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The Story Is Told

When Jazz Came To London In 1919

'The next morning British newspaper reporters crowded the dressing room doorway. What is jazz? What does it sound like? What does the word mean? The London Daily News of April 4, 1919, reported as follows:

".... as to the word "jazz", the bandsmen rejected both the current explanations. They will not have it that the word is of Red Indian origin, or that "jazz so" is a term of praise in the dialect of the Negroes of the southern states. The word was invented by someone in Chicago ... it is possibly a purely onomatopoeic expression ...'

... The Original Dixieland Jazz Band opened at the Hippodrome in the musical review "Joy Bells" on April 7, appearing in a specvially staged cafe scene. The ovation following their first number was deafening ..... That night when the curtain came down, George Roby, the star comedian of the show, approached (producer) DeCourville in a seething rage and served his ultimatum: Roby or the jazz band would have to go - ... And so it was that the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was pertmanently removed from the cast of "Joy Bells" after an engagement that lasted exactly one night.

Town Topics, in its issue of April 12, conjured up an explanation of the mysterious disappearance .... "presumably on account of that ubiquitous complaint, influenza ..." Especially fascinating to Town Topics was the use of solo 'breaks' during ensemble choruses as this reporter goes on to explain: "At one moment, the whole orchestra would down tools while one member tootled merrily or eerily on his own account, and the whole would resume again, always ready to give a fair hearing to any other individual player who suddenly developed a 'stunt' ...."


... Tony Sbarbaro recalls with a chuckle that every Bristish orchestra at that time used two drummers, one for the bass drum and one for the snare. It is easy to understand, then, how the London Daily News seemed so obsessed with Tony's drum installation: "The trap drummer who plays the big drum with his feet and a side drum, the cymbals, and heaven knows what besides, is the most important man of them all .."

A distinguished patron haunted the Dixieland Band wherever they went. Lord Donegall, a close friend of the Prince of Wales, became fanatically interested in their music and even arranged a command performance before King George ...


The curious musicians were carefully scrutinized by the gathering of British nobility who stared through their lorgnettes, according to LaRocca, "as though there were bugs on us." ...

La Rocca stamped his foot twice and the little group exploded into its steaming version of "Tiger Rag" ... The royal audience, perhaps having expected a polite form of chamber music, appeared petrified at the onset ... at the conclusion of the number, after an embarrassing silence, his majesty laughed his approval and began to applaud energetically, followed respectfully by his loyal but badly frightened entourage. The encore, "Ostrich Walk", was received with somewhat less tension.'

From The Story Of The Original Dixieland Jazz Band by H.O. Brunn.

You will see that the Victor record says "For Dancing" and that the tune is a "One Step".

Here is a video from 1915 on how to dance the One Step.

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