Category Archives: vintage

Correction: Four Clefs

Recently, Susanne and I went up to Rochester for Stompology, and had a fantastic time there. We’ve got a couple of posts in the works inspired by our time there, but in the meantime I thought I’d post a little discovery from our road trip.

As we were driving, we started talking about “I like pie, I like cake,” which I thought was by The Four Chefs. As I was playing it off of the iPad, I looked carefully at the album art and saw. . .”The four CLEFS.” on the list of artists! The artist track was mislabeled in the iTunes file. I had mentioned the song in an earlier post, and asked for information if anyone knew anything about the artist. Well, now that I have the artist right, here’s some info on them.

In honor of the upcoming July 4th celebrations, check out their patriotic tune, “V-Day.

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Croquet and Dancing

This past weekend was insanely busy for us, packed full of dancing. Saturday, we went to the annual croquet match between St. Johns College and the Naval Academy. Everyone was all dandied up in their finest vintage inspired threads. There was some croquet there, but to be honest the game seemed secondary to hanging out, dancing, eating, drinking, and general all around merriment. We had an amazing time. Continue reading

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Filed under C-Jam, Charleston, community, lindy hop, lindy wardrobe, Video, vintage

Vintage Jazz Buffet (2 of 5)

This post is part 2 of a series that lists one hundred different songs by one hundred different artists. It is designed to be used as an inspiration for dancers to explore the catalogs of our great vintage jazz recording artists. I’ve placed what I consider to be iconic artists in bold. If you are just starting to explore vintage jazz, I recommend you start with these artists.

Part 1 (1-20)
Part 2 (21-40)
Part 3 (41-60)
Part 4 (61-80)
Part 5 (81-100)

  1. “Till Tom Special” – Charlie Christian. In 1937, Charlie Christian started using an electric guitar. For the next five years, he defined what electric guitar meant for a generation of jazz musicians before his untimely death from tuberculosis at the age of 25. At least he didn’t drink himself to death.
  2. “Lindyhopper’s Delight” – Chick Webb. Chick Webb never had the same commercial success as some of his peers, in part due to the limitations of recording technology to capture his powerful and innovating work on the drums. As the house band at the Savoy Ballroom, Chick Webb is the stuff of dancing legend, particularly legends of band battles at the Savoy that are still talked about today.
  3. “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” – Clarence Williams. Pianist, Vocalist, Jug player. Williams was at his best in a washboard band as his piano and vocal chops were merely passable. But his real talent was as a songwriter leaving us such classics as “Everybody Loves My Baby” and “T’Aint What You Do.”
  4. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” – Claude Thornhill. After training on piano in the conservatory, Thornhill worked his way up the dance bands in the Midwest, eventually playing for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. His own catalog often veers out of jazz/swing territory, but there are solid tunes in his collection, and his arrangements tend to be a little more mellow, later becoming an influence for the cool jazz movement.
  5. “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” – Count Basie. Count Basie had his first hit on the charts in 1937 with “One O’Clock Jump,” and produced a steady string of chart toppers after that. What I personally love most about Basie is how his piano playing can be full and robust or light and well-edited. He plays the piano as if it is an additional orchestra, sometimes commenting on the band and sometimes taking over.
  6. “Wave To Me My Lady” – Dinning Sisters. Three sisters from a midwestern family of nine, the Dinning Sisters started singing harmony in church, eventually moving to Chicago to sing for NBC radio and record for the Capitol label. While not as well remembered as the Andrews Sisters who they modeled themselves after, the Dinning Sisters were well-known and popular in their day. Continue reading

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Filed under Big Band, Blues, C-Jam, Dixieland, Jazz, lindy hop, Music, tools of the trade, vintage

Vintage Jazz Buffet (1 of 5)

After talking about pop music as a gateway for beginners to connect to lindy hop, I started thinking about how to get dancers more deeply invested in and knowledgable about vintage jazz/swing/big band. Some of that comes from time and exposure. Some of it comes from encouraging them to learn about the music, talking about it, sharing favorite songs, proclaiming “I love this song” when a great song comes on. We also need to ensure that information is available to start their own journey of exploration.

Here is a musical buffet of vintage songs. One hundred different songs by one hundred different artists. I’ll post twenty a day for the next five days. I’ve listed them alphabetically by author’s first name because that’s how I searched my music collection. Also, there’s no rhyme or reason to the songs I picked for each artist. Sometimes, I picked a classic like Duke Ellington’s “Cottontail,” and sometimes I picked lesser known songs like Glenn Miller’s “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” If I left out a favorite song or a favorite artist, it wasn’t meant as any kind of slight, and you should just add them to the comments.

Also, I didn’t list the recording info because the idea is for this to be an inspiration. Look up the artist and see what else they’ve recorded. Find different versions of the song by the same artist or by other artists. Allmusic.com is a great resource where you can look up artists, read their biography, see their discography, and get a list of similar artists. For beginners, I’ve highlighted some artists that I think are good to start with.

  1. “Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar)” – Andrews Sisters. The Andrew’s Sisters were the most successful female singing group of the time. Their collection goes far beyond the few well known hits that always get played. Its worth looking through their collection for some real gems like “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh” and “Hold Tight.”
  2. “Drinking Wine, Spo Dee O Dee” – Andy Kirk & His Clouds of Joy. Besides having the best band name ever, Andy Kirk recorded some solid tunes in the 30’s and 40’s. He never reached real fame with his band, but many great sidemen came through his band including Don Byas, Fats Navarro, and for a short time, Charlie Parker.
  3. “Watch the Birdie” – Anita O’Day. Anita O’Day started out with Gene Krupa’s band (featuring trumpeter Roy Eldridge), and these recordings from the 1940’s are the most approachable for dancers. In her later recordings, she started incorporating be-bop into her soloing. There are still some good tunes from those years, but you have to hunt for them a little more. Continue reading

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Filed under Big Band, C-Jam, Dixieland, History, Jazz, lindy hop, Music, tools of the trade, vintage

Cabin Fever Entertainment

For many folks I know, lindy hop is the doorway to vintage-inspired attire, hair, decor, music and art. I love seeing the artwork, movie posters, and Varga prints up in the homes of fellow dancers. I can’t boast of a thrifted wardrobe, but I sure do like to look at one. Neither have I refinished mid-century modern furniture, but I love to look at before and after pictures.

One of the few vintage-inspired decor pieces we own is a print of the November 4, 1961 cover of the Saturday Evening Post illustrated by Thorntorn Utz. After we got married, Craig and I decided to be responsible adults and save the generous gifts we received for a rainy day. But we stumbled upon the print in a Rehoboth Beach, Del. shop that Craig worked in one summer during college. Clearly, it was meant for us.

I love the colors, especially the orange skirt of the dancer in the lower right hand corner. But my favorite aspect are the older adults standing on the right side in closed watching the young’uns twist and twirl. Continue reading

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It’s Not Like a Bacon Dress

In honor of Millinery and Chapeau night tomorrow, our yearly tribute to hats and hair pieces, I’ve decided to share my latest obsession: Pork Pie hats! I’m sorry if this post is a little more rambling than normal, but I’m too excited to formulate a structure for all of the amazing pork pie-ed-ness in my head right now.

Over winter break, I started reading the Norma Miller memoir, Swingin’ at the Savoy. In the preface by jazz historian, Ernie Smith, Smith delves into fashion, mentioning how pork pie hats were in vogue among jazz and blues musicians, and how dancers adopted the style for themselves. Continue reading

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History beyond Legacy

Over the holidays, Susanne and I spent some time with my family in Rehoboth Beach, DE. While we were there, I flipped through the coffee table book of Rehoboth Beach with fantastic pictures of the town through the years. I saw a few photos in there that talked about dancing in the town. Apparently, they used to have a dance pavilion that extended out from the boardwalk to the sea. I can’t imagine how wonderful it would be to dance there on a summer night with a cool breeze blowing in from the ocean.

The Boardwalk at Rehoboth Ave.

I mentioned the photos to a friend of my grandmother who happens to run the local library. She said that in the 1950’s, the city of Rehoboth paved in the area of the board walk at the end of the main drag (Rehoboth Ave) so that people could dance by the band stand. I remembered the old band stand from my family visits years ago. Recently, it was torn down to put up a new, fancy pavilion where they continue to host concerts over the summer. And now, they are tearing out the concrete. . .no more dancing, or rather, no more vestiges of times past when partner dancing was a shared cultural activity in communities large and small.

I often get caught up in the historical stories our community tells; Frankie and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, the Savoy Ballroom, the Harvest Moon Ball. In the process, I sometimes lose sight of the everyday history. There are stories we don’t tell, that we don’t even know, and that we are losing to time. They disappear like our once treasured ballrooms. I’m hoping to take some time this summer to sift through the archives in Rehoboth, looking for photos, announcements for dances, or other public records to let me in to the history of this little resort town. I love this dance, and want to be a steward of its history, not just its legacy.

The new bandstand/pavilion.

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