The Swingin' Medallions
I really enjoyed researching and putting this showcase together – there is a lot of musical history behind The Swingin’ Medallions that goes far beyond their signature hit song, “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)”. Once you dig down into it you discover it’s not just the song but rather a state of mind that they represent. Much like a celebration, The Swingin’ Medallions are going to entertain you, show you a fun time, help you get your groove on and bring a smile to your lips.
A big "Thank You" to Robby Cox for his help and guidance in putting all of this together. I’m proud that this band and that song were born in South Carolina and there is comfort in the fact that the name and the idea behind it pass from generation to generation of great musicians and dedicated fans. Historically speaking there is only a handful of true classic party songs and even fewer true classic party bands and the Swingin' Medallions are right there at the top!
The band was formed as The Medallions in 1962 adding the "Swingin'" in 1965. Based out of the Greenwood South Carolina area their musical roots came from listening to early rhythm and blues acts. The music most often associated with the band is Beach music, Frat rock, R&B, or Shag music. Many of the Medallions attended and graduated from Lander University in Greenwood, SC.
After a few years of touring colleges from the Carolinas to the Louisiana Bayou, John McElrath took the group to Arthur Smith's studio in Charlotte North Carolina to record their first single, "I Wanna’ Be Your Guy", it was inadvertently released under the name, "Swinging Medallions" instead of "Swingin' Medallions". It did not chart, but the second release, "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)", written by Don Smith & Cyril Vetter and originally recorded by Dick Holler & the Holidays, reached #17 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, and propelled their full-length album to #88 on the Billboard 200. WIST radio jock Tom Gauger was called in to re-mix for a release on Smash records. The follow-up single "She Drives Me Out of My Mind", hit #71, but the next single, "Hey, Hey, Baby", did not chart. The band continued to be popular in the American South.
In the early-1960s, they frequently played at the Oporto Armory in Birmingham, Alabama where their songs got national airplay by Dave Roddy on WSGN. The band was also a popular attraction in Panama City Beach, Myrtle Beach, and Auburn University. In 1967, Brent Fortson and Steve Caldwell left the band and with six members of The Tassles out of North Carolina formed the Pieces of Eight. Johnny Cox and Hack Bartley replaced the two at saxophones.
One alumnus of the group, drummer Michael Huey, went on to become the staff drummer for the Bill Lowery studios in Atlanta playing on hit records for the Winstons, Sami Jo, Johnny Nash, Joe South, Frankie Miller, Allen Toussaint, and others. Huey moved to Los Angeles in 1976 and played on numerous hit records and tours with Walter Egan ("Magnet and Steel"), Juice Newton, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Etta James, Lindsey Buckingham, Michael Martin Murphey, Johnny Lee, and the Miami Vice television series, among others.
The members of the Swingin' Medallions have changed over the years. The personnel of the band have always included around eight members with at least a four-piece horn section. The high-energy party style stage performance of the first Medallions has been passed down to the band that performs today. The present Medallions stage show has coined them the name "The Party Band of the South."
The cast of the hit television series “Aly McBeal” sang along with the original recording of “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” in a 1998 episode. Bruce Willis sang the song in an episode of “Moonlighting”. In 1999, it was again featured in the NBC miniseries, “The 60’s”. It was heard on the big screen in the movie, “Sorority Boys” and most recently the lead character in the 2017 movie, “The Big Sick”, wore a Swingin’ Medallion T-Shirt in scenes throughout the film.
In 2003, they joined forces with Coors Brewing Company, Sterling Marlin and hundreds of fans for a Cruise of the Caribbean. In 2007, they were chosen to headline the Inaugural Party for the Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. Also in 2007, they performed for the Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue’s Inaugural Ball. In early 2008, they were invited by the United States Ambassador to Canada to perform in Ottawa, Canada for a July 4th Celebration.
In September 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band invited the Medallions on stage at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville SC to join in for a rendition of "Double Shot". This was definitely an historic moment and one of the highlights of the show. Springsteen has even labeled “Double Shot” as “The greatest fraternity rock song of all time”.
Lewis Grizzard (Southern humorist and writer) labeled the Medallions as “THE PARTY BAND OF THE SOUTH”, a moniker that has become forever synonymous with the Medallion name. Grizzard wrote in a nationally syndicated column, “Even today, when I hear “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)”, it makes me want to stand outside in the hot sun with a milkshake cup full of beer in one hand and a slightly drenched coed in the other”.
Chicago Tribune nationally syndicated columnist Bob Greene wrote an article entitled The Swingin’ Medallion View of U.S. History. He summed up America’s love affair with “Double Shot” with his discovery of the song being played and sold in the gift shop of the Smithsonian Institute. When inquiring as to why it was available in the nation’s foremost repository of history, the clerk replied, “Because it’s as much a part of our history as anything else we sell”.
Members before 1965:
(formed in Ninety Six South Carolina)
Joe Morris - drums
John McElrath – keys
Charlie Webber- trumpet, vocals
Steve Caldwell - sax, vocals
Jimmy Perkins - sax, bass guitar, vocals
John McElrath - keys, vocals
Carroll Bledsoe - trumpet, vocals
Jim Doares - guitar, vocals
Brent Fortson - sax, flute, vocals
Joe Morris - drums, vocals
When Steve Caldwell and Brent Fortson formed the Pieces of Eight in 1967, they were replaced by Hack Bartley and Johnny Cox.
Grainger (Brother) Hines was added to the band in late 1967, when Michael Huey became the Drummer.
Members between 1968 and 1984:
Members since 1984:
John Smith Buchan
Medallion road crew members:
Tommy (Wildman) Langley
Christopher James Sample
Tyler "Tito" Liegaber
John Smith Buchan