Friday, December 05, 2008

Got Lindy Hop?

Feeling energetic today? Yes? Really? Could you keep up with this?

Scene from the film Hellzapoppin’ (1941)

William’s been posting up some stuff about jazz lately, and poking around on Youtube I happened to run across this clip.

The Swing era had the jitterbug, of course, but there was also the lindy hop, which took jazz dance to a whole different level.

The clip above comes from a 1941 madcap comedy called Hellzapoppin’, which was based on a 1938 New York stage play of the same name. The dance sequence features Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (aka the Harlem Congaroo Dancers), with choreography by Frankie Manning.

You have to get past the certain "Stepin Fetchit" quality it has to it, with the white characters showing up at the end to applaud their maids, cooks, and waitstaff, as if to say, “My, aren’t those colored boys and girls just swell dancers!” Just the same, for a piece of work done in 1941, I think it’s an amazing film sequence.


crystal said...

Wow - acrobatic! Is that the same as swing dancing?

Jeff said...

Hi Crys,

I think it actually predates swing (reputed origin is 1927), but I guess you could say it's the most intense form of swing dancing - more acrobatic than the jitterbug, for example.

Garpu said...

Watching that made me realize in some respects we've come a long way from then in race relations...

"Dancing with the Stars," eat your heart out. ;)

Jeff said...

"Dancing with the Stars," eat your heart out. ;)

:-) I'd like to see Warren Sapp try this!

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for the link. What a great dance scene. You know, I still haven't seen Hellzapoppin', even though it has Slim & Slam, one of my favorite jazz groups from that era. Not sure why they say Slim & Slam All Stars at the beginning of the clip, though, as the music doesn't sound like Slim & Slam - they were always a small group. Guess I need to see the film. Slim Gaillard was a fascinating figure and a guitarist ahead of his time, if you ask me. Some of his stuff from the late 30s sounds almost like a prototype for later psychedelic guitar. (He was also Marvin Gaye's father-in-law for a while.)

Jeff said...

Hi William,

Not sure why they say Slim & Slam All Stars at the beginning of the clip, though, as the music doesn't sound like Slim & Slam

This longer clip has the jazz ensemble intro. This is Slim & Slam, right?

cowboyangel said...

Ah... Yes, that's Slim on piano and Slam on bass. Too bad - they don't really do anything.

They show a small group developing - clarinet, trumpet, trombone, etc. - but when the film cuts to the dance scene, the music actually switches to an unseen big band. That's why it sounds nothing like Slim & Slam.

Here they are doing "Flat Feet Floogie," their most well-known song. Slim on guitar and then vibes. Slam on bass, and a drummer. Slim on lead vocals, with Slam singing along much of the time. That's more representative of their sound.

Slam was an excellent bass player and had a lot of influence on later bassists. I believe he was the first to commonly use the bow on his bass, which many others took on after that. He played with a lot of greats after he and Slim broke up.

Jeff said...

Great song, thanks! I've got to look into this imeem thing of yours...

Great vocals and, yes, the bow on the bass is very distinctive. I really enjoyed Slim on the vibraphone, too. I'm wondering why I never heard of these guys before.