Looking for the earliest Slim Gaillard clip I could find, I came across a sequence from Olsen and Johnson’s manic 1941 hit movie Hellzapoppin’. Gaillard plays piano and guitar, with his constant companion of the period, the great Slam Stewart, on bass. Among the several dozen uncredited musicians and dancers is the Duke Ellington cornetist Rex Stewart, done up in a cook’s outfit. If anyone can identify the clarinetist, trombonist and drummer, please send a comment. You’ll see some of the most aggressive jitterbugging ever filmed, but keep your ears open to the jam session that inspires the dancers. The funny little man in the opening scene is Hugh Herbert.

They don’t make them like this anymore. How could they?

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  1. Steve Voce says

    Wasn’t the trombonist Alton ‘Slim’ Moore? And the drummer Zutty Singleton? The dancers were The Harlem Congaroo troupe.
    Steve Voce

  2. Peter Levin says

    according to a couple of Internet sources (reliability not guaranteed):
    Slim Gaillard – piano, guitar
    Slam Stewart – bass
    Rex Stewart – cornet
    Elmer Fane – clarinet
    Jap Jones – trombone
    Cee Pee Johnson – drums
    From one source:
    “An interesting sidenote: Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers’ routine in Hellzapoppin’ was originally danced and choreographed to different music, namely ‘Jumping at the Woodside’. Universal Studios had a composer who was on staff write new music for the routine.”
    Harlem Congaroo Dancers (aka Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers):
    William Downes (overalls) and Frances “Mickey” Jones (maid).
    Norma Miller and Billy Ricker (chef’s hat).
    Al Minns (white coat, black pants) and Willa Mae Ricker.
    Ann Johnson (maid)
    Frankie Manning (overalls).
    Frankie Manning (who is 94) is still alive:

  3. Eric Felten says

    What a great clip. From what I’ve been able to find, the trombone player is Jasper “Jap” Jones, who was one of the original Blue Devils. Around 1945-46, he played in Johnny Otis’ band. It would be worth trying to find out more about him — he sounds terrific.

  4. Tom King says

    Your Rifftides item on Slim got me playing my LPs of his (as well as enjoying again the clips of him that I have on a DVD called The Small Black Groups).
    Regarding the other musicians, the liner notes on Hep LP6 (by a German) mention that in “Hellzapoppin’,” he appeared with Rex Stewart, Buster Bailey, Vic Dickenson and Sonny Greer. I will have to have another viewing of the clip linked from Rifftides, but the drummer looked somewhat like Scatman Crothers, although the liking for the tympani was certainly a Greer factor.