On a blistering hot South Carolina summer day, a little over 100 years ago, an old farmer made his way to the Edisto River to soak his tired feet and to practice playing the banjo his grandfather left to him.
The farmer sat on the riverbank cooling his feet while picking the banjo strings, trying to unlock some sounds resembling music. The old man had tried to learn to play the instrument over the years, occasionally picking it up to give it a try, but never sticking with it long enough to learn a tune. When he tired of plucking the strings the farmer leaned the banjo against a tree on the river bank and laid back to rest his eyes.
As he slipped off to sleep, a strong breeze blew the banjo from its resting place on the tree into the red-black water of the Edisto River. The instrument drifted toward the bottom, coming to rest at the feet of a river monster named Shugie (or Shug for short).
Shug had no idea what the strange thing was, but he had a strong feeling it was special. He reached down to pick up the banjo, and as one of his fingers plucked a string, it made a strange little muffled sound. Shug was excited! He loved things that made different sounds!! A while back, he found a sunken river boat, and he often visited it to tap and drum on the boat with his hands and feet. Shug loved to experiment and see what different sounds he could create.
Shug tried all sorts of things with the found banjo. He picked at the strings, pushed on them, pulled on them, tapped on the body, tapped it against sunken tree branches. He tried every combination of things he could think of to see what different sounds he could make. It suddenly dawned on him that if this thing had come from above the River, maybe it would sound different out of the water.
Shug’s Grandmonster had always warned him about leaving the river during daylight because people tend to be more scared of river monsters then friendly to them. He waited till it got dark, climbed out of the river and sat on the river bank with his feet in the water, the same way the old man had, and started to experiment with the banjo.
It didn’t take Shug long to figure out that if he plucked the strings, they made a different sound then when they were in the water. When he used the fingers on his other hand to push down on the strings and pluck them at the same time the sound would change. He spent all night on the riverbank, exploring and falling in love with that banjo. The next night he did the same thing, and the night after that, and the night after that.
Soon Shug was making music and inviting his family and friends to come out of the river at night to listen to him play the banjo. It wasn’t long before they were all making up words to go with the music and singing along.
By the time the hot summer days had passed and the cool evenings of October were blowing in, Shug and the others had collected as many instruments as they could find, and even making some of their own. As the full moon crept up over the autumn tree line, Shug and his friends had their first real jam session!
They promised each other that they would always get together when the moon was full to play their instruments and sing together.
That’s how the Edisto Blackwater Boogie was born. And how Shug came to be affectionately know as the Boogie Monster…because he looooves to Boogie!
It’s a well known fact that river monsters can live to be hundreds of years old. So if you are near the Edisto River on the night of a full moon, listen closely…you might hear the sounds of Shug and his friends floating across the water or drifting through the trees. And if you are lucky, you may even spot them down by the river!
We like to think that the old man would be happy to know the banjo he thought was lost forever landed in good hands, and his grandfathers legacy lives on.