David Lauderdale

Haley's inaugural event sounded a lot like Hilton Head

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley addresses the crowd at her inauguration gala at the Colonial Life Arena.
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley addresses the crowd at her inauguration gala at the Colonial Life Arena. C. Aluka Berry/The (Columbia) St

Larry Perigo found himself reveling in the moment Wednesday as his Headliners band played beach music at the governor's inaugural ball.

He was constantly waving to people in the crowd of more than 2,000 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, where he did his best rendition of Tom Jones, singing "She's A Lady" for Gov. Nikki and Michael Haley's first dance.

"It was like a little Hilton Head convention," he said.

And why not?

Michael's parents, Bill and Carole Haley, live in Long Cove. Bill Haley's been a civic club and business leader here for years. And a New York Times profile of Haley, following her surprise win in a stacked GOP primary, noted that she was baptized at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church on Pope Avenue, where she and Michael held their Christian wedding in 1996.

The new governor told the throng, "Enjoy your friends a lot and have a great time because this is all about South Carolina tonight."

We could not have presented anything to them more South Carolina than the Headliners. They warmed the hearts of shaggers in alternating sets with the Mighty Kicks band from Orangeburg.

South Carolina has been very good to the Headliners. They arrived from Tennessee in 1977 to play the Indigo Club lounge at the oceanfront Marriott (then the Hyatt), and they haven't left yet. Every time they play in South Carolina, fans come up to tell them a Club Indigo story. The inaugural gala was no exception. It will probably be the same next Wednesday when they play the wrap party for the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" project in Beaufort.

Four of the six band members have been with the Headliners for at least 26 years. The new guy has been with them 14 years. They did a pre-inaugural event with the Spinners for the late Gov. Carroll Campbell. Perigo's wife, Cherie, has arranged entertainment for three inaugurals, booking big names like legendary band leader Lester Lanin and Greenville native Peabo Bryson, known for his hits with Disney movies.

Haley's inaugural committee opted for entertainment that wasn't as high-ticket. And they wanted it to be from South Carolina, to fit right in with the fried oysters, grits, shrimp, barbecue sandwiches, pork tenderloin and peanut brittle.

Hilton Head and Beaufort have long been on the cutting edge of South Carolina, with all our newcomers and outsiders who have so much to offer. We fit right in when the first woman was inaugurated governor. The lady who sang "This Land Is Your Land" as a 5-year-old in the Little Miss Bamberg pageant was tapping her toes to the Headliners, her father dancing in a red turban of his native India.

It was a South Carolina moment to revel in.