Sandpipers reunion revives fond, if hazy, memories – Coastal Observer


Sandpipers reunion revives fond, if hazy, memories

Danny King, second from right, greets Alex Salley at the reunion.

They came first to party. They came back for the memories.

Danny King was prepared. He made up a sign to welcome the crowd who had been young professionals when he opened a nightclub in Murrells Inlet in the spring of 1984. It read “Sandpiper’s Social Club / Seniors’ Center.”

He put it up last week at Creek Ratz, where a reunion of staff and customers from the club drew about 120 people. King just turned 70, which put him squarely in the demographic.

Sandpipers, or just The Pipe, was a private club that emerged at a time when the area was starting the transition to a year-round destination – and when the state’s blue laws kept Sundays alcohol-free.

“Midnight on Saturday, everything closed, and nothing started again until Monday. We had the first club license for a public establishment on the south end,” King said. “That helped draw a crowd, particularly the after-hours crowd.”

King grew up in Florence, but spent his summers in Murrells Inlet and Garden City. He worked as a lifeguard in Myrtle Beach after high school, then moved between there and Aspen, Colo., in the winter.

After realizing that he wasn’t going to make it out west, King took inspiration from a private club that had opened in Myrtle Beach and decided to open one for the growing population on the Waccamaw Neck and southern Horry County. His brother helped put together the partnership to finance the venture.

“We stumbled on an empty building on Highway 17 that had been a hammock store,” King recalled. “I saw this beautiful old barn-looking building and said this will make a wonderful bar and nightclub.”

The building is now Lee’s Farmers Market.

He hired Biff Hudson and Cliff “Happy Jack” Jackson as bartenders because their ties to Pawleys Island would help pull from that area.

“I had no idea what I was going to do for entertainment,” King said.

It was Hudson, who solved that problem by introducing King to Joey Corne, who had been a DJ with Hudson in West Virginia.

“I was thinking we will play some radio, some music channels, whatever,” King said. “I didn’t understand that the disc jockey was the guy that drove the herd.”

He learned fast.

“Joey brought thump to the house. He brought the thump to Murrells Inlet. We had an incredible first season,” King said.

It was Corne’s death earlier this year that led King to contact some of his old crew. Talk turned toward a reunion.

As he stood at the door, King said he knew there would be familiar faces, but he wasn’t sure he would be able to put a name with them all.

That didn’t turn out to be a problem.

Tommy Ruffin and his wife, Marguerite, walked up. Tommy remembered being at the club on opening night. Like many, he remembered good times, but sometimes those times were so good that the memories are a little vague.

“Everybody came in at their best and left at their worst,” King said.

“I would reverse that,” Ruffin said.

He added that his favorite memory was a dust up in the parking lot that has the elements of a Three Stooges comedy routine.

Sharon Turner also had a favorite memory.

“You can’t put it in the newspaper, though,” she added.

There were other places to go after hours, but what King was looking for was “civilized social interaction,” he said.

Before the opening, he held two events for prospective members: one for the under-30s and another for the over-30s. When the doors opened, there were 1,000 members at $50 each. That covered the cost of renovations.

At  its peak, the club had 8,000 to 10,000 members. The official capacity of the building was around 500.

“We doubled that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” King said, especially in the summer.

He had reciprocal agreements with clubs in Columbia and Greenville to bring in vacationers.

Someone advised King to sell the club within five years. “I didn’t realize that the lifespan of a club can be short,” he said.

Customers got married, bought houses and had families. 

That’s why the reunion was held at Creek Ratz. Art and Renee Flowers met at Sandpipers. Their daughter Mary Beth is the co-owner of Creek Ratz.

King has lived in Puerto Rico for the last 25 years. He still makes annual visits and he’s already heard calls for another reunion for people who didn’t get word about this year’s gathering.

“I’ll always love Murrells Inlet,” King said, even though it has changed. “As long as I can smell the pluff mud.”



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