Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Transmissions from a distant galaxy....
"If the lighter side of rap and hip hop's wordplay and rhyme has a spiritual father, he might be Slim Gaillard (1916–1991, shown here at the right), the great jazzman and scat artist of the 1930s and 1940s, whose nonsense syllables and quick-witted and humorous rhymes can be heard as echoes in the raps of De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, and A Tribe Called Quest. Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, Gaillard was raised in Detroit and New York City. As half of the jazz duo Slim & Slam, Gaillard developed his own hip argot, a musical vocabulary of wildly colliding nonsense syllables and the surprise of unexpected rhyme Gaillard called "vout." Armed with it, a quick wit, and an ability to scat with the best, Gaillard produced hits like "Chicken Rhythm," "Flat Foot Floogie," and "Cement Mixer." Though he was not as famous as Cab Calloway or Scatman Crothers, Gaillard's comic derring-do and hip personal style made him a cult favorite among jazz listeners and fans of scat for generations to come." - (Oxford African American Studies Center)
"Transmissions from a distant galaxy..." is how I feel about this video I just found on Youtube thanks to the most recent Punmaster mailing (you should subscribe to their Music Wire mailings).
Slim Gaillard is one of those black musicians from the first half of the 20th Century who has obscure origins -- he was either born in Cuba, or in Florida, or maybe Detroit. Gaillard first rose to prominence in the late 1930s as part of Slim & Slam, a jazz novelty act he formed with bassist Slam Stewart. Their hits included "Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)", "Cement Mixer (Puti Puti)" and the hipster anthem, "The Groove Juice Special (Opera in Vout)". The duo performs in the 1941 movie Hellzapoppin'.
In penning his biggest hit, "Flat Foot Floogie," the sly Gaillard perpetrated a monumentally mischievous prank on the American pop music public. The whole first line read: "Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy." As it happen, a flat-foot floozie (Galliard substitutes "floogie) in the African American slang of the period is defined as a streetwalking prostitute and, in the same lexicon, the floy floy is defined as gonorrhea.
In other words, America was unwittingly singing along to a song celebrating a streetwalker carrying the clap.*
This video was aired on Michelob Presents Night Music, a late-night television show from 1988 and showcase for jazz and eclectic musical artists hosted by Jools Holland.
* From Wikipedia.