History, Lifestyle

Five legendary Black artists + entertainers from South Carolina

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In honor of Black History Month, we’re shining a light on five artists + entertainers born in South Carolina that are living legends

Chubby Checker | Rock n’ roll singer | Spring Gully


Ernest Evans nicknamed “Chubby” by his boss at a poultry market – grew up in Philadelphia but was born in Spring Gully, SC. At the age of 11, Chubby formed a street corner harmony group after attending Sugar Chile Robinson + Ernest Tubb concerts. He taught himself how to play piano and sing, and people began to notice his talent throughout his young adulthood. In 1959, he recorded “The Twist”, which was originally deemed mediocre. After advocating for the record he worked so hard on, Chubby saw his song + dance become the No. 1 hit in 1960, and again in 1962. “The Twist” is still a widely popular song + dance to this day. 

Eartha Kitt | Singer + actress | North 

 

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Eartha was born on a cotton plantation in North, SC in 1927. In her early life, she was rejected by the man her mother chose to live with due to her pale complexion, which eventually led to her move to Harlem, New York where her pursuit of the arts began. She is widely known for recording holiday hit “Santa Baby” + is the voice actor of Yzma in the movie “The Emperor’s New Groove”. 

Anthony Brown | Actor + comedian | Columbia

 

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Columbia native + Denmark Technical College graduate James Anthony Brown’s career began at a comedy club in Atlanta in 1972. Originally a tailor + designer, his career in comedy kicked off after performing in a group at a nightclub. He eventually moved to Los Angeles + became the head staff writer at the Arsenio Hall Show, and wrote for TV shows including “The Parenthood” + “Me and the Boys.” Additionally, he appeared on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” for 20 years, received Peabody Award in 1993 + owns a line of hot sauce that includes “WatchOutDehNow” flavors in honor of his trademark phrase.

Linda Martell | Blues + country singer | Batesburg-Leesville

 

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In 1969, this Batesburg-Leesville native became the first Black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Born Thelma Bynem, she grew up singing country music with her South Carolina family who tuned in to Nashville’s WLAC radio. She took on a stage name and formed a trio with her sister + cousin, Linda Martell & the Anglos. As a member of the group, this became the first major step in her musical journey. Nashvillian William “Duke” Rayner noticed her at a gig and offered her a demo deal. Linda eventually signed a management contract in 1969 + produced the hit singleColor Him Father” that led to her Grand Ole Opry debut.

Wes Mackey | Guitarist | Yamesse 


Wes Mackey was born in 1942 in Yamesse, SC (Beaufort), where he learned to play guitar from old blues players in the South. Following his father’s urges to leave the rural South, he moved to Augusta where his career took off. Eventually, Wes found himself touring the world with musicians like Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Reed + more, and still plays music today. Listen to Wes’s music here.