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The Windjammer – A Slice of Music History

There are a few things most people think about when heading to the beach.  Bikinis, hot guys and girls, sand in your toes, and music.  The Windjammer at the Isle of Palms combines all of the above to present beachgoers with a sexy and fun experience.  Opened in 1976 by Malcolm and James Burgiss, it quickly became a popular place for people to drop in, listen to some tunes by local beach bands, and grab a beer on the way to the next bar.  Groups like Chairmen of the Board played often, and people dancing the shag on the sand covered floor became the sign of the times.  Ultimately, the Windjammer became one of the top music destinations in the entire Charleston area with bigger bands and names jamming on the new stage.

Daily management and music acquisition was handed over to Bobby Ross around 1982, after Ross had joined the staff to pay off a bar debt he’d acquired through a dry spell.  Steadily broadening the scene, Ross was able to bring in bands like Cracker, Sister Hazel and Cowboy Mouth for gigs.  Darius Rucker with the Hootie and the Blowfish gang were a regularly scheduled feature for years as they climbed their way to Grammy winning status.  The current lineup offers an annual Sol Slam, jointly created by Joel Timmons of Sol Driven Train.  The Slam is a huge weekend full of fun with local bands alternating on the upper deck and inside the packed bar area.  Sister Hazel, hugely popular with ‘Hazelnuts”, provides a weekend of intimacy with their fans during the Hazelnut Hang.  Hazelnuts pay to play, and the band joins their fans on the beach for sand volleyball, open jam and an acoustic show.

The Windjammer hit hard times in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo hit the island and unexpectedly wiped out entire blocks of businesses and homes.  Having only a shell of the popular bar left, the owners had to face either shutting down the business or to rebuild again.  With Malcolm’s spirit and hard earned determination, he and Bobby chose to create a new and even better venue.  What used to be a one story drop in local dive bar became a larger two-story building with a volleyball court providing easy entertainment.  Tables hover under the shade underneath the upstairs bar area, and stairs lead up to the outer deck.

People congregate outside to catch the now famous bikini contests, hosted by Bud Light.  Two full bars are available in the summer, inside and out, and bartenders are quick to serve thirsty patrons as they watch women flaunt their assets to compete for the number one spot.  Twerking girls can be seen shaking their asses and strutting around in stilettos for a $500 cash prize.  What started out in the beginning as a wet t-shirt contest has turned into a huge competition that locals and tourists have grown to love.

For those who enjoy playing in the ocean, it’s just a few steps down a staircase to hit the beach. Four more volleyball courts are set up and usually full of taut twenty-somethings sweating it out. People on the beach flock inside to grab a drink or to take a break from the heat, or maybe pick up some great food served quickly.  Buzzers go off with speakers loudly announcing, “Kevin, your order is ready,” so you can enjoy the ocean view while meals are being prepared.  Hamburgers, fish and chips, onion rings and other treats make up the bar’s menu.  Several beers on tap, including Sweetwater 420, Sam Adams and other great draughts will please even the most discretionary of beer snobs.  The Windjammer is definitely the place to be when you’re thinking of music, fun, or to hang with the beautiful people of Charleston.

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