THE SWING REVIVAL
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.]