THE SWING REVIVAL

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - by Mark Cramp­ton

By now, you read­ers should have grasped that there are just NOT many styles of mu­sic I don’t like and lis­ten to.

Around 2002, I think, was when I re­ally got into swing mu­sic – af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced to revival swing - specif­i­cally, the Cherry Pop­ping Dad­dies “Zoot Suit Riot” one and only swing al­bum - by my older daugh­ter, Michelle. I RE­ALLY got in­ter­ested in both orig­i­nal Big Band Swing and Swing Revival then.

So, OK, I guess if I am go­ing to do an ar­ti­cle on the Swing Revival of the 1990’s, ob­vi­ously I should do a quick in­tro­duc­tion to the orig­i­nal Big Band Swing that was be­ing re­vived!

Orig­i­nal Big Band Swing is char­ac­ter­ized by a big band (hence the name!), with a solid rhythm sec­tion - drum set and per­cus­sion, pi­ano, up­right base and strings - backed by reed and horn/brass sec­tions. It fea­tures cho­ruses rather than lead vo­cal­ists, with promi­nence of solo in­stru­men­tal­ists - of­ten, the band leader him­self - lead­ing the mu­sic and “wing­ing it” out­side of this mu­si­cal struc­ture.

Revival swing re­places the orig­i­nal rhythm sec­tion with a rock band - drum kits and per­cus­sion and elec­tric gui­tars, but also keeps the pi­ano and up­right base, some­times the other strings, de­pend­ing on the size/style of band - still backed by reed and horn/brass sec­tions. It also still has the cho­ruses and in­stru­men­tal soloists – who are also the lead vo­cal­ists.

To start, the orig­i­nal “Swing Era” of the Amer­i­can mu­sic scene was, mainly, an evo­lu­tion of the “Roar­ing 20’s” big band mu­sic and the “Charleston” dance era (1923-1928) https://youtu.be/

yNAOHt­my4j0 [NOTE: the dancer at

1:37 is at Galveston’s famed Hol­ly­wood Din­ner Club – look it up.] Or how about a clip of the fab­u­lous Josephine Baker (if you don’t know who she was, well – too bad for you!) https://youtu. be/kr­p5b­liseHQ

The rec­og­nized “Swing Era” only ran from 1935 thru the WW II years. Benny Good­man is con­sid­ered the fore­run­ner - and big­gest name band­leader - of the swing era https://youtu.be/zBs9gZQX

7lQ , while nu­mer­ous bands – many with band lead­ers and mu­si­cians who played in Good­man’s band - fol­lowed him. Harry James, Gene Krupa, Zoot Sims, Buddy Greco, to name a few.

The “Jit­ter­bug” or “Jump” style of swing danc­ing swept Amer­ica - and the world - at that time, be­cause of the mu­sic! https://youtu.be/kAYrXXx­tPxs from the movie “Pri­vate Bucka­roo” in 1942. https://youtu.be/3tRFL4q5m7c - don’t know what movie this clip is from – still great danc­ing!

Sadly, for var­i­ous rea­sons, by the end of WW II the Amer­i­can mu­sic in­dus­try spurned the uni­fied Big Band swing style, and in the late 1940’s Jazz was the pre­dom­i­nate mu­sic choice.

In the mid-1950’s thru the early 1960’s, Big Band Mu­sic did make a resur­gence in pop­u­lar­ity, but it was gen­er­ally smaller “big” bands play­ing swing­ing pop and swing­ing jazz rather than clas­sic Big Band swing.

The fa­mous mu­si­cian band lead­ers had given way to cel­e­brated vo­cal­ists front men/women – Dean Martin, Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Rose­mary Clooney, Di­nah Shore, Peggy Lee, Perry Como, Frank Si­na­tra

https://youtu.be/1cPG1t52GgI et al. typ­i­fied this trend, and it pretty much

evolved into “Easy Lis­ten­ing” or just plain “Pop” mu­sic.

The only mu­sic style still truly ori­ented to­wards dance in the post war era be­came known as “Jump Blues” or “Jump Swing”, epit­o­mized al­most ex­clu­sively by Louis Prima https://youtu.

be/q4V8p­bg3rNU , Robert Kraft, and a very few other bands.

Which brings us to the 1990s, and the Amer­i­can Swing Revival. The Swing Revival - also called Retro Swing, New Swing, Neo-Swing, Elec­tro Swing and Mod­ern Swing - ac­tu­ally be­gan on the West Coast in 1989.

Wiki cites the Swing Revival be­gin­ning with the for­ma­tion of three bands in 1989: the Royal Crown Re­view (RCR) [who are no longer record­ing or tour­ing at this time] in Los Angeles, Cal­i­for­nia, quickly fol­lowed by Big Bad VooDoo Daddy (BBVD) http://www.

bbvd.com/ , also in Los Angeles, and the Cherry Pop­pin’ Dad­dies https://www.

dad­dies.com/ in Eu­gene, Ore­gon. My­self, I would give credit to the Brian Set­zer Or­ches­tra https://bri­anset­zer.

com/ , formed in 1990, and dis­count the Dad­dies en­tirely! The Dad­dies were rightly a punk/ska band and didn’t ac­tu­ally do swing un­til much later in their ca­reer – and at that, only 1 swing al­bum - although tech­ni­cally they did form up in 1989.

The Swing Revival quickly be­gan build­ing pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially with sev­eral bands ap­pear­ing in and do­ing movie ap­pear­ances and sound­tracks.

“Swing Kids” in 1993, although no mod­ern bands/mu­si­cians ex­cept Robert Kraft are cred­ited, the swing mu­sic it­self is the heart of the movie.

“The Mask” in 1994. Royal Crown Re­view played them­selves for Jim Carey and Cameron Diaz’s big dance scene

https://youtu.be/iqjq2s_bHPA and the Brian Set­zer Or­ches­tra also was on the sound­track https://youtu.be/homDF1t

DoQo . “Swingers” in 1996, por­trays, among other things, LA club life in the Swing Revival mu­sic scene, and Big Bad VooDoo Daddy ap­peared as them­selves in three dif­fer­ent scenes https://youtu.be/

iC8L1c6fCrI . “Blast from the Past” in 1999, Bren­don Fra­zier has a re­mark­able jit­ter­bug dance scene to “Mr. Zoot Suit” by In­grid Lu­cia and The Flying Neu­tri­nos (who were ac­tu­ally a jazz band) https://youtu.be/

O6O0ODM_9FE . Dur­ing the height of the Swing Revival move­ment, as with any other mu­sic style, there were dozens of bands form­ing, mor­ph­ing, fad­ing. Many of these bands are still out there to­day, though, mak­ing mu­sic, record­ing CDs and DVDs, tour­ing.

Just a few bands I have in my CD/ DVD col­lec­tion: RCR and BBVD (of course), the Dad­dies, Brian Set­zer, In­grid Lu­cia https://www.face­book. com/in­grid.lu­cia.75 (solo) and The Flying Neu­tri­nos, Bellevue Cadil­lac http://

doug­bell­mu­sic.tripod.com/bio.htm , Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skil­let Lick­ers www.lavay­smith.com/ , The Atomic Fire­balls https://www.face­book.

com/ TheA­tomicFire­balls/ , Set ‘Em Up Joe, Room­ful Of Blues https://www.

room­ful.com/ , Indigo Swing, Cigar Store In­di­ans, Big Sandy and his FlyRite Boys, Red And The Red Hots well, I guess you get the idea!

WARN­ING: Some few ar­ti­cles ago, I promised (or was it threat­ened?) to re­late an in­ci­dent re­gard­ing the time I crossed paths with a bunch of hoity-toity blue-nose types in a to­tally in­ap­pro­pri­ate set­ting at a con­cert. Here goes.

Many years ago, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy came to Hous­ton to play a spe­cial con­cert with the Hous­ton Sym­phony Or­ches­tra.

Now, I have seen BBVD nu­mer­ous times at club venues (mostly the House of Blues in Dal­las), and their con­certs ROCK!

Peo­ple of­ten show up in garb to their shows – Zoot suits and Fe­do­ras, bobby soxer out­fits, er­satz WW II mil­i­tary uni­forms, what have you!

And EV­ERY­BODY dances, hops, jit­ters and jives and has a BALL!

So, I guess I just never con­sid­ered the venue for THIS par­tic­u­lar con­cert – artsy-fancy Hous­ton High So­ci­ety Jones Hall, you know?

I bought my ticket well in ad­vance (very good seat, too, cen­ter, low front!), and wear a VERY taste­ful Zoot Suit with a big Fe­dora – the ONLY ONLY ONLY one dressed AP­PRO­PRI­ATELY in the whole hall!

Ev­ery­one else there is in TUXEDOS, GOWNS, SUITS, COCK­TAIL DRESSES – stand­ing in the lobby drink­ing wine and mar­ti­nis (OK, as­sum­ing the drinks – I don’t know what the Jones Hall re­fresh­ment coun­ters ac­tu­ally sell – but that seemed likely!)

The con­cert starts – BBVD is their usual as­tound­ing self, jiv­ing and wail­ing – and the con­cert hall is like a freak­ing fu­neral! NOTH­ING!

Then I look over at the lady sit­ting be­side me – sweet lit­tle lady in her – let’s say “blue-haired se­nior years” – and I no­tice that she’s pat­ting her hands on her knees in time to the mu­sic!

Fi­nally – some­one in this hall who GOT IT! Who GOT the mu­sic!

Tried to get her to get up and dance with me, but she wouldn’t – darn it! I bet we could have re­ally swung the joint!

I mean, WHY would these peo­ple come to a con­cert where they didn’t plan to have a good time and be en­ter­tained? I didn’t – and still don’t – get it!

Any­way, Revival Swing, New Swing, Neo-Swing, Retro Swing, Elec­tro Swing, what­ever you call it, is still alive and jump­ing! Try some! [NOTE: BBVD will be at the Texan Theater, Greenville, TX Oct 8th. Brian Set­zer Or­ches­tra will be play­ing the Arena Theater, Hous­ton Dec 10th.]

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