Swing Discussion Boards > "Original" music West Coast Swing was danced to

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Steve Pastor, Jul 13, 2006.

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    These dance scenes are from "Rock Around the Clock", which came out in "early" 1956. As always, I was curious about where the music came from, so I've included info about the non Bill Haley song writers. The musicians are Bill Haley and His Comets who were the biggest names in rock 'n' roll in 1954, 1955 and into 1956. Haley's earliest rockabilly tune was the 1951 version of "Rocket 88". "Crazy Man Crazy" was the first rockabilly tune to make the top 20s. It happened in 1953.
    “Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie” written by Bill Haley

    “R-O-C-K” written by Bill Haley-Arrett Keefer-Ruth Keefer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=ssQndYysTH0 This one is pretty definitive with fairly long sequences of swing.
    Arrett Keefer performed as “Rusty” Keefer in Western bands and in shows such as the WFIL-ABC Hayloft Hoedown Saturday night at Philadelphia’s Town Hall during the latter half of the 1940s. Keefer’s “Tumbleweeds” were the first Western unit to play the Twin Bars, Gloucester City, N.J., a lounge which had previously used swing. Haley’s Saddlemen also played the Twin Bars.
    “Razzle Dazzle” written by Charles E. Calhoun (aka Jesse tone)
    Charles E. Calhoun was Jesse Stone. Born in 1901, his experience in music ranged from singing at the age of four and having a dog act to writing concertos. In his long career he worked with or for many well-known musicians including Jimmie Lunceford, Louis Jordan, and Cole Porter. He is best known for writing “Shake, Rattle and Roll” for Big Joe Turner in early 1954.

    You don't see swiveling while rotating (wheeling?) much now a days.
  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Creative Writing 101

    Always on the look out for a new, reliable source on this topic, I came across an item that states that the original verison of a "rhythm & blues" song was popular among West Coast Swing dancers in Los Angeles in 1952.
    Well, it wan't adding up for me, so I checked with the owner of the web site, and it turns out that that information came from 4 hired essay writers.
    The listed "sources" didn't claim this to be true. I actually checked them.
    Billboard has no record of the tune being popular in LA in 1952.
    The song writers didn't mention anything about this in their autobiographical book.
    The biographical information I found on the musician who recorded the tune played clubs in LA, but says nothing about him having a hit with the tune.

    The same song was recorded at the end of the decade by another artist, and was a huge hit.
    That same song turns up 3 decades later in Craig Hutchinson's list of tunes for West Coast Swing, AFTER "blues" became accepted by the public in general, and swing dancers, too.

    I'm reading a book called "Guitar Zero," and the author writes about a common mistake that people make, thinking that if a thing is popular now, it must have always been so.

    The essay writers offer no evidence that what they wrote is true, so I'm discounting this one.
    But it IS a good example of how inaccurate information gets spread around.
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    By the way, how would you label the dancing style. People in europe would call it Boogie Woogie (that is Rock n Roll without acrobatics). But this term isnt used in america, I fear.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Believe or not, the partnered parts are Western Swing, the name for the West Coast Swing at the time. The non partner stuff I would call "Modern Jazz dance," a term used by Terry Monaghan in a paper he wrote on this film, "Rock Around the Clock."

    I've analyzed the partner dancing in the first clip I posted, which was taken down from YouTube soon after I posted the link, and have been able to link just about everything they did with materials in Laure Haile's DanceNotebook material on Western Swing.

    One day I'll get around to doing R.O.C.K, too.

    There ARE some differences between what you see there and what most people learn as basic West Coast Swing today, but Haile presented several to many variations for lots of things even at the Bronze level. She was working for Arthur Murray at the time as their national dance director.

    We DID have "Rock n Roll" dancing here in the US, but... it's another story?
  5. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Watched the clip.. the dance has several variations from different styles.

    WCS, Lindy, Charleston and ECS. to mention a few. and, we called it " Bop"as in Be-Bop- . I liked the loose way it was strung together .
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    This one is kinda funny, but I think it shows how music becomes disassociated from / associated with other things as time goes by.

    Found this because "Joey" is Joey Ambrose (aka D'Ambrosio) played sax with the Comets.

    "Joey formed a combo of his own in 1952 and soon found regular work at teenage dances, as well as bars and strip joints where he would walk the bar following strippers with endless choruses of 'Night Train'. "

    When Craig Hutchinson wrote his Swing Dancer manual in 1988 he listed "Night Train" as a song for West Coast Swing.

    So there it was in the 50s, a dance called Western Swing by some, Sophisticated Swing by others. I wonder, would they be dancing to a song associated with strippers? There are a surprising number of ads for strip acts in the Long Beach newspapers from those days. But my answer about it being used for people doing Western, or Sophisticated swing would be, no, don't think so.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    We know that Skippy Blair learned Western Swing in 1953, but I haven't seen what I can honestly call Western Swing in movies from the 40s.
    This is the first dance scene in "Rock Around the Clock." Here again, with people like Joe Lanza, Lou Southern, and Lenny Smith, I can't say there is any Western Swing here, either. And I've been going through the dancing frame by frame. Lenny Smith was dancing on film in 1943, and he does a "quick stop” or “quick stop drop” here, just like he did in the 1944 film “Groovey Movie.”

    Since these dancers are using the music really well, IMO, I guess a question is, does Haley's music here "swing?" (Tamlyn's PhD thesis does not mention swing for this arrangement. Contemporary sheet music for the song indicates a Medium Shuffle with two eight notes played as “thirds” ¼ to 1/8 , and I'm supposed to get a copy of original sheet music. Oh, and the song was written by Bobby Charles, who is identified as an ethnic Cajun. This was Haley's last big hit here in the US.)


    BTW everything looks pretty jerky here, but that is a quality issue the dvd version of the film doesn't have.

    Does anyone recognize any of the dancers other than the ones I've already IDed?
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Looking very closely at Earl Barton and Lisa Gaye dancing to Haley and His Comets' R-O-C-K (which I said I would do a whle ago):

    Barton finishes his anchor step on the down beat during the first 8 or so measures I've looked at. I have the sheet music, so I can see where the downbeat is my mathing to the lyrics. The 2nd and 4th beats in most measures are accented, as they are in most rock 'n' roll, and that is where Barton steps back on his left as is the convention in WCS/Western Swing.
    Lisa Gaye is moving forward with him as he steps back on his left, and she is going onto her right foot, which is also part of the definition of WS/WCS. Most of the other women in the film step forward on their left as the man steps back on his left.
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Saw this in last week's New York Times, and realized I'm there.

    Research Rapture
    A state of enthusiasm or exaltation arising from the exhaustive study of a topic or period of history; the delightful but dangerous condition of becoming repeatedly sidetracked in following intriguing threads of information, or constantly searching for one more elusive fact.

    January 1956, when they were filming "Rock Around the Clock" the #1 record popular record in the country was Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons." (It fell to #4 by Feb 4.) It was also at the top of the LA "Territorial Hits."

    "Nobody said, "We're glad you brought this along because it's sure to sell a million copies in twenty-one days.'' They didn't say that because anybody in his right mind knew that wouldn't happen. Yet that's exactly what did happen." Ernie Ford http://www.folkarchive.de/sixteen.html

    It sure worked well for dancing West Coast Swing when LeAnn Rimes did a version recently, (I like the Regis and Kelly performance best.) and it never occurred to me to put in it LA in 1956, but Ford had been a radio personality in LA since the late 40s. The song had been written by Merle Travis, another LA musician at the time, as a "folk song" in 1946.

    You might look on YouTube for the song "You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry" that was on the flip side, too. If you want a real riot, look for the "Go-Go version" of Sixteen Tons.
  10. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Here it is.*bump*
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    A popular record in fall 1942 was "Strip Polka," recorded by a bunch of people including the Andrews Sisters. Radio stations would not play the song, but it became popular anyhow. While researching that song I learned about another hit, "Mister Five by Five."

    It was #1 on the West Coast, and also reached #1 on the Harlem Hit Parade that same fall, 1942. Ella Mae Morse was all of 18 when this came out.
    Arthur Murray studios in the LA area were teaching something called "smooth swing" in 1942, and you see that style listed in ads through the 1950s. What I haven't seen is "Western Swing" or "Sophisticated Swing." Have to wonder if "smooth swing" wasn't the previous iteration, although "Western Swing" had rather a much wider range, especially on the upper end, than is common for WCS today.

    Billboard seemed to think this song would appeal to the j-bug trade, but I'm thinking at 133bpm it would be a good tune for a smooth swing.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Out of the West to you comes the music all America is talking about, Western Swing, brought to by the King of Western Swing, Spade Cooley."

    Introduction from the July 27, 1951 "radio airshot" of the first nationwide broadcast of the Spade Cooley Show on the CBS radio network.

    As has been related earlier in the thread, Cooley had weekly dances in Santa Monica, and had the most popular TV show in LA, and had been playing dances in LA since the early 40s.

    Later on the announcer refers to the "cliff dwellers" in New York, Boston and Philadelphia??? Maybe referring to multi story buildings that were not very common in the LA area, but very common in those Eastern cities.?? And BTW, there were at least some people back East who knew about Western Swing. Bill Haley, as an example, had a "Western Swing" show in Chester, Pennsylvania.

    A 1953 radio broadcast in LA preceding a Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys appearance at Harmony Hall in Anaheim introduced Wills as "your friendly King of Western Swing."

    Just saw a statistic that between 1970 and 1990 the population of LA increased by 45%. Someone even wrote a book titled "The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memroy."
    "Analysis, photography, and fiction combine in a bracing portrait of LA. Los Angeles is a city which has long thrived on the continual re-creation of its own myth. In this extraordinary and original work, Norman Klein examines the process of memory erasure in LA."
  13. chuck4788

    chuck4788 Member

    Western Swing is still alive and well in an organization that promotes its continuation.

    The NW Western Swing Music Society holds an annual convention at a local dance venue each year. The bands play "Western Swing" which is very danceable for Progressive 2 Step and WCS. The bands today are smaller and more electric than 50 years ago but the music is there.

    The venue is Auburn Eagles Aerie 2298 in Auburn WA on Aug 9-12, 2013.
    Do a search for NW Western Swing Music Society
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hmm, could combine a trip up there with some Mt Rainier action, and see if anyone remembers anything about dancing at the Castle.

    And.. This just in...
    Big C&W Boom on Coast dated 1953
    Jazz and C&W Have Much in Common: Stone (that would be Cliffie Stone)

    Right here in the Los Angeles area we are having the biggest boom our business has ever known. One reason is that so many of the "modern" dance bands, commercial or otherwise, simply do not play good dance music. Western-style bands do.
    ...western music has always been big in this territory...
    The band I have at present at the El Monte ballroom...
    alto and clarinet, trombone, piano, drums, accordian, steel guitar, standard guitar, violin, and bass.

    We play all head arrangements...
    Hinsely, the violinist, and other rhythm players are all schooled musicians...
    All of the solo men have complete freedom on their ad-lib solos...
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    published in 1998 in "In the Swing" magazine.
    http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101385994674-211/KennyInterview.pdf I got the date and source by hunting around. You will see the the interviewer and publisher was Janne Anderson.

    Janne: A majority of what you play as a DJ is blues, isn't it?
    Kenny (Wetzel) . I try to mix it up, but a majority of Swing dancers like to dance to the blues with a shuffle beat.

    Janne: I know you are a former Jitterbug champion. So what was your preference in music then?

    In the 50's and 60's it was more rock and roll, big: band and lounge music.
    Bill Haley, Lionel Hampton and Louie Prima; more up tempo, faster music. There is nothing like speed Swing with structure.

    Of course, girls weren't afraid to let their hair down and perspire then. But the pendulum
    Swings and nowadays the call is for 120 to 132 beats per minute and that's okay, because it is 1998.
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Just talked to another source familar with the 50s Swing scene in Los Angeles and Calif. When asked about music, the answer was rock n roll. "Rock n roll was big then." ... Bill Haley... Rock Around the Clock...
  17. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Went to see him "live ", in the UK , 1955. One of the best "show" bands, ever .And, that was the music we prefered for dancing ( among other bands style)
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Quick" share of something I stumbled across yesterday.

    Sophisticated Swing is supposed to be the same as Western Swing as West Coast Swing. (It was, sort of, but without a "slot" or "coaster step / anchor step.) And, supposedly that name came from one Myrna Myron. There is a public legal document that gives some details about the ballrooms she owned.
    Sometime after she became sole owner of the ballroom she signed an agreement to have someone operate a cocktail bar in the ballroom. "Business greatly improved after the cocktail bar business was moved to the ballroom..."

    So, the Sophisticated swingers were cocktail drinkers.

    There were cocktail drinkers at the New Frontier in Vegas when Elvis Presley was booked there in 1956. Elvis, Scotty, Bill Black, and DJ Fontana were not well received, except for one show that was put one specifically for teenagers.. http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/pictures/1956_new_frontier_hotel_las_vegas.html

    The then comtemporary "rhythm and blues" music that sites still claim was the music used for early West Coast Swing no doubt would have gotten a similar reception by the cocktail drinkers at Myron's Ballroom.

    (I've expressed this earlier in the thread, but the cocktail lounge detail is new. And, yes, early (1953 or earlier) step sheets use both Western Swing and West Coast Swing as the name.)
  19. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    So they were still dancing to big-band swing jazz in 1953? I suppose that's possible. But I wonder what the age group of those dancers was.
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "classic?" or maybe "vintage"?
    Old enough to drink cocktails! which was at least 21+!

    Peter Loggins wrote about a get together in Disneyland (Disneyland!) of swing dancers like Dean Collins, in the early 60s. Dean was born in 1917!
    Course I saw that Disney had a swing (or is it Lindy?) recurring event very reently.

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