Exchange Building. Congress appropriated funds in 1847 and a waterfront site known as Fitzsimmon’s Wharf on the Cooper River was purchased for $130,000. When construction began and while digging the foundation workers found the remains of Craven’s Bastion, a Colonial-era fortification. Due to the marshy location, a grillage of timber was constructed to support the weight of the building. In 1859, with South Carolina’s secession becoming more possible, Congress refused to allocate funds and construction ceased.

Exchange Building, East Bay & Broad Streets. Home of the original Custom offices.

In 1867, Congress revived the construction and it was completed in 1879. The original design included a large dome and four porticos, one on each side. However, due to post-War financial concerns, only the east and west porticos were completed, eliminating the north and the south.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed William C. Crum, MD, graduate of the Avery Institute, University of South Carolina, and Howard University Medical School as port collector. Crum was the son of Darius Crum, a German American, and Charlotte C. Crum, a free woman of color. He grew up near Orangeburg. Returning to Charleston, he began his practice and later joined the staff of the Crum joined the staff of the African American–operated McClennan Hospital and Training School for Nurse and eventually became the hospital’s chief administrator and Charleston’s most prominent black resident. In 1883 he married Ellen Craft, the daughter of the famous fugitive slave abolitionists William and Ellen Craft of Georgia. 

The New York Times and the New York Herald criticized the nomination as ill advised. In South Carolina, U.S. Senator Ben Tillman and the editor James C. Hemphill of the Charleston News and Courier jointly denounced Crum.  Tillman exclaimed, “We still have guns and ropes in the South.” James C. Hemphill wrote that Crum “is a colored man and that in itself ought to bar him from office.” Tillman temporarily derailed the nomination, but Roosevelt kept Crum in the position through interim appointments, until his January 1905 confirmation. There are remnants of Dr. Crum’s tenure inside the Custom House. There is evidence of a metal structure placed in the front of his office giving the collector a safe place to hide. As well as a desk believed to belong to Crum. Resigning his office in 1909 when President William Taft took office. In 1910 he was appointed the Minister to Liberia. by Pres. McKinley, a more traditional posting for an African American.

In 1908, Dr. Crum appointed Mr. Clarence O. Brown, an African American, as collector of customs, where he served for nearly half a century. He later received the Treasury Department’s Albert Gallatin Award for distinguished service.

Custom House, 1920 view. Modern view has not changed.

A Short History of Charleston (before 1860)

A Short History of Charleston Before 1860

Note: The city was originally called Charles Town. In 1720, after the Bloodless Revolution, the spelling was changed to one word, “Charlestown.” In 1783, as a new American city, the name changed to Charleston.

The Colony of a Colony. Unlike most earlier settlers to Virginia and Chesapeake, many Carolina settlers came not from England, but from Barbados, an important distinction. During the English Civil War (1642-51) Barbados became an asylum for Royalists seeking to avoid the conflict, and the violent Puritanism of Oliver Cromwell. After the 1649 execution of Charles I, Parliament sought to punish Barbados for their loyalty to the monarchy by restricting their trade, creating an economic crisis for the small island. To sustain their economy, Barbadians began to rely on trade with the Dutch Republic, until Cromwell and Parliament passed the Navigation Act of 1651, which banned the use of non-English ships to carry English goods. This essentially prohibited all trade with the Dutch, but Barbadian merchants carried on illicit privateering until England invaded the island and the Royalist Barbadian House of Assembly surrendered. The Carolina colony would soon become the “promised land” for many Barbadian merchants and planters.

Charles II

In March 1663, Charles II granted the territory called Carolana to the “true and absolute Lords and Proprietors,” eight men who had been instrumental in restoring him to the throne after Cromwell’s death. There was a strong consensus among the Proprietors that the colony could be more easily, and inexpensively, developed by luring experienced settlers from established Caribbean colonies. To accomplish that goal, they offered large land grants in lieu of providing financing. Three months later, John Colleton of Barbados informed the Lord Proprietors that “many citizens were interested in moving to Carolina.”

The Proprietors also adopted the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, that, they hoped, would establish a “perfect government.” The Constitutions were “a grand and impractical political framework … that envisioned an orderly, quasi-feudal system under their immediate control.” Although never formally adopted, the Constitutions did become the working blueprint for settling and governing the new colony. It offered “religious freedom for anyone who believed in God,” established the Church of England as the tax-supported religion, forbade Catholicism, and permitted freedom of worship to “every church or profession as long as its followers believed in God.” It specifically mentioned “Jews, heathens, and dissenters,” and that attitude of tolerance would have a profound influence on Charles Town. Unlike Boston and Philadelphia, founded by Puritans and Quakers, Charles Town was a private business venture colony, and the promise of religious freedom brought many persecuted worshippers from Europe.

 It also created a system of government by the landed gentry. To vote a man must own fifty acres and to hold a seat in the Assembly, he must own five hundred. All “free settlers over the age of sixteen” were promised 150 acres, and an additional 100 “for every able-bodied servant.” Servants could include family members and “indentured servants.” Every individual who acquired 3,000 acres “would have all the rights of a lord of the manor established by English law.” The Proprietors forbid the enslavement of the local Natives in Carolina but set out specific and strict laws to accommodate African slavery, based on the Barbadian system which declared “Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves.”

In April 1670, the first English settlement south of Virginia was established in Carolina, called Charles Town. The Barbadians cast a long shadow and influenced much of the Carolina lifestyle, establishing the model for what became romanticized as “the Old South.” They lived with “a combination of old-world elegance and frontier boisterousness. Ostentatious in their dress, dwellings, and furnishings, they liked hunting, guns, dogs, military titles like ‘Captain” and ‘Colonel’ … They enjoyed long hours at their favorite taverns over bowls of rum punch or brandy.”

Charles Town, 1671

They also had little interest in the Proprietors’ lofty notions of a perfect government, and quickly controlled the colony by dominating the Council and the governorship. John Coming, from England, wrote that “the Barbadians endeavor to rule all.” The Council claimed that since the Carolina charter was issued after the Navigation Act, it superseded that Act and that they “totally disclaimed the authority of the British Parliament in which they were not represented.” So, from the beginning, the landed gentry were already at odds with the British authority to regulate their trade, and their lives. Their argument was that since they were governed without representation in Parliament, the Council felt within their rights to ignore the law and trade as they pleased.

The Bloodless Revolution – Proprietors Overthrown. In 1715, the Carolina Assembly officially asked the London Board of Trade to void the Proprietors’ charter. Forty years into the life of Carolina, the Proprietors had become disenchanted with a colony that “failed to produce the great wealth and prestige they had expected.” That disappointment evolved into apathy and soon, the colonists learned to “survive with minimal assistance … from their increasingly passive proprietors.”

The fate of Proprietary Rule was sealed by two events, the devasting, and almost catastrophic Yemassee Indian War (1715-1718), and the battle against pirates (1718-1719.) Both events “provided the colonists with galling evidence that the men in London had placed personal profit above the public welfare.”

Johnson’s return from Yemassee War

At the end of 1719, the Assembly convened “a convention of the people” and denounced the rule of the Proprietors. They vowed “to get rid of the oppressive and arbitrary dealings of the Lords Proprietors” and declared itself “the government until His Majesty’s pleasure be known.” They officially petitioned King George I to purchase the Carolina colony from the Proprietors.

Governor Robert Johnson, appointed by the Proprietors, refused to acknowledge this new government. In response the Assembly elected General James Moore Jr. as “provisional governor.” During the swearing in ceremony Gov. Johnson arrived and ordered the militia to disperse and the illegal Assembly to desist. The militia “leveled their muskets at Governor Johnson,” which created a standoff. Johnson soon departed for England and for all intents and purposes, the proprietary government of Carolina ended. Even though the first royal governor did not appear for eighteen months, the Provisional Government maintained power and steered the colony into a sound economy. At its heart was the concept that the “Bloodless Revolution,” as locals called it, was to protect the “incontestable right” of Englishmen to be governed “by noe laws made here, but what are consented to by them.”

On August 11, 1720, the Lord Justices of Great Britain declared that the colony “shall be forthwith taken provisionally into the hands of the Crown.” South Carolina’s first rebellion was a polite coup d’état. They did not grab the reins of power by force, nor did they imprison their opponents. Rather, it was a “polite and passive-aggressive course of action that reflected a very British sense of honor and decorum.”

Slave Trade. Carolina lowcountry is often called the “Ellis Island for Africans” due to the number of slaves imported into the state. The main economic reason for the trade was rice, the most profitable crop Carolina produced. The first slave arrived on August 23, 1670, and very quickly, more enslaved Africans flooded the port. Eventually half the population of Charleston was black. With their knowledge of rice cultivation, slaves were needed on the plantations and their labor became essential to the Carolina economy. Between 1670 and 1808, 1,000 cargos of enslaved Africans, about 200,000, entered the port of Charleston, about 40% of the slaves brought into North America. According to According to the International African American Museum, “Nearly 80 percent of African Americans can potentially trace an ancestor who arrived in Charleston.”

In 1690, the first slave code was enacted, based on the Barbadian code which included a provision of punishment for anyone killed a slave. Eight years later, they passed an act that encouraged the “Importation of White Servants.” The fear was that “the great number of Negroes which of late have been imported … may endanger the safety thereof.”

Most slaves who arrived in Charleston were sent to the plantations, to toil in the fields, day after day, year after year, a monotonous, often brutal life. Many Charleston slaves worked as domestics in the homes, with better food, clothing and living conditions, yet had to be on-call twenty-four hours a day, subject to the whims and moods of their owners, some benevolent, some not. Others were hired-out laborers involved in at least various occupations:  bricklayers, blacksmiths, carpenters, tailors, coopers, and manufacturing.

Charleston slave sale

Amid this shared experience in bondage, a new culture was born. In the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, the Gullah became known as people who clung to aspects of their African heritage, including their crafts and folktales. Their language was English infused with words from their former homes, which some people describe as creole. It survives to this day.

     From 1803 – 1807, South Carolina, alone among the southern states, legalized the reopening of the African slave trade. Almost 40,000 Africans were imported into Charleston during those four years. The United States ended the international slave trade in 1808, but a thriving domestic slave trade grew to meet the demand for labor. Before the Civil War Charleston was the center of urban slave trading with more than two million slaves were sold.

Stamp Act – Townsend Acts. To pay the debt incurred in the colonies during the French and Indian War, in 1765 Parliament passed the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act. The Stamp Act required that most printed materials in the colonies be printed on “stamped paper [an embossed revenue mark] from London.” That included newspapers, legal documents, playing cards and magazines.

Carolina’s response was quick and passionate. John Rutledge, representing the Assembly, wrote to Charles Garth, the South Carolina agent in London (a lobbyist), to oppose the “stamp tax and any other tax by Parliament.” Rutledge claimed the taxes were “inconsistent with that inherent right of every British subject, not to be taxed but by his own consent, or that of his representatives.”

In Charlestown, forty-foot-high gallows were constructed at Broad and Church Streets in front of Dillon’s Tavern and an effigy of Caleb Lloyd, British stamp officer, was hanged. Two thousand people paraded the streets at night and ransacked the house of the British stamp officer, George Saxby, looking for the stamps. Lloyd and Saxby both were forced to resign in fear of their lives. They promised not to perform their duties “until Parliament had addressed colonial grievances.”

Most citizens vowed to not use stamped paper, and for the next few months business in Charlestown ground to a halt. The harbor became clogged with ships which could not get official clearance to leave the harbor. Courts shut down, due to lack of stamped paper, and publisher Peter Timothy announced, “the publication of the South Carolina Gazette … will be suspended.” The Assembly stated: “Sincerely as we are attached to his Majesty, we insist that we are entitled to all inherent rights and liberties of his natural born subjects within the Kingdom of Great Britain.”

Fourteen months after it was passed, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, and Peter Manigault wrote that the news was received with “joy, jollity and mirth.” Charlestown celebrated with ringing church bells, street bonfires, parties, and public celebrations. Despite the colonists’ victory over Parliament, Christopher Gadsden gave a speech under the great oak tree in Mr. Mazyck’s cow pasture north of the city where he warned of “the folly of relaxing their opposition and vigilance, or of indulging in the fallacious hope that Great Britain would relinquish their designs and pretensions.” Hundreds of men gathered hands around the tree and swore resistance to future tyranny. From that moment forward, the oak was called the Liberty Tree.

The next year Parliament passed the Townsend Acts, which placed new taxes on paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea, and any other items that were not produced in North America. It also stipulated colonists were only allowed to purchase goods from Great Britain. Peter Manigault, speaker of Carolina Assembly, wrote to his Massachusetts counterpart, Thomas Cushing, that South Carolina would “join with the agents of the other provinces in obtaining a repeal of the acts of Parliament.”

In the spring of 1769, a group of Carolina men formed an “Association” and pledged to stand against the importation of any product from Great Britain. They threatened to denounce anyone who did not “sign with us.” Their rally cry became “Sign or die!” Many of the gentry leaders were upset by this move, since the leaders of the Association tended to be mechanics, lower born laborers, not gentlemen, who tended to be lawyers and planters.

On July 29, 1769, thirteen merchants, thirteen planters and thirteen mechanics met at the Liberty Tree and created a unified Association, encouraging American manufacturing and prohibited the importation of any European or East Indian goods. They also banned slave importation starting in 1770 and pledged to boycott anyone who did not sign within a month. The Association was to remain active until the Townsend Acts were repealed. Anyone who broke the agreement was to “treated with the upmost contempt.” Anyone who did not join would have their names published in the Gazette. By the end of the year, Peter Manigault reported that only thirty-one merchants had refused to sign with the Association, and many who signed only did so “from fear of communal retaliation rather than conviction.”

The Next Rebellion – Tea Act – American Revolution. In April 1770, Parliament repealed the Townsend Acts. But, to avoid the appearance of weakness, the tea tax was left in place. Merchants in New York, Georgia, Boston, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island abandoned their commitment to the non-importation Association. In a meeting at the Liberty Tree, South Carolina vowed to remain in support of the Association until the tea tax was repealed.

In late 1773 Parliament passed the Tea Act which repealed all duties on tea that was handled by the East India Trading Company but kept the tax on those who purchased the tea. News arrived that “300 chests of tea were on their way to Charlestown” and Peter Timothy in the Gazette urged citizens to “band together to take the necessary steps to prevent the landing.” A group called “Club Forty-Five” met at the Liberty Tree and swore to “defend against the tyranny of Great Britain.” Forty-five skyrockets were fired; forty-five men marched to Dillon’s Tavern where forty-five rum punch bowls and forty-five bottles of wine were consumed.

Exchange Building

On December 1 the tea arrived on the ship called London, and a “mass meeting of all South Carolinians, without exception” was held at the Exchange Building. This marked the beginning of the first of the extra-legal Assemblies that would govern South Carolina until the end of the Revolutionary War. They demanded that merchants stop importing tea, which was then secretly offloaded the tea in the middle of the night and stored in the basement of the Exchange under British guard. A few days later, Charlestown received word that Boston had tossed 342 chests of tea into the harbor, leaving Club Forty-five embarrassed that the local tea had been safely stored away, while Boston had taken decisive action.

Over the next two years, the Association did manage to toss the cargo of several British ships into the harbor, including tea. South Carolina’s extra-legal Provincial Congress recommended that all citizens “diligently train themselves in the use of arms,” and by April 1775, they had seized “800 guns, 200 cutlasses and 1,600 pounds of gunpowder” from British armories in the region.

On March 26, 1776, four months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, South Carolina adopted a new state constitution creating the Republic of South Carolina, which kept the power firmly in the hands of the land-owning gentry class. For the second time in its one-hundred-year-old history, South Carolina had forced a change in their government. By the end of the Revolutionary War, there would be more than 200 battles and skirmishes in South Carolina alone.

Idle and Easily Agitated. In 1800, Charleston was the fifth largest city in America behind New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston, with population of 18,924, which included 10,104 blacks and 8,820 whites. Henry Adams described Charleston that year:

Nowhere in the Union was intelligence, wealth, and education greater in proportion to numbers that in the little society of cotton and rice planters who ruled South Carolina … the society of Charleston compared well in refinement with that of any city of its size in the world, and travelers long thought it the most agreeable in America … Before the Revolution large numbers of young men had been educated in England, and their influence was still strong in the society of Charleston. The younger generation inherited similar tastes.

As the infant United States entered the 19th century, South Carolina was an odd balance of despotism, in their passionate defense of slavery, and staunch proponents of democracy. William W. Freehling described the elites as a” snob not quite at ease with his own snobbishness.” The city physically grew as marshes and creeks on the peninsula were filled and turned into fashionable boroughs. The city began to take on the Federal architectural influence that it still retains in the 21st century. A major construction project filled in the southeastern part of the city, and the subsequent construction of the seawall led to the construction of dozens of fashionable mansions on the Battery overlooking the harbor. Although magnificent structures were being built, a pervasive stench hovered over the city. Most streets were unpaved and unlit, and were fouled with stray animals, dead carcasses, and clogged drains. Garbage piled on the city’s wharves. Hastily buried bodies in the overcrowded graveyards and cemeteries often refused to stay underground.

Eli Whitney’s cotton gin drastically improved the efficiency and profitability, and cotton began to challenge rice as the major crop. Although slave labor had cleaned up the lowcountry marshes, and turned them into arable land, “but the swamp diseases remained.” With malaria so prevalent, most white families fled the area during the warmer months. John C. Calhoun, South Carolina’s leading politician of the antebellum period, held no love of Charleston. He commented that the prevalence of the fever was “a curse for their intemperance and debaucheries.” Thus, large numbers of lowcountry plantations were owned by “absentee planters, managed by white overseers, and worked by many Negroes.” Meanwhile, the ratio of Negroes to whites reached “unsettling proportions.” Eighty-seven per cent of the white households in Charleston owned slaves, while across the rest of South Carolina, that ownership rate was about forty-five percent.

During the antebellum era most slaves lived on plantations and were largely concentrated in places such as the rice regions of the lowcountry and fertile cotton regions of the midlands.

Charleston was considered the “most European of American cities.” It was filled with narrow cobblestone and bricked streets, elegant courtyards, formal gardens, Spanish and French balconies, bookstores, European-style coffeehouses, and planters’ townhouse mansions. It was an enchanting place in which the idle gentry could while away their days, and evenings. Unfortunately, ten blocks away, there was another Charleston of “sordid poverty and unpaved streets, of filthy hovel and crumbing walls.” This was the slums packed with slaves, free Negroes, white mechanics, and rough transient sailors. 

Furthermore, the gentry also knew firsthand the anxiety of slave conspiracy and incessantly guarded against it. Every night curfew bells in St. Michael’s Church warned Negroes without passes to get off the streets. Every night the town guard marched “while planters who left their plantations to escape the dangers of malaria, sat politely in their elegant drawing rooms, listening to the bells that reminded them of other dangers.”

Lowcountry gentry lived by a rigid social code of cultivated gentility. They “despised manual labor, detested moneygrubbers, and hated penny-pinching.” Before the Revolution, many planters had also been merchants, but more foreigners moved to South Carolina from Europe and the North, and they quickly took over the counting houses and mercantile firms. They may have become wealthy, but they were rarely able to break into the Carolina social hierarchy. Established planters looked down their noses at the “new money.”

In an 1808 letter M.I. Manigault wrote, “Idleness is the order of the day here … There is William Heyward, with a fine disposition and an excellent capacity – lounging away his morning … drinking away his afternoons.” This was typical of the lowcountry leisure class which was “dedicated to achieving the exclusiveness and refinement displayed by English country gentlemen.” Expensive Madeira wine and Spanish cigars were the usual accompaniments to horse races, hunting with hounds, and grand dancing balls. It was a life “of taste, of polish, of elegance,” where ladies of dignity and refinement played chess, held elegant tea parties, performed on the piano, and lounged in the “richly furnished library.” The city had an overwhelming number of dram shops, taverns, and tippling houses, used by sailors, workers, and slaves. Many elite citizens complained about these activities as “destructive to the morals of youth.” However, intemperance was not only widely ignored, but often embraced. During the 19th century it was customary for the host to lock the doors of his home and refuse to permit any guest to leave the table until he was drunk. 

William Freehling, in Prelude to Civil War, wrote: “For some gentlemen planters, contempt for work extended to agricultural endeavor … [and] had time to engage in politics, to study, to write.”  Unfortunately, the books in a planter’s library were “more often displayed than read,” except for one notable exception: the medieval tales of Sir Walter Scott, the most famous being Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. The planters delighted in Scott’s tales of “chivalric knights, with their exalted principals, their princely deportment, and their unswerving courage,” and sought to live up those ideals. They also embraced the hero’s passion to defend his honor against any “imagined insult,” no matter how slight.

Denmark Vesey. In 1822, a free black man, Denmark Vesey, was arrested as the ringleader of organized slave rebellion. In trial transcripts he was quoted as saying “we were going to have a war and fight the white people … those that did not join must be regarded as an enemy and put to death.” The blacks recruited for the revolution were instructed to bring “their hoes, hatchets, axes and spades, which might be used as offensive weapons, or as instruments to break open doors.”

His plan was to attack the Meeting Street Arsenal and once these weapons were secured, they planned to kill white slave owners and liberate as many slaves as possible. The last step was to commandeer ships from the harbor and sail to Haiti.

However, the rebellion was discovered by white leaders and over the next seven days, 131 blacks were arrested. Thirty-eight others were sentenced to a prison and whippings. Forty-three were “transported” to another state, and thirty-four were hanged.

The rebellion roiled Charleston society. The discovery that their slaves were willing to murder them while they were asleep in their beds was at first unfathomable, and then horrific. In response to the mounting fears a permanent municipal guard of 150 men was formed and at night, Charleston became virtual armed camp.

Vesey Rebellion

The bells of St. Michael tolled at 9:00 p.m.- a signal for all slaves to return to their master’s homes. Any slave found on the street after that hour without a pass was taken to the guard house “with strong probability of a whipping in the following morning.” South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Seamen Acts. Any free Negro that came into the state on a vessel would be lodged in the jail during the stay of the vessel in port. If the captain would not pay for the cost of board and lodging, the Negro would be sold into slavery.

Calhoun and Nullification.  Nationally, South Carolina’s political power was deeply invested in one man, John C. Calhoun. As one of the Congressional “War Hawks,” he advocated for the War of 1812 and became Secretary of War afterward. He was then elected vice president in 1824 (John Quincy Adams, president), and 1828 (Andrew Jackson).

Calhoun as an elder statesman

Calhoun assumed the mantle of the “leader of the Southern cause” when the Tariff of 1828 was passed by Congress. It became known as the Tariff of Abominations due to the negative effects it had on the Southern economy. Designed to protect industry in the north, the tariff so enraged the South Carolina legislature they denounced it by formal resolution. They also published the “Exposition and Protest,” secretly written by Vice-President John C. Calhoun, which espoused that the States were sovereign before they entered the Union, so therefore retained the power to veto, or nullify, any act of the federal government which violated the Constitution. The States’ Right argument was born and continues to this day.

In October 1832 the Nullifiers won a majority in the state legislature and called a Nullification Convention to resist the Federal tariff. Robert Hayne resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate and was elected governor of South Carolina. Three weeks later Calhoun resigned as Vice-President, and Hayne promptly nominated Calhoun to take over his just-vacated Senate seat. 

Congress passed the Force Act, which authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted the tariff acts. U.S. Navy ships began to intercept Charleston inbound ships to collect customs duties. South Carolina and the United States were on the brink of military engagement when Sen. Henry Clay brokered a compromise bill with Calhoun that slowly lowered tariffs over the next decade. The compromise was accepted by South Carolina legislature and ended the nullification crisis, but not the resentment. The next generation of South Carolina men were baptized with the bitter waters of the Nullification Crisis. Their distrust of the Federal government grew as they realized their interpretation of the Union did not match their Northern counterparts. 

Pushed To Civil War. In May 1856, Sen. Charles Sumner (R-Mass), called for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state and denounced “Slave Power” as the political arm of the slave owners. He specifically called out South Carolina senator Andrew Butler (D-SC), who was not attendance, recovering from a stroke.

The senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry and believes himself a chivalrous knight with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course, he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows … I mean the harlot, slavery.

Mr. Butler’s cousin, Congressman Preston Brooks (D-SC) was enraged, and claimed that he intended to challenge Sumner to a duel. His fellow representative, Lawrence Keitt, advised Brooks that “dueling was for gentlemen of equal statue. Sumner is lower than a drunkard. Dueling with him would only be an insult to yourself.” They decided the most appropriate punishment was to humiliate Sumner with a public caning.

Two days later Brooks strode into the Senate chamber and approached Sumner at his desk while Keitt held the other senators at bay with a pistol. Brooks said, “Mr. Sumner I have read your speech … it is a libel on South Carolina and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” He then struck Sumner repeatedly with a cane until it broke into five pieces. Several men in the Senate finally overpowered Brooks and disarmed Keitt. Sumner’s injuries were so severe he was out of the Senate for three years recuperating.

Various editorial illustrations of the Preston Brooks’ attack on Sen. Charles Sumner

Keitt was censured and a motion to expel Brooks from the House failed, but he resigned to give his constituents the opportunity to ratify or condemn his conduct. They demonstrated their approval by returning him to office in the special election held on August 1.

South Carolina held Brooks and Keitt up as heroes while Sumner was portrayed as a martyr for the cause of abolition. The event inflamed sectional tensions between northern and southern members of Congress to the point they began to arm themselves while session. The pieces of Brooks’ cane were “begged as sacred relics.” The city of Charleston presented him with a new cane which bore the inscription, “Hit him again!”

Historian Stephen Puleo wrote that, “The caning had an enormous impact on the events that followed over the next four years. … As a result of the caning, the country was pushed, inexorably and unstoppably, to civil war.”

A Drinking Town With A Historical Problem

    In 1830, the average American man consumed 50 gallons of liquor per year. That number does not include beer. In Charleston, the rate was higher. Carl Bridenbaugh of Boston wrote: The importation of liquors at Charleston Town staggers the imagination – 1500 dozen (18,000) bottles [of ale]… 1219 hogshead [wine]…and 58 barrels of rum.” This was a six month supply for one modest tavern.

    Gentlemen were encouraged to drink; in fact, part of being a gentleman meant holding your liquor. Having the reputation of being a “three-bottle man” was a mark of excellence. A “three-bottle man” consumed at least three bottles of whiskey or wine per day. Again, that did not include beer, which was consumed in the same manner as modern soft drinks.

It has been observed that during the settling of the American colonies, the Spaniards first build a church, the Dutch build a fort, and the English built a tavern.

During the first week of April 1670 ninety-three colonists arrived on the Carolina under Captain Joseph West. Some of the provisions on board included 4000 gallons of beer and 30 gallons of brandy. They found the “Water about Town so brackish that it is scarcely potable unless mixed with … liquors.”

Seven months later, Captain West complained that many of the settlers “were so addicted to the Rum, that they will do little whilst the bottle is at their nose.” Ten years later the Council felt it necessary to pass an act for “the Suppression of Idle, Drunken and Swearing Persons” and to “prohibit entrance of punch houses, or tippling houses during time of Divine Service.”  The Council finally figured it out – people were going to taverns for worship instead of church. It was the beginning of a long (and mostly unsuccessful) tradition by Charles Town politicians to pass laws to direct people away from the bars and into the churches.

The first Anglican minister, Reverend Atkin Williamson, was dismissed in 1681 for baptizing a bear while drunk. In 1708 a ship set sail from England, bound for Charlestown, carrying the Reverend Gideon Johnston, appointed commissary to the colony. As was customary during a trip from England to Carolina, before making the long passage across the Atlantic, the ship stopped to re-supply at the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal. Reverend Johnston went ashore and he sampled a new drink – a golden-colored spirit named after the very island. Madeira wine is aged at least twenty years in casks and then bottled and allowed to mature for another thirty to seventy-five years.           

Reverend Johnston enjoyed the wine so much that he missed the departure of his ship. He arranged for a second departure and persuaded the captain to load several cases of Madeira to enjoy during the voyage. Johnston’s second ship arrived in Charles Towne without the reverend on board. He was found marooned on an island off the coast without food and water – apparently abandoned by the ship’s crew.

Margaret Kennett, Charles Town’s first business woman, commented that the locals are Trained in Luxury and are the Greatest Daubauchers in Nature.” Josiah Quincy of Boston was astounded by the behavior of the citizens. He wrote:They are devoted to debauchery and probably carry it to a greater length than any other people.”

Charles Town was one of the busiest port cities in the colonies by 1720. There were often more than 150 sailing vessels from Portugal, Spain, England, France, Italy, and the Caribbean at dock in the harbor. With an average of twenty sailors per ship, that would an influx of 3000 men in the city who roamed the streets in search of one thing: entertainment, usually in the guise of wine, women and song.

In 1763, sixty-six tavern licenses were issued. Five years later the number had doubled – approximately one tavern for every five adult males. Half the licenses were issued to women. It was illegal for artisans to operate a drinking establishment, so most dodged the law by having their wives obtain the licenses.  Most of the taverns doubled as brothels – alcohol on the first floor, flesh on the upper floors.

   Just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War the Assembly became concerned that the Night Watch could not contain the “growing Vice and Immorality.” The Assembly, however, did little to solve the problem. They merely ordered the loose women to move from the waterfront district to an area four blocks west called Dutch Town, as it was settled mainly by Germans. Within the shadow of the St. John’s Lutheran and Unitarian church steeples, the six-block section of Clifford, West, Beaufain, Logan and Beresford (Fulton) Streets soon became a “constant scene of nightly brawls and riots.” 

   In 1780, during the British occupation of Charles Town, orders were posted for soldiers to avoid bawdy houses. Several of the Ladies of Eden were shipped out of the city for “health reasons” but most of the houses did a booming business where the soldiers found “willing female companionship.” Soldiers are always good for the bordello business. Lucky for the madams, the men of Charleston started a war against Yankee aggression in 1861.

   The governor and his council tried in vain to regulate the sale of liquor. The selling of intoxicants was “observed to be mischievous and to impoverish the otherwise sober planters.” The laws also tried to limit the amount of credit a tavern keeper could extend to customers. Ignoring the liquor laws became a long tradition in the low country.

   Taverns were much more than drinking establishments; they were prominent social institutions. Taverns hosted political functions. Men’s clubs and other charitable organizations held their meetings in the building.

   Up until the 1760s, most of beer consumed in Charles Town was imported from Philadelphia, Liverpool, or Bristol, Connecticut. There was a real need for a local brewer, but few men in the city had the skills, until Edmund Egan arrived.

    Egan was born in England and was an apprentice under a London brew master before his arrival in Charles Town. He encountered trouble setting up business. First, he was a newcomer, with no reputation or references, making it difficult to arrange the financial credit needed to procure brewing equipment. He supported himself for a few years as a fencing master and also went into a factoring partnership with Nathanael Greene and William Coates.

   In 1765, when the passage of the British Stamp Act ignited a passionate support of American manufacturing; Egan found a partner with John Calvert. They announced that a Charleston brewery was now in production. They advertised the sale of “Doubled brewed Spruce beer, table and small beer.” They also offered to ship any quantity above five gallons.

    Two years later, Parliament passed The Townsend Acts, which forced another round of boycotts against England by the Colonists. Egan had trouble getting quality hops and malt. In 1770, Egan was able to import his own barley seeds and convinced some local planters to lay in a crop, and one year later, Charles Town had their first constant supply of local brew. By 1775, Egan was outselling all import brews in Carolina.  According to 1772 financial records Egan’s income was almost 20,000 pounds.

   His brew house had two brick vaults 41 feet long by 13 feet. The malt house and kiln were 100 feet long by 22. Egan employed eight Negroes, two coopers who built casks and kegs, and six brewers. He also had two “house wenches” on the property.

Germania Brewery, Charleston, SC, 174 Church Street

   During the Revolution, Egan tried to expand his business by building a distillery on Coming Street, which failed and was abandoned. After the war, Egan borrowed money from William Gibbes to establish a new brewery, but he died before the venture could be completed. 

  During the years preceding the Revolutionary War, Christopher Gadsden and the “Sons of Liberty” met at Shepheard’s Tavern.

Shepheard's Tavern, corner of Broad & Church Streets
Shepeheard’s Tavern, corner of Broad and Church Streets

   Charles Shepheard built his tavern at the corner of Broad and Church Streets in 1720 and it quickly became the most important public house in the city. In 1734, Shepheard’s hosted the first theatrical season in American in the Long Room upstairs. Two years later, on October 28, 1736, the first meeting of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, took place in the tavern. And later, in 1801, “The Supreme Council of the 33d Degree of the United States of America” was opened in the Long Room.  Mrs. Coate’s Tavern (corner of East Bay Street & Exchange Street) exhibited what was considered to be the best collection of wax figures in America – including life-size replicas of George Washington, Dr. Ezra Stiles (late president of Yale College), David and Goliath and others. After Mrs. Coate’s death in 1824, the tavern was closed and replaced with a liquor store in the late 1890s, which is currently still open for business.

     One interesting club was called “Club Fourty-Five”. On November 21, 1772, a group of the “Sons of Liberty” met at the Liberty Tree at Mazyk’s pasture to swear their defense against the tyranny of the British.  The tree was decorated by 45 lights and 45 skyrockets were fired. Forty-five men paraded down King Street to Broad Street to Dillon’s Tavern. Forty-five lights were placed upon the table, along with forty-five bowls of punch and forty-five bottles of wine, which was then consumed.

   In the late 18th century, due to the arrival of French refugees from Santo Domingo, taverns were being challenged in popularity by French coffee houses. However, most people believed coffee did far greater harm to a person than did rum, whisky, brandy and beer. Some taverns even took out newspaper advertisements extolling the virtues of liquor and the ill effects of coffee. The coffee house merchants fought back and published pamphlets of the benefits of the genteel practice of drinking coffee.

18th century Coffee House

   Coffee houses may have experienced an ebb and flow of popularity through the decades – enjoying resurgence during the 1960s and the recent phenomenon of Starbucks is impressive – but liquor has ALWAYs been in fashion in Charleston. Even when it was illegal.

Prohibition – Wringing, Sopping Wet!

The Charleston Courier complained that Prohibition ruined Charleston’s tastes for fine liquor. Because they could no longer obtain brandy and Madeira, they guzzled “Hell Hole (Swamp) corn likker”. 

   The hostility Charleston felt toward Governor Tillman turned to outright hatred when Tillman announced the formation of the State Dispensary Board.  One thing Tillman wanted to control was the flow of alcohol in the state. The upstate of South Carolina was more conservative and fundamental than the low country, and they frowned on drinking and gambling. Tillman was a clever enough politician to realize that he could not prohibit alcohol, so he devised a system through which the state could control its distribution, which led to the Dispensary Act.

   The Dispensary was a state-wide state-owned liquor monopoly, and was intended to close down forever all saloons and liquor wholesalers, and to restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages to state-operated dispensaries. The Board (the governor, comptroller general and attorney general) appointed county dispensary boards, which chose one dispenser per county seat (Charleston and Columbia could have more). No children or habitual drunkards were allowed to make a purchase. All buyers must register before purchasing liquor. Alcohol could be sold only between the hours of sunrise to sunset. No private citizen could legally manufacture or sell whiskey. The people of Charleston were outraged by the law, not only because they considered it to be “Tillman’s baby”, but because of their 250 year opposition to any regulation of their liquor. Tillman commented about his Dispensary system during a speech in Charleston:

Why do Charlestonians hate me anyhow? Because they are behind the times and because their streetcars are run by mules instead of electricity. They can go to the devil in their own way if they want to. I am going to have the Dispensary down here whether you want it or not.

   On July 1, 1893, the State Dispensary Board opened for business. If a community wanted a dispensary they petitioned the county board, which issued a license. The board also authorized Dispensary constables to enforce the law, often with little supervision. The Constables were heavy-handed in their enforcement, searching private homes on the slightest context and spying on their neighbors. In dozens of cases, the constables killed several citizens but were promptly pardoned by Governor Tillman.

   In response to those tactics, Charlestonians began to attack constables by ambush, lying in wait for them armed with clubs and whips.  Tillman told the state legislature: “Almost all the people of Charleston are in league against the law and determined to overthrow it.” He stated: “The law is going to be enforced. If it results in killing somebody, it will have to be done, that is all.”

   Law-abiding citizens took pride in resisting the tyranny of the Dispensary. They had enjoyed rum, beer, wine and whiskey in public bars and restaurants for generations so they simply ignored the Dispensary law. Illegal bars, called “Blind Tigers”, sprang up around the city, and prominent citizens engaged in illicit liquor traffic. Governor Tillman called it raising hell on Chicco Street”.

Chicco’s Tavern, Market Street

   The quantity of liquor supplied by the Dispensary was not enough to supply Charleston County drinkers, and since nature abhors a vacuum, soon a bootleg whiskey industry was thriving. Vincent Chicco became the state’s most notorious liquor dealer. Chicco manufactured quality liquor and grew rich and powerful. He served on Charleston City Council for four terms and once even sat on a grand jury investigating liquor violations. In other words, Chicco sat on a grand jury that was investigating himself! Another prominent bootlegger was W. J. Cantwell, brother of the Charleston chief of police. Most of the city leaders opposed the Dispensary, and looked the other way at violations, or often, facilitated the flagrant flaunting of the law.  

   In April 1894, the South Carolina Supreme Court (by a vote of 2-1) ruled the Dispensary an illegal monopoly. However, Governor Tillman was prepared.  A new bill passed the state assembly, and when the two judges who voted against the Dispensary came up for renewal, Tillman replaced them with two of his friends and the new law was declared constitutional on Oct. 8, 1894.  The Dispensary was too successful (monetarily) to cease. During its thirteen year existence its profits were $10 million. 

   The Dispensary quickly came under attack due to corruption among dispensary officials. The Board was subject to bribes from various dealers to buy particular brands of liquor. The distillers were ready to give handsome “gifts”. Local officials were bribed to overlook the blind tigers.

   In 1896, in an attempt to clean up the corruption, the Dispensary Board changed its directors from the Governor and other State officials to men elected by the legislature. Soon there were hundreds of people in the state capital schmoozing legislators to become members of the Dispensary Board, bribing for the right to get their hands on the “liquor money”.      

   Also in 1896, due to flagrant and successive dispensary violations, Tillman’s successor, Governor John Evans, placed Charleston under state police control. Evans appointed his own police commissioners and for over a year Charleston law enforcement was under state control. The result was an improvement in the enforcement of liquor laws, but a growing dissatisfaction among most of the locals who were affected by that enforcement. Twenty-three Protestant ministers issued a statement endorsing the improvement in law enforcement, but the letter was not published by the News and Courier, which opposed the state constable rule. For some the Dispensary was seen as a complete and massive failure. Its intention had been to institute a quasi-prohibition, but it had only succeeded in increasing alcohol consumption. In 1898, the prohibitionists (the Drys) made a strong run for the governorship but failed.

   The Dispensary was repealed by the legislature, and thereafter, each county was free to continue its own dispensary system or adopt total prohibition. Under the new system, each county could have as many Dispensary licenses as they wanted. In 1906, the state of South Carolina granted 297 liquor licenses. Two hundred and thirteen of them were issued in Charleston, fifteen bars were located around City Hall and nineteen operated within a block of St. Philip’s Church.

   Gov. Coleman Blease(1910-14) had the backing of the whiskey and gambling interests. He strongly resisted the1912 law that prohibited horse racing. Charleston, of course, ignored the horse racing ban. In fact, the manager of the Charleston race track was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer that racing would continue since Charleston had a long history of ignoring laws it did not like. During his second inaugural Governor Blease defended his actions: They are yelling, ‘What is the Governor going to do about the Charleston races?’ Do they expect me to dress up like a preacher and beg them not to race?” He continued to ignore Charleston’s violations of racing and drinking. Blease said that “if a man wanted to sin, that was his own business, not the state’s.”

   Blease was another in the long line of corrupt South Carolina Governors who flaunted their power. During his term Blease freed more than 1500 convicts, many who were guilty of murder (of blacks) and arson. He also believed in white supremacy. He denounced members of the state legislature as being born in North Carolina and having Yankee parentage. He encouraged lynchings, and opposed education for blacks at white taxpayer’s expense. He stated, “I have no fear of Negro contacts, neither for me nor any of my family – for each of them, I am proud to say, is physically able to pull a trigger whenever it should become necessary.”

   He called newspaper reporters “a dirty set of liars” and praised Lt. Governor Jim Tillman’s murder of N.G. Gonzales, editor of The State newspaper. Gonzales had been a long opponent of Tillman and Blease and their policies. In his newspaper Gonzales had exposed Tillman as a “proven liar, defaulter, gambler and drunkard.” On January 15, 1903, Tillman had walked from the Senate chamber and shot the unarmed Gonzales on the street. Tillman was acquitted of murder by claiming self-defense.  

Mayor John P. Grace

Mayor Grace testified in 1913 that Charleston had 250 Blind Tigers for a population of about 60,000. He bragged that he had instituted a system where the city fined each liquor operator and bordello $50 every three months. Grace claimed that it was a fair system. “”If I wanted, I could fine them every time they sell a drink,” he said. He made no effort to close them down. The fines provided thousands of dollars. In fact, without the liquor and prostitution fines, the city budget would have been in the red. The mayor rarely ordered raids on Blind Tigers, and then it was “just for show”. He claimed that “Blind Tigers are too much of the web of life to close them down.”

   In 1915, the Drys won a state-wide referendum, ending all legal sale of alcohol within the state, four years before national prohibition took effect. However, the referendum did not repeal the “Gallon-a-Month” law, which permitted the importation into the state one gallon per person per month. Men like Vincent Chicco, W. J. Cantrell, Leon Dunlap and Frank “Rumpty Rattles” Hogan were more than happy to fill the void of legal liquor with their bootleg product. By the time national prohibition was in effect, Chicco and other bootleggers had their distilling and distribution systems in the Hellhole Swamp area of Berkeley County organized and operating as smoothly as a Ford assembly line. During Prohibition more than 20,000 South Carolinians made a living as a bootlegger, moonshiner or rumrunner.

Hell Hole Swamp in Berkeley County, north of Charleston, produced so much corn liquor that it gained a national reputation. Governor John G. Richards, a rabid Prohibitionist, claimed that, “Berkeley County is a festering sore in South Carolina.” Charleston newsman Tom Waring Jr. wrote, “Hell Hole Swamp, exuding an aroma of spirituous liquors which reeked throughout the Southeast, was a stench in his nostrils.” Richards, already unpopular in Charleston, became openly hated when he resurrected a blue law that made selling gasoline and playing golf illegal on Sundays.

Mason jars filled with Hell Hole Swamp moonshine were shipped by the boxcar-full to Al Capone’s Chicago, lined the shelves of speakeasies in New York, and filled the teacups at the blind tigers in Columbia, Savannah, and Atlanta. Meanwhile, in high society Charleston, Hellhole Swamp supplied the booze for the afternoon cocktails to which they were long accustomed. One eldery society lady declared, “Of course we continued to drink during Prohibition. I don’t know where Daddy bought the liquor. It was just delivered to the back porch every morning with the milk.”

   On April 7, 1933 Congress repealed national prohibition and on the following day Charleston merchants were offering 3.2% beer for sale, which violated state law, but no one complained. Mayor Maybank, once called a “drunken sot”, announced that it did not “matter whether or not the state legalized the sale of alcohol, since tourists wanted it, and Charleston wanted tourists and we will give liquor to them legal or not.” Maybank was later elected Governor of South Carolina.

   South Carolina legalized the sale of beer and wine, but kept in place the prohibition of distilled alcohol. Restaurants and bars could be licensed to serve wine and beer during the week, until midnight on Saturday and never on Sunday. Since distilled liquor was against state law there were no legal hours to serve whiskey, hence there was no license to lose by selling it. Distilled liquor was available in Charleston around the clock, seven days a week, much to the dismay of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

   In his book The Charleston Gospel, J. Francis Brenner describes the system the city developed for keeping the liquor flowing. Whenever SLED officials came to town to investigate the serving of distilled liquor they would pay a courtesy call at the Charleston police station, informing the local officers that state constables were in town. Chief of Police Herman Berkman would direct the SLED officers to a couple of small time “half-pint” dealers working out of their cars. Meanwhile, phone calls would be made from the police department. Two bars would be notified that SLED was in town. In turn, those two bars would call two more bars. Those four bars would contact sixteen bars and within half an hour, the city would be as dry as a Puritan in the Sahara. The whiskey disappeared and when SLED walked through the door, only beer and wine could be found on the premises.

   Whenever the city needed alcohol for a social function they would instruct Chief Berkman to knock off a few half-pint dealers or request “donations” from some of the better restaurants and clubs. It was also well known that local law enforcement officers would “convoy” moonshiners’ cars down Highway 42 from Hellhole Swamp. For allowing the safe passage of liquor into the Holy City the officers were paid in pint bottles and cold hard cash, some of which worked its way up the chain of command. It was a smooth and profitable operation for many years until 1951. That was when patrolman James Chassereau became an informant for the United State government. Federal agents hid in the trunk of Chassereau’s police cruiser and recorded conversations between police and bootleggers. Nine policemen and one city councilman, including former chief of police Julian Williams, were arrested and sent to federal prison for violating federal liquor laws.

   During the trial the prosecutor asked Chassereau if, while serving on the county police, he did anything other than “fool with liquor”. Chassereau answered, “We made a few traffic cases, and answered burglary calls, but our main business was to catch whiskey cars and get what we could out of them.”

   Former chief of police Williams was defended by Ernest “Fritz” Hollings. Hollings was soon to be elected governor of South Carolina and in 2004 he retired after thirty plus years as a U.S. Senator. In his defense of Williams Hollings stated that “the government conspired with perjurers and blackmailers to present a gory picture of this community and of the defendants.” 

   Williams pleaded “not guilty” to all charges. One of the charges was that he was the owner of a property that dispensed illegal whiskey from a freezer in the back of the building and from the Kelly’s Newsstand next door. Kelly’s was so well known as a place to buy after hours liquor that you could call a taxi company and ask them to pick up whiskey and deliver it to your house. Williams claimed to know nothing about the liquor being handed out on his property. The Reverend John J. McCarthy of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church testified as a character witness for Williams. Father McCarthy stated, “I know that Julian would not commit a sin of perjury.” 

   Charleston has always been a city that loved its alcohol. From the earliest settlers who arrived with twelve tons of beer, to the Reverend Gideon Johnston who missed his ship because he was drunk on Madeira wine, to the little old blueblood ladies sipping liquor on their piazzas from fine China tea cups, Charleston has always been a drinking town with a historical problem.



Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

November 9, 1970

LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS was released by Derek and the Dominos.

The Dominos was born out of Eric Clapton’s frustration with the amount of hype he dealt with in his previous two bands, Cream (dissolved in 1968), and Blind Faith (a single album supergroup with Steve Winwood). During the 1969 Blind Faith tour, Clapton became disillusioned with the new band, and began to spend his time hanging out with the opening act, the American roots-blues duo Delaney & Bonnie. Blind Faith called it quits after that one tour and album, Clapton joined Delaney & Bonnie as a member, and played on their 1970 live album. Other members of D&B’s live band included drummer Jim Gordon, bassist, Carl Radle, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock.

Clapton used most of D&B’s band to record his first solo album, ERIC CLAPTON, in early 1970. This group of musicians also was used by George Harrison at the same time in the recording of his first solo album, ALL THINGS MUST PASS. This was when Clapton met Harrison’s wife, Patty Boyd, and he became infatuated with her. When she spurned his advances, Clapton and Whitlock spent most of April 1970 writing songs, many of which reflected Clapton’s romantic and professional frustrations. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, wrote that “there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder, or a suicide … to me, ‘Layla’ is the greatest of them.”

Disillusioned at always being the “name” member of the group, and not just part of an ensemble, Clapton organized a new group with D&B’s backup band “Eric & The Dynamos”. The band did a quick tour of small clubs in England, and the announcer at their first concert mispronounced the band’s name as “Derek and the Dominos” which Clapton decided to keep, because it kept his name and celebrity from getting in the way. When the tour was over, they headed for Criteria Studios in Miami to record an album.

Producer Tom Dowd (Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding) was recording the Allman Brothers second album, IDLEWILD SOUTH, when the studio received a phone call that Clapton was bringing the Dominos to Miami to record. Upon hearing this, guitarist Duane Allman indicated that he would love to drop by and watch, if Clapton approved. When the Allmans performed in Miami on August 26, Clapton insisted on going to the show, saying, “You mean that guy who plays on the back of (Wilson Pickett’s) ‘Hey Jude’? … I want to see him play … let’s go.”

After the show, Allman asked Clapton if he could come by the studio to watch some recording sessions, and Clapton responded: “Bring your guitar; you got to play!” Jamming together overnight, the two bonded; Dowd reported that they “were trading licks, they were swapping guitars, they were talking shop and information and having a ball – no holds barred, just admiration for each other’s technique and facility.” Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Allman were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Allman as the “musical brother I’d never had but wished I did.”

The majority of the songs on LAYLA were products of Clapton and Whitlock’s collaboration, which produced six of the nine originals on the recording, with five covers making up the balance. They co-wrote “I Looked Away”, “Keep on Growing”, “Anyday”, “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Tell the Truth” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” Whitlock also contributed “Thorn Tree in the Garden”, while Clapton brought “I Am Yours” and “Layla” (with the piano coda credited to Jim Gordon). Duane Allman played lead and slide guitar on eleven of the fourteen songs.According to Dowd, the recording of the blues standard “Key to the Highway” was unplanned, triggered by the band hearing Sam Samudio performing the song for his album “Hard and Heavy” in another room at the studio. The Dominos spontaneously started playing the song in their studio and Dowd told the engineers to roll tape, resulting in the tune’s telltale fade-in. Bobby Whitlock’s version of the story is that the tape was rolling non-stop for the entire session, but that Dowd had taken a bathroom break leaving the faders on the mixer down. As the jam began, he came running back into the control room, still pulling up his trousers and yelling, “Push up the faders!”

LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS was initially regarded as a critical and commercial disappointment, it failed to chart in Britain and peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It returned to the US albums chart again in 1972, 1974 and 1977, and has since been certified Gold by the RIAA. The album finally debuted on the UK Albums Chart in 2011, peaking at number 68.

LAYLA also flopped critically. Harry Shapiro wrote: “As with Eric’s first solo album, the reviewers liked the guitars-on-fire-stuff … but regarded the [love songs] as little more than fluff.” Roy Hollingworth, writing in Melody Maker, claimed the songs ranked “from the magnificent to a few lengths of complete boredom”, and specified: “We have Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ played with such spreading beauty that Jimi would surely have clapped till his hands bled, and then we have ‘I Am Yours’ … a bossa that novas in pitiful directions.” While he identified portions of “pretty atrocious vocal work”, Hollingworth considered Layla to be “far more musical” than Eric Clapton, and praised Clapton and Allman for “giv[ing] about every superb essay possible on the playing of the electric guitar”.

Ellen Sander, writing in Saturday Review, described it as “pointless and boring” and “a basket case of an album”, and said that Clapton had “all but blown his musical credibility”. Since its initial reception, LAYLA has been acclaimed by critics and regarded as Clapton’s greatest overall work. In Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Christgau dubbed it “Clapton’s most carefully conceived recording”, while admiring the album’s “relaxed shuffle and simple rock and roll” and Clapton’s “generally warm” singing.


Eric Clapton – vocals, guitars

Bobby Whitlock – vocals, keyboards; acoustic guitar

Carl Radle – bass, percussion

Jim Gordon – drums, percussion; piano (on “Layla”)

Duane Allman – guitars (on all tracks except “I Looked Away,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and “Keep on Growing”)

Albhy Galuten – piano (on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”)


On Nov. 4, 1969, a new band entered the markets with their self-titled debut LP. The record included unknown songs like “Dreams” and “Whipping Post.” As you can tell by now, that band was The Allman Brothers.

They were formed in March 1969, during large jam sessions with various musicians in Jacksonville, Florida. Duane Allman and Jai Johanny Johanson (Jaimoe) had recently moved from Muscle Shoals, where Duane participated in session work at FAME Studios for artists such as Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, and Wilson Pickett, with whom he recorded a cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” that went to number 23 on the national charts. Duane began to put together a new band and invited bassist Berry Oakley to jam with the new group; the pair had met in a Jacksonville, club some time earlier, and became quick friends. Oakley brought the guitarist / singer of his former band with him to jam, Richard Betts. They invited another drummer, Butch trucks, to jam with them. The group had immediate chemistry, and Duane’s vision for a “different” band — one with two lead guitarists and two drummers began evolving. Then Duane’s brother, Gregg, returned from California, where the brothers as a band named Hour Glass, had recorded two unsuccessful albums.

Allman Brothers on stage, 1969

Most of the songs on their first album were created during their long, impromptu jam sessions and the band’s style evolved from a mix of jazzcountry musicblues and rock, as a result of each individual member turning the others onto their particular interests. Trucks introduced fellow drummer Johanson to the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones; Johanson likewise introduced the group to jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and Betts did the same with country music and Chuck Berry. Duane Allman had previously listened to Davis and Coltraneand his two favorite songs — Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues” — were the basis for the majority of the band’s modal jamming, “without a lot of chord changes.”

The new Allman Brothers Band relocated to Macon, Georgia and within a couple of months, they became an explosive live band. They recorded their debut album for Epic/Capricorn Records, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, at Atlantic Records studio in New York City. According to biographer Alan Paul, “virtually no outtakes exist from the sessions.” The band had performed their songs countless times in the preceding months and “[had] them down cold. The two-week booking was initially designed for laying down basic tracks, with overdubs following later but the group ended up cutting the entire record in six non-consecutive days.

Alan Paul, author of ONE WAY OUT: THE INSIDE HISTORY OF THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, stated that Gregg Allman’s lyrics were “remarkably mature lyrical conceptions for such a young man, expertly executed in a minimalist, almost haiku style.” Allman claimed his lyrical inspiration for “Whipping Post” came from his time in Los Angeles as a part of Hour Glass, “getting fucked by different land sharks in the business,” experiencing great frustration among fierce competition. “I wrote most of that whole first record in that one week. I had total peace of mind. L.A. and all its changes didn’t even cross my mind. I felt like I was starting all over, which I was.”

Upon release, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND album received a poor commercial response, selling fewer than 35,000 copies upon initial release and only reaching No 188 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart. Executives urged Walden to relocate the band to New York or Los Angeles to “acclimate” them to the industry. “They wanted us to act ‘like a rock band’ and we just told them to fuck themselves,” remembered Trucks. For their part, the members of the band remained optimistic, electing to stay in the South.

Despite the poor sales, the album was well liked by reviewers. Rolling Stone‘s Lester Bangs called the album “consistently subtle, and honest, and moving,” describing the band as “a white group who’ve transcended their schooling to produce a volatile blues-rock sound of pure energy, inspiration and love.” A retrospective review from Bruce Eder at AllMusic stated it “might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience.”


Side 1

  1. Don’t Want You Know More (Spencer Davis, Edward Hardin)
  2. It’s Not My Cross To Bear (G. Allman)
  3. Black Hearted Woman (G. Allman)
  4. Trouble No More (Muddy Waters)

Side 2

  1. Every Hungry Woman (G. Allman)
  2. Dreams (G. Allman)
  3. Whipping Post (G. Allman)


Gregg Allman: organ, lead vocals

Duane Allman: slide and lead guitars

Dickie Betts: lead guitar

Berry Oakley: bass guitar, backing vocals

Jai Johanny Johanson: drums, congas

Butch Trucks: drums, percussion