"Original" music West Coast Swing was danced to

Steve Pastor

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#41
Since we touched on jump blues earlier in the tread...
Neither Robert Palmer (Deep Blues, Rock and Roll - an Unruly History) nor Lawrence Cohn uses the term West Coast Blues. They both use the term jump blues, however. On page 221 of "Deep Blues" Palmer writes "They were cocky of themselves, with their shiny instruments and their encyclopedic knowledge of the latest jump blues sound from Texas and California and New York.
Since I was writing about LA, West Coast Blues would have been appropriate. But, I think most people don't understand what "jump blues" is. I didn't until quite recently, and after a lot of reading and listening. West Coast Blues would be a sub genre of jump blues, if jump blues was being played in more places than the West Coast, no?
(And yes, I realize I am sort of inverting the logic I used with the r&b and blues agrument. "Excessive consistency...")
 
#42
Okay, so we are talking from different paradigms... I tend to discount most of what record labels and execs say as being nothing more than positioning and targeting. I listen to the musicians, critics, and most importantly ehtnomusicologists.

Rhythm & Blues is viewed by the academics and musicians I've interviewed as having evolved out of Jump Blues in the 40's and created the foundation for Rock-n-Roll. It has a more striped down instrumentation, a heavy backbeat with Blues progression chord changes. Its emphasis on the lyrics and voice of the singer rather than the improvisation of the musicians.

What is now titled R&B (as often refered to as Rhythm & Beat as it does Rhythm & Blues) is a very different thing, but it is the inheritor of the old style with a very modern Hip-Hop influence.

The term "rhythm and blues" was coined as a musical marketing term in the United States in 1947 by Jerry Wexler at ''Billboard'' magazine. Sacks, Leo (Aug. 29, 1993). "The Soul of Jerry Wexler". ''New York Times''. Retrieved from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE7D7163BF93AA1575BC0A965958260 on Jan. 11, 2007. It replaced the term "race music" (which originally came from within the black community, but was deemed offensive in the more positive postwar world Cohn, Lawrence: "Nothing But the Blues" page 314, 1993), and the Billboard category ''Harlem Hit Parade'' in June 1949.
In 1948, RCA Victor was marketing music under the name ''Blues and Rhythm''. The words were reversed by Wexler of Atlantic Records, the leading label in the R&B field in the early years. Sacks, Leo (Aug. 29, 1993). "The Soul of Jerry Wexler". ''New York Times''. Retrieved from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE7D7163BF93AA1575BC0A965958260 on Jan. 11, 2007.
In ''Rock & Roll: An Unruly History'' (1995) Robert Palmer defines "rhythm and blues" as a catchall rubric used to refer to any music that was made by and for black Americans. In his 1981 book ''Deep Blues'' Palmer used "R&B" as a synonym for jump blues. Lawrence Cohn, author of ''Nothing but the Blues'', writes that rhythm and blues was an umbrella term invented for industry convenience, which embraced all black music except classical music and religious music, unless a gospel song sold enough to break into the charts.

So, during the late 40s, early 50s Rhythm and Blues included Blues.
The meaning of the term r&b has evolved over the years, however.
To me, if you are discussing that period, and you write r&b and blues, you are being redundant. Others may not think so.

But, yes, I agree, r&b grew out of blues. But later, blues came out of r&b to stand on its own as something to be "marketed", even though it was the same thing all along.
 
#43
Since we touched on jump blues earlier in the tread...
Neither Robert Palmer (Deep Blues, Rock and Roll - an Unruly History) nor Lawrence Cohn uses the term West Coast Blues. They both use the term jump blues, however. On page 221 of "Deep Blues" Palmer writes "They were cocky of themselves, with their shiny instruments and their encyclopedic knowledge of the latest jump blues sound from Texas and California and New York.
That is probably due to the inherent difference of view between serious hardcore fans (Palmer, who does have a background in Soul, Pop, & Rock) and a Music Company exec (Cohn) and ethnomusicologists. I'm constantly torn when it comes to sources, who you give more weight to. Palmer is verging on a educated historian level, and Cohn is certainly very knowledgable given his focus and artists he has worked with, but ethnomusicologists have both a broader and more defined view or the music, its cultural/historical context and what defines music of what genre, and the sub-genres it contains from other forms.

When it comes to "text-book" definitions of what is what and gave rise to something else,I'll go with the Ethnomusicologist every time. When it comes to describing the spirit or history of specific artists I'll go with the critics and historians.

The quote you have above is almost certainly accurate for a large part of the Jump Blues musicians of the time, but is not as accurate as it could be concerning who was playing what in what style and the cultural context. Then again Palmer certainly wasn't writing an academic paper or doctoral dissertation, he was writing a book that was aimed at fans, both casual and serious, and it is a pretty well written and researched book. I enjoyed it quite a bit and learned a whole lot from it.

Since I was writing about LA, West Coast Blues would have been appropriate. But, I think most people don't understand what "jump blues" is. I didn't until quite recently, and after a lot of reading and listening. West Coast Blues would be a sub genre of jump blues, if jump blues was being played in more places than the West Coast, no?
(And yes, I realize I am sort of inverting the logic I used with the r&b and blues agrument. "Excessive consistency...")
Well yes and no, Jump Blues is the sub-genre of Blues, and West Coast Blues is a sub-genre of Jump Blues, as are Rhythm & Blues, Piano Blues, Jazz Blues, and St. Louis Blues... but not because Jump Blues was played in a wider area than West Coast Blues, but because it is a specific kind of instrumentation and set of cultural influences that combined together from the preceeding general form of Jump Blues.

The classification system in the most generalized form breaks down like this: you have one defined style of music, as musicians proceed to make changes within the form one of four things happens,
1) It is used for a song or album or a brief period of time by the musician or group and then it gives way to something new or in favor of the more established style
2) It becomes that musician or groups signature style
3) The changes become popular enough that other musicians and groups pick it up and it becomes a sub-genre.
4) The changes become popular enough and major enough that other musicians and groups pick it up and it becomes its own style on equal footing with the style that spawned it.

So West Coast Blues is a sub-genre of Jump Blues because while a LOT of musicians and groups in and outside of the West Coast picked it up, the changes that had been made stayed within the definitions of Jump Blues.

In some cases regional styles gain such popularity that they spawn sub-genres that have a more generalized name... a great example is East Coast Blues... which Jump Blues was originally a sub-genre.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#45
A while ago d nice wrote the following:
"Western Swing has a little of what defines Swing Jazz, it has the swung 16th note, but it is played in a very straight ahead manner, more in keeping of Glenn Miller (a Pop Big Band) than Benny Goodman (a Swing Big Band)."
Last night I had a thought that connected this observation with the fact that West Coast Swing doesn't "swing" like Lindy Hop (for that I once again rely on d nice and others).
So, couldn't this to some extent account for the spin off from Lindy that was originally called Western Swing?
Just thinkin' out loud here.
 
#46
No, West Coast Swing the dance swings just fine when done by good dancers to appropriate music... it wasn't until it started being danced to pop music that it started loosing the swing... John Festa wrote a nice article about it... You can check his Blog if it isn't on here somewhere.
 

Steve Pastor

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#47
I finally found Festa's essay.
http://swing-dancer.com/page.php?9

"West Coast Swing today has no essence, no single indispensable characteristic that defines it and delineates it from what is not WCS."

"It is a distinct possibility that the divergent music has led to this end. We used to dance to faster syncopated tempi. At these tempi, an astute connection between partners was essential. The dance would not work without it. The laws of physics are perfect. Dancing to 80 beats per week does not require this connection. When we west coast swing dancers years back began dancing to ‘other than’ music, we brought with us that connection that was engrained. It was in our bodies. We were swinging to non-swing music. Even at slow tempi. Because that’s how we danced."

If you go to his site at http://www.swingislove.com/ you will read that he "was introduced to West Coast Swing around 1990-1991. Nevertheless he uses "we" when writing about the days when swing was danced to swing music. Maybe that was the very early 1990s. By my calculation forty years passed between 1951 and 1991. He mentions no dates in his essay.

Um, and I disagree with him that "One would be hard pressed to name the one quality that ‘determines its (West Coast Swing) character’."

Maybe there's something else I should be looking for?
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#48
I wanted to repost this in this thread so that anyone interested can follow. Tangotime's original posts can be seen here http://www.dance-forums.com/showthread.php?t=16521&page=3

You are correct on your assumption about the Hill billy type of music in use for teaching, although , again ,there were other contempories that were in use .
The one that always springs to mind is Bill Black .
His influences, to my mind, were somewhere between r and r and blues. His sound was unique, but , to my mind one of the best .
I also remember a song that was very popular at the time , Green Onions
Here,s some to consider --- dates are bit hazy, but close--
50s / 60s .
Katie Webster -- Black satin ( also done by Bill Black )fantastic
Kenny Neal---- Early one mornin
Robert Lucas-- Built for comfort
Smokin Joe Kubek--- Natural born lover
Johnny Adams ----- Imitation of love
70s
B.B. King---- Rock me baby
Bee Gees---- Jive Talk
Wilson Pickett-- Mustang Sally
80s
B.B.King / E. Clapton--- Riding with the King
Aver. White band---- Cut the Cake
M . Jackson----- Way you make me feel
The early songs seem to have a more bluesey feel about them , and have that " lazy " feel , that really speaks to w.c.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#49
And now, we bring you samples from Bill Black's Combo.
http://www.amazon.com/Best-Bill-Blacks-Combo-Records/dp/B00005AVLJ
They played the first one - "Smokie Part 2" - in the movie "The Teenage Millionaire". Note that that was in 1961. Bill Black played slap bass for Elvis Presley from the time of Elvis's first Sun recording in 1954 until ??? Well, it was a few years at least. By 1961 he was playing an electric bass guitar.
Hey, look and listen - "Tequilla".
"Little Queenie" originally by Chuck Berry http://www.lyricsdepot.com/chuck-berry/little-queenie.html
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#50
Hi Steve-- love his phrase " a distinct connection etc. ". this speaks to someone who has little knowledge of teaching. EVERY dance requires that !
Its called "leading ! "

The morphing of musical trends is not unique to w.c., it has happened to several popular dances , and hundreds that most have never heard of . That does not mean to say, we should reject the positions, or the dances , from which they emerged .

If one looks at the speed of the music in the forties, that " Bop " -- Jitterbug " and " Lindy " were danced to ,you would see there is a great variety of speed , mainly in up tempo . The style of dances that were being done ,and the steps therein , were more than compatible with that music .

To go to the other end of that spectrum, the bluesey types of music which was being played, was certainly more preferred to dance ,and teach to ,in past yrs ( 50s/ 60,/70s ) and the style of w.c. was far more adaptable to those speeds. To my mind, that is the " essence " of the dance .

I am well aware , that many people prefer more up tempo songs, and thats their choice .
 
#51
If you go to his site at http://www.swingislove.com/ you will read that he "was introduced to West Coast Swing around 1990-1991. Nevertheless he uses "we" when writing about the days when swing was danced to swing music. Maybe that was the very early 1990s. By my calculation forty years passed between 1951 and 1991. He mentions no dates in his essay.
Right...he was introduced to WCS (as a name of a swing dance style) about that time...he had been dancing swing since he was a child. I say swing and not lindy hop or WCS, because that's what it was -- he wasn't specific to one style and was not aware of a specific name for the smoother slotted style that he prefered. Festa is a very well respected WCS DJ, he DJs for Lindy and WCS dances and hosts his own mixed dance that plays music suitable for both styles. He's also been inducted into the Living Legends of Dance and was the National Swing DJ of the Year in 2004, teaches nationally and has partnered with Blake Hobby (a US Open Champion) and taught other nationally recognized professional WCS dancers (Hazel Mede-Ulrich). I'd say that despite a lack of dates in the article, he has a pretty good idea of what he's talking about. The article is dealing more with the concern that straight count pop has taken over much of the WCS community.

The early songs seem to have a more bluesey feel about them , and have that " lazy " feel , that really speaks to w.c.
Nonsense, if you re-read Festa's article you'd notice that WCS was orginally danced to faster tempos. Slow speed for WCS use to be around 120bpm, it is now closer to 80bpm and the average speed heard at most dances is 120bpm. WCS being danced to lazy blues is incorrect...there is a wide variety of styles within the blues genre, many appropriate for WCS, that are not "lazy". Sarah Van Drake and Kyle Redd's US Open winning "How Long Can A Fool Go On" routine was anything but lazy blues. That kind of tempo was not regulated just to the competition floor.

Also, I would suggest watching the US Open retrospective to get a good idea of how the dance has changed over time. It's original form is much more similar to Lindy than you seem to realize. The US Open became an official event (although it's history is older) in 1983, Mary Ann Nunez and Lance Shermoen won the first two years -- with routines choreographed by Dean Martin -- a lindy hopper.* The similarity of the two swing styles is extremely clear.
 
#52
Ok, I did a little more research and Dean only choreographed 1/2 of Mary Ann and Lance's first routine.....I went right to the source and asked her.

But regardless, there is still a connection to Lindy Hop and that routine and the second (Choreographed by Kenny Wetzel) have a very distinct look that resembles Lindy.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#53
Leftfeetsync:
If you have a link to that event, I'll try to watch it. If there is no url...

Last night at "my" country western place we had a new dj. Apparently he hasn't yet been told "we only play country here" because here came "I'm a Man". I'm not sure who's version it was. It wasn't Bo Diddley's. I was talking to someone I hadn't danced with before, although I've seen her for quite a while. I asked her to dance West Coast, and she said, "We can't dance to this." I said, "Sure we can". And we did. First she was getting a bit ahead of the music, since it's pretty slow. Then she caught on.
What makes dancing West Coast to a slow blues like that interesting, is using the tension in the music to move slowly, then "explode" into a series of turns, an 8 count Whip, etc. Just dancing slowly, with all of the tension in the slowness is great. But both partners have to be on that page, and develop the tension in their movement. Even a Sugar Push can feel really good when it's to a sustained note that slides upward, something that happened frequently in this piece of music.
This dance felt really good, and I hope to dance with this woman again. She seemed pretty pleased, too. I do not accept that it is "wrong" to dance WCS to slow blues. It certainly has a different feel than when it is danced fast. But that is true with many other dances, too.
I really like to do West Coast to fast songs, too. The problem there is finding someone who can dance that fast. Which leads into...
It's a fine thing to say, they danced faster back then. When I first learned WCS one of the songs the instructors used a lot was "Black Velvet". Talk about slow. But, we were learning something new. It would have been crazy to expect us to dance fast at the beginning. As I got better, I was able to dance at faster speeds. Often people associate the songs used in their lessons with the dance, and that's what they dance it to. I think this is one reason that people make a connection between slower songs and WCS.
You are right, of course, that there are blues of many kinds. That's why I don't find it particularly enlightening for someone to say "they danced to blues". This is true for many of the "genres" of music we dance to.
Unless I've read wrong, Tangotime had been dancing and teaching since the 60s or 50s. Since I am interested in the very early history of the dance music that was used (read original, as early as the days of when it was called Western Swing, and even before Lauire wrote down a description), I think he has something valuable to add to this discussion.
I hope anyone who has good information on this topic will contribute to the discussion.
 
#54
I didn't say slow blues was wrong for WCS. Just that it's not always the case...some of your earlier posts have that implication that WCS should be only done to slow blues.

Additionally, I'd question any instructor teaching WCS to slow tempos. The appropriate connection required is often difficult to learn, just as dancing to fast tempos takes time to be comfortable at. One needs to understand connection at a basic level before slowing it down. Momentum can assist the connection at a faster tempo, where as a much more active roll is needed to connect and settle at a slower tempo. Both have specific technique that a beginner dancer isn't ready for. A good teacher should be using a medium tempo for beginner students.

If you want an understanding of early WCS, I would talk to Peter Loggins. He's a jazz dance historian (WCS included) and knew many of the old timers who were active in the shaping of it. You might want to look up his website and read the article on the history of the whip.

The US Open retrospective is not available online, it was a DVD put together by the organization showing the winning routine from each year. No one has put the clips on youTube or Google video yet. As for Kyle and Sarah's routine, it's is on youTube, but takes some time to find.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#55
I've corresponded with Peter regarding Dean Collins. A careful read of Peter's article on Dean at http://www.caljazzdance.com/biodeancollins.html shows no mention of West Coast Swing. But that doesn't prevent most web sites srom stating that Dean started it all.
And that's the problem with what most people have written so far. Nobody presents anything that can be verified. (Oh, I have this book, but it's stored away.) Maybe some of this stuff was written once, and just copied.
Even "first hand" accounts can be notoriously inaccurate. (Look into the contrast between how many people said they were Vietnam vets on the US census vs. how many the military records show.)
If people have material that documents some of this stuff, I wish they would make it available on line. I've asked a few people to share, and I never hear from them again.
I wish someone had already written a good history of WCS. On the other hand, trying to figure out what really happened when is very rewarding.
West Coast Swing was first "documented" in 1951 based on dancing in the LA area in the 1940s. I think most people have no idea what kind of music was popular there and then. 60 years is a very long time in popular culture in this country. And, things were a lot more regionalized then. It's hard for most of us to imagine.

I think TangoTime wrote something I agree with... And I think d nice wrote something similar. West Coast Swing started as a subset of all the movment that goes on in Lindy. Dancers in movies from the 40s and 50s do WCS like slotted moves. But then dance a circular pattern and end up 90 degrees from the direction they started. Then do a bunch of other stuff. So, yeah, the Lindy connection is pretty clear.

Oh, and there you have the distinguishing characteristic of West Coast Swing. It is mostly a slotted dance with the woman walking toward the man while the man stays in place.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#56
Back on the subject of "Original music", I think this gives some insight into the period between the Big Bands and Rock 'n' Roll.
"In 1951 and 1952 the Burnette's and Burlison played around Memphis and established a reputation for wild music. They played with Doc McQueen's Swing Band at the Hideaway Club but hated the type of music played by "chart musicians." Soon they broke away and began playing their energetic brand of rockabilly to small, but appreciative, local audiences. They wrote "Rock Billy Boogie," while working at the Hideaway."
http://www.rockabillyhall.com/PaulBurlison.html
Memphis is a long way from LA, but to me this confirms that musical styles coexisted during those early years of what was then called "Western Swing".
And, I know this doesn't prove anything, but BR549 did write the lyric (and yes, they wrote these when ? in the 80s or 90s) "she's drinking Blue Ribbon and jitterbuggin' to that Honky Tonkin' beat".
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#57
I dont have to read festas book-- Have been dancing ( as a child ) since 1936 and teaching since 51 ( still at it ) .

I worked in the a / m studios in LA in 60/ 61 and 63. Every studio that was in that region ( 32 in all ) most decidedly used slower type rhythms . How do I know ? we had regional dance contests , and thats the music that was played !

That is not to say that some prefered faster tempos .

I,ve seen the "speed " of most of the popular dances change, and everyone who suddenly commences to teach, or dance, believes that the rhythm they are dancing to, is the correct one .In many cases, the DANCE isnt even the same !!. What people dance to, is always very subjective , but that is not really the issue . The q is what was popular for the general public to dance to . Unless someone did a survey , there is no definitive answer. However, it would seem to me, that the leading dance org. in the country, would have promoted a " new " dance to their syllabus at the " wrong? " speed .

Laurie Haille, has also been inducted into the hall of fame-- but as a teacher and innovator in dance. I will be more inclined to go with that line of thought , than a musicians any day of the week !

As nearly all teachers will tell you, musicians sure know a lot about music-- but havent a clue( as a general rule ) about teaching dance !!

Lastly , I am not getting into a pissing contest on he said she said ; can only speak to my experience .
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#59
This is a follow up on the mixed musical styles theme, such as swing being played by one band, then rockabilly by the next band as in Memphis in the 1950s.
There is at least one written account of dancing West Coast Swing in Seattle, WA in the very early 1950s. http://www.seattlewcswing.org/site/staticpages/index.php/ssdchistory#Myrna_Lamkin
Last Saturday I went the the Experience Music Project in Seattle (2.5 to ??? hours depending on traffic).
The very first exhibit I stopped at had information about the music scene on Jackson Street in Seattle in the late 1940s. As I remember this part of the story, this was on the border between neighborhoods that were primarily segregated by race. Both Quincey Jones and Ray Charles were playing there at the time, as portrayed in the film "Ray".
There is a looping "video" with excerpts from interviews with both Quincey Jones and Ray Charles, among others.
Did I hear Quincey Jones say they played schottiches and polkas? I took notes, and that is exactly what he said, as well as "Clair de Lune" and Good Rockin Tonight and Be Bop and R&B.
I think we all have this notion that they played this, and they danced that. But to me it looks like "they" didn't play just one thing, and they probably didn't just dance "that".
 

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