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View Full Version : Off Topic: HTOTW#21 Dances from the 1920s



Terry Porritt
18-06-2004, 02:20 PM
HTOTW=Hot Tunes Of The Week. Real Audio Player or an alternative capable of playing real media files is required to listen to the streaming audio of the sites hosting the 1920s/30s music of a golden era of hot bands and orchestras.

The Turkey Trot, The Cakewalk, The Two-Step, The Foxtrot, The Bunny Hug, The Grizzly Bear, The Black Bottom, The Charleston, The Lindy Hop, The Shimmy.... what names. They dont have dances like that any more, or perhaps they do, but not with names like that :)

I suppose the history of dance is inextricably linked to the dance music, and which came first is like the chicken and the egg conundrum. Be that as it may, and I'm not a dance expert, the Foxtrot is inextricably linked to the Ragtime and Jazz of the early 1900s.

It is said to have been devised by one Harry Fox for a stage routine in 1914, and it became so popular that he taught it as a social dance, it was a mixture of the quick two step and slow walking steps. ( Or in the words of strict tempo Victor Sylvester, 'slow-slow-quick-quick-slow'). Experts of the dance will correct me I'm sure.

78rpm record sides used to have the type of dance on them under the tune title, and many of my 78rpm collection of Jelly Roll Morton records (long since gone)were Foxtrots.

The older generation of the time, were of course scandalised by all this hot music and jigging around.
Remember Falvrez's posting (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=47883&message=276583&q=sigh#276583), sighing about the state of our youth today?

Well, here is what was being said about the bright young things of the 1920s, by those raised in 'Victorian and Edwardian' times in America:

<<This was the dance the Hobart College _Herald_ disgustedly called a "syncopated embrace." And the Cincinnati _Catholic Telegraph_ wrote: "The music is sensous, the embracing of partners--the female only half-dressed--is absolutely indecent; and the motions--they are such as may not be described, with any respect for propriety, in a family newspaper. Suffice it to say that there are certain houses appropriate for such dances; but those houses have been closed by law."

In the 1920s, this "new style of dancing" was denounced in "family" publications as "impure, polluting, corrupting, debasing, destroying spirituality, increasing carnality," and decent folk were called upon to "raise the spiritual tone of these dreadful young people.">>

Above from this site:foxtrot (http://www.eijkhout.net/rad/dance_specific/ballroom7.html)


Let's listen to a few Foxtrots, first of all Henry 'Red' Allen in 1929 with Swing Out (http://www.redhotjazz.com/Songs/allen/swingout3.ram), and then to Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers with Grandpa Spells (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/morton/redhot/grandpasspells.ram).

I dont think hot 1920s jazz comes any better than that !

Talking of 'Hot', (as opposed to 'cool'), there is a Jelly Roll Morton CD on Amazon called 'Birth of the Hot' here (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000002WTZ/qid=1087010831/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-3760329-9358509?v=glance&s=music#product-details).
If you read down the reviews there is actually someone saying it is 'cool man' (goes into helpless ROFL)

Another wild dance of the 20s was the Black Bottom. As with so much of the music and dances of the jazz age, this originated in New Orleans, migrated to New York, and was 'daringly' introduced into white society in 1919.
It was exceeding popular, may even more so than The Charleston, and it featured in the George White's Scandals show of 1927.

Jelly Roll Morton wrote a tune called Black Bottom Stomp in 1919, and here are the Red Hot Peppers again, in 1926, doing The Black Bottom (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/morton/redhot/blackbottom.ram).

1926 must have been a great year for The Black Bottom, it was all the rage.

Here is Johny Hamps Kentucky Serenaders, a white band, with their 1926 version (http://www.redhotjazz.com/Songs/hamp/BlackBottom.ram).

This is followed by non other than the great Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five also in 1926 playing The Irish Black Bottom (http://www.redhotjazz.com/Songs/Louie/Hot7/irish.ram).

Irish Black Bottom :)].

I suppose it is the Charleston that everyone associates with the 1920s, even though it predates the Black Bottom as a popular dance. Again it originated among black Americans, it is said around 1903, and appeared on stage in Haarlem around 1913.
In the early 20s it arrived in white society via the stage when the Ziegfield Follies introduced it as a dance routine.
The age of the 'Flapper', straw boaters and raccoon coats had arrived :)

Read about it here (http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/tbacig/studproj/is3099/jazzcult/20sjazz/fashion.html).

Let's hear two Charlestons from white bands, first here are the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks in 1925, I'm Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/coon/ImGonna.ram). This band was from Kansas City.

Next Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra in 1925 playing Charleston (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/whiteman/chrlston.ram).

I think just about every jazz-band and dance band white and black must have played and recorded Charleston. This was composed by the great black stride pianist James P. Johnson.

To finish off here is Clarence Williams and his Blue Five in 1925 with Armstrong on cornet and Sydney Bechet on clarinet with Just Wait 'Til You See My Baby do The Charleston (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/williams/justwait.ram). Remember nearly all recordings from 1925 were acoustic.

Well we have only touched on a few dances there are still lots more, but that is for another time :)

Just time to add that The Lindy Hop from 1927, so named to celebrate Charles Lindbergs' solo flight or hop across the Atlantic developed from the Charleston and became even more popular leading to the Jitterbug and swing dancing even Rock 'n Roll, and is still danced today by Lindy Hop Society enthusiasts in the US.

NO, let's have one more from Clarence Williams, a tune that takes me back to 1952'ish when I first heard the great but unknown "Midlands Jazz Club" band in Birmingham with Bobby Pratt on cornet, Charlie Powell on trombone, Jimmy Hyde on clarinet/soprano sax, ah, happy days Cake Walking My Baby Back Home (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/williams/cake.ram). Now that really is hot, and not a bit cool at all, can you imagine a hotter combination than a young Louis Armstrong and an equally young Sydney Bechet??
I'm glad I'm old enough to have been around to have heard both those great musicians live on stage.