Miscellany From The West

It may have been news to many that there was a trace of jazz left anywhere on AM radio, but that doesn’t make a report from Los Angeles easier to take. Here’s the lead paragraph from Kirk Silsbee’s story in today’s L.A. Times.

A silence has descended on Los Angeles’ AM radio band. On April 2, KABC’s longtime morning man, Doug McIntyre (pictured), acquiesced to his management’s request that he no longer program jazz. Although he hosts a current events show 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays, McIntyre represented the last vestige of AM jazz, with his variety of big band bumper music, full songs and on-air interviews of jazz personalities.

The station apparently sees jazz as hindering its bid for a wider audience. In its place, rock music now serves as McIntyre’s bumper music.

To read the whole story of the corporate karate chop to jazz, go here.

Staying with Los Angeles, archivist Jim Harrod has a new blog devoted to the history of Pacific Jazz, the Southern California label that did much to make west coast jazz famous. The two installments so far profile Richard Bock, who founded the label. They cover Bock’s early involvement with Discovery Records, his work at the club called Haig and the advent of Pacific Jazz. There are photographs of Dizzy Gillespie, Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes and others, pages from PJ catalogs and lots of record labels, like the one on the right, that are likely to induce ripples of nostalgia. To see Harrod’s most recent post, click here. Scroll down to part one to get to the early history.

Before Bock moved to Los Angeles, before west coast jazz became a category, there was plenty of substantial jazz activity on the lower left coast. On the periphery of much of it, and sometimes at the center, was the pianist, guitarist, singer and protohipster Slim Gaillard (1916-1991). He had a duo, Slim and Slam, with bassist Slam Stewart. In 1938, the success of their “Flat Foot Floogie” made them famous on radio and jukeboxes. If you can’t bring Gaillard to mind, think “vout” and “oroony,” words that enriched the language. Gaillard moved to L.A. in the early 1940s, appeared in several movies and played in clubs including Billy Berg’s. His musicianship and verve attracted artists beyond the arena of novelty and comedy in which he primarily operated. They included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, who appeared as guest soloists on a few of Gaillard’s recordings, including this one.

Here is Slim Gaillard as guest performer on a television program, presumably in L.A. If you have more information about it let us know by way of a comment.

Vout!

Finally in this west coast wig bubble, here’s a link to a piece from Oregon Music News, written by old pal Jack Berry, who was desperate for a column idea.

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Comments

  1. says

    I had the pleasure of working a couple weeks with Slim in the early 1980’s at Parnell’s in Seattle. He sang, played guitar, almost never made it though a whole song, without stopping to tell a story and take a swig of the long neck Budweisers he had on stage. One night he set up a grill on stage and cooked hamburgers….

    What a character – Jay and Marv Thomas have even more stories.

  2. Andrew Dowd says

    Thanks for the link to the Pacific Jazz history website. Fascinating information and I will keep checking it. Of all the greatest jazz record labels, Pacific Jazz has always been my favorite. I have amassed a nice collection of original Pacific Jazz LPs over the years, including all of the Gerald Wilson Orchestra LPs and all of the Jazz Crusaders LPs, and I treasure all of them. I also have a copy of a 1956 promo LP titled “Flavors of Pacific Jazz” that is shown on Jim Harrod’s website, and one side has Frank Evans introducing the artists on the current Pacific Jazz roster. Great stuff for my radio show!

  3. Terence Smith says

    Chuck, when you said Gaillard almost never made it through a whole song, I remembered reading a great book by Bill Crow, in which he remembers playing with Slim, and Slim remarking, I could have been really good on the guitar, but ” when things get to where they’re okay, I quit working on them”, then pointing to his half-painted amplifier which he never got around to making ” look nice.”

    Why finsh, when everything is a big Orooni anyway?

    Somewhere in “ON THE ROAD,” Jack Kerouac is remembered saying, “The whole world is one big Orooni to Slim.” Cement mixer, putti-putti!

    I have a response to Andrew: weren’t there two early-sixties Clare Fischer trio albums on Pacific Jazz? I heard these GREAT LPs (Surging Ahead, First Time out) but do not have them, don’t think they are on CD, and have noticed they are really expensive collector’s items, but well worth—

    PS- God bless Richard Bock for recording Brubeck with Paul Desmond live in the early fifties. I’m gonna dig out the Wilshire-Ebell on CD, who needs radio? And I would dearly love to hear Bock’s unissued Brubeck & Desmond, which must exist–

    • says

      I went to England with Slim in 81 or 82…Slim basically settled there on this trip. We played all over England , Scotland and Wales. Alastair Robertson recorded us at the end of the tour and the record was Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere. It had a track called, “It’s OK in the UK”…Slim had Buddy Tate and Jay McShann on the date and it was quite fun. When we flew to England, Slim had a whole drum set with him….only hoops….no heads or hardware or cymbals…so we land at Heathrow and all of a sudden it is a long long wait because Slim had some immigration problems…ahem…never did find out what the trouble was but we finally got on our way in two London cabs because of the drums.

      The drummer and I went to some digs above the club where we were opening… and Slim went to his hotel. That was another problem…when Slim arrived at the upscale hotel they all of a sudden did not have a reservation for him…I think when they saw him with his shopping bag full of unraveled cassette tapes and other items, and they got nervous. Anyway, when we got to the opening night, the audience was packed with famous people…John Mayall and Annie Ross and others. Slim gave me the key to a car he had parked in a hotel parking lot. The car did not run. Ha. But it was full of tool chests and tools…Slim could fix things and often worked as a handy man. In one of the tool boxes he had scripts he had auditioned for in Hollywood. I got a copy of an old resume…it read…Slim Gaillard 185 pounds – solid muscle…that’s how it started. It listed championship tennis, pro baseball – pitched no hitter—hmmmm—and said weight lifting – 1000 lbs. Then it went on to say he had been a member of the Black Eagle Squadron in WWII until he had to bail out of a plane with shrapnel in his leg…and said,”just ask Percy Heath!”

      To say Slim was a character would be putting it mildly…and he was one of the most naturally gifted musicians ever. He could sing really good…knew a lot of Latin percussion stuff and as Herb Ellis said to me…could “play some Rhythm changes on guitar.” Herb was not one to go around dishing out compliments.

      In the book On the Road he was in San Fransisco and Neal Cassady and Jack Kerourac thought he was a god!! I like to think of him as somebody you might meet in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I actually have a lot more stories. Some I can share and some I can’t! Ha.

      • Doug Ramsey says

        Mr. Thomas’s trumpet and assorted reed instruments can be heard with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and in clubs and concert halls in the US and, often, Japan. His website is worth a visit.

  4. Mick Davis (Shropshire, England) says

    It should also be mentioned that Slim had the ability to play the piano with his hands turned over, thus using the backs of his fingers to depress the keys. He was larger than life, and clearly a great original: musician, actor, composer, raconteur (though he did exhibit something of a Baron Munchhausen syndrome in his story-telling) but as an all-round entertainer he stood head and shoulders over many of his more famous contemporaries. A wonderful human being who brought great fun and lots of colour to the world.