Posts Tagged 1940′s
The members of the Mint Julep Jazz Band are beyond excited about having our album, “Durham on Saturday Night,” ready for you to listen to and enjoy!
We hope that you will join us at G2B Gastro Pub on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 for our CD release party from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. – we’ll be playing a mix of tracks from the CD and classic swing music, and the band will take the stage at 9:30 p.m. for an hour-long set. If you’d like to eat dinner, they are recommending that you make a reservation; if you’d just like to snack, drink, or hang out, come as you are!
We’ll have plenty of CDs on hand for sale and we’ll also have our Kickstarter rewards available if you designated local pickup.
If you can’t make it to the CD release party, never fear! We should have the album available on iTunes and CD Baby for digital download by May 8 and will have distribution of physical copies of the CD through CD Baby sometime in the near future. You will also be able to pick up the CD at any of our upcoming shows.
For our Kickstarter supporters who are out of town and opted for mailing your rewards, we will begin shipping the CD as soon as we have it in hand, but it may take a few weeks to get all the rewards where they need to go.
Thanks again to all of our supporters, Kickstarter backers, Jamie Wolcott for her amazing cover art, Jason Richmond for both the recording and the mastering, and our maestro Lucian Cobb for the mix. We hope you love it!
This month the Mint Julep Quintet is performing in Durham three Fridays in a row! If you haven’t made it out to see our small group yet, you’ll have plenty of chances:
January 18 at G2B Gastro Pub
We’re returning for our monthly engagement at this fine establishment that straddles the line between modern gourmet and comfort food and drink. Make a reservation to dine in the jazz lounge to ensure that you get a seat! You can make reservations through their website (they use OpenTable) or by calling the restaurant at (919) 251-9451.
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
G2B Gastro Pub
3211 Shannon Road #106
January 25 at Beyu Caffe – CANCELLED for inclement weather, rescheduled for March 23
We are making our debut at Beyu Caffe, the restaurant voted the best place to hear jazz in the Triangle in the Independent Weekly reader’s poll. Come join us at this wonderful downtown establishment for dinner, dancing, drinks, dessert, or all of the above! You may also want to make a reservation here, depending on your seating preference – call the restaurant at (919) 683-1058.
9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
335 W. Main St.
February 1 at G2B Gastro Pub
We’re making our February appearance at G2B Gastro Pub earlier in the month – your last chance to catch the Quintet until we return on March 22!
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
G2B Gastro Pub
3211 Shannon Road #106
We hope you will join us for one of these performances! Come find out why Durham is both a foodie town and a jazz town, thanks to creative chefs and restaurant owners who take pride in their food, their city, and their entertainment.
As of November 28, the Mint Julep Jazz Band reached (and even surpassed) the $6,000 funding goal on our Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce our first CD! We are overwhelmed and so grateful for the generosity of all of our backers, particularly, the Triangle Swing Dance Society, who was not only our largest monetary backer, but also pledged the amount that sent us over our $6,000 goal. Thanks to your help and the magic of crowd funding, the Mint Julep Jazz Band is going to record a CD in January!
The other brilliant part of this is that we reached our funding goal in 28 days, which is just under half the amount of time we allotted to meet our goal. This means that the Kickstarter does not officially end until December 30, so if you’d still like to pre-order a CD or support the Kickstarter for other rewards, you have until December 30 to do so. If you’d like to view our Kickstarter, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laurawindley/mint-julep-jazz-bands-first-cd-durham-on-saturday.
Thanks again! We really couldn’t have done it without you!
While an 8 piece band is great for dances and special events, it is generally too large for restaurants and bars in the Raleigh/Durham area. We’d still like to bring you the hot jazz and swing, so we’ve pared ourselves down to a quintet! The Mint Julep Quintet will have its first performance at G2B Gastropub in Durham, NC on October 5, 2012.
3211 Shannon Rd, Suite 106
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
We’re excited to be performing at G2B – we hope you’ll join us for a delicious dinner or come hang out and grab a beer!
Check out the gorgeous food and beverages on their Facebook page.
About 11 years ago when I was an undergraduate at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I took a film class that had a research component, where we had to research a topic and write a paper on that topic. At the time (well, and even now) I was over the moon about swing dancing and wanted to do my research on something swing dance and film related. My friend Dave Fillmore once told about a documentary he saw on TV that was about a film made in Greenville in the 1940′s that featured some of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and I knew that I wanted to dig into this topic and find out more.
How did a couple of Harlem Lindy Hoppers end up in a film made in a tobacco town in the 1940′s? Of course there’s a story.
In the years building up to the making of the film, Greenville saw a number of touring jazz musicians, who would hold big band dances in the tobacco warehouses nearby, including Louis Jordan, Lucky Millinder, Billy Eckstine, Andy Kirk, and Earl Hines. In addition to these national touring bands, there were local and regional big bands that would play dances – it seems that just about every larger town in North Carolina had their own band for dances: Jimmy Gunn from Charlotte, The Carolina Stompers from Wilson, the Blackhawks from Kinston, the Mud (if I noted this correctly) Stompers from Elizabeth City, the Rhythm Vets from Greensboro, and I’m sure there were others. There were other entertainers who traveled this circuit, including minstrel and variety shows. A favorite was Irving Miller’s Brown Skin Models from Harlem. All of this to say that Greenville had its share of jazz, dancing, and entertainment in the 1940′s.
The film is called “Pitch a Boogie Woogie” and it was made in 1947 by a man named John Warner who owned The Plaza Theater. The Plaza was located in the hub of the African-American community in Greenville, NC, an area called The Block. Warner, though a white man, was a part of the community around The Block, and fancied himself a filmmaker. He would shoot footage of people on The Block, local talent shows, and other local events, and would show these films at The Plaza Theater. It was a brilliant idea that kept people coming back to the theater, to see if they had made it into some of the local footage Warner shot.
Warner had bigger ideas about his filmmaking so he formed a corporation, Lord Warner Pictures, with his brother, William Lord, who worked on Broadway as a songwriter. Their first endeavor was a 30 minute documentary called “Greenville on Parade,” which was followed by the 1947 featurette, “Pitch a Boogie Woogie.”
“Pitch a Boogie Woogie” had a mostly local, all-African-American cast, including the stars of the film, Tom Foreman and Herman Forbes (incidentally, Herman Forbes went on to become the NC Teacher of the Year for 1975). Warner brought in a few ringers for his production, to round out the entertainment for his “backstage musical,” including some of Winstead’s Mighty Minstrels, chorus girl dancers, actress Evelyn Whorton, tap dancer Cleophus Lines, and a couple of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers named The Count and Harriet. The Count got his name because he loved to play Count Basie on the piano.
There is no direct information about how The Count and Harriet ended up in this film. The other performers had a connection and were specifically mentioned as performing as part of troupes that had performed in Greenville before. Did Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers come through Greenville to perform in earlier years? Or did other Harlem performers who had been through town recommend them? Did the theater patrons see films like Hellzapoppin and want something like that in their film? Or did William Lord know of them through his connections in New York? There are definitely still gaps in my research, but I like to think about the possibilities.
Also of note in this film is footage of local Greenville residents social dancing – you see some Lindy Hop and some solo dancing.
The soundtrack was written by William Lord and originally performed by Don Dunning’s Orchestra, but the original soundtrack had too many issues and was later overdubbed by the Rhythm Vets from Greensboro. I find it interesting that there were so many soundtrack issues, especially with Lindy Hop clips (Hellzapoppin’, A Day at the Races) – members of the Rhythm Vets noted that it was difficult to try to fit the music to the dancing in “Pitch a Boogie Woogie” post-production.
“Pitch a Boogie Woogie” premiered on January 28, 1948 at The Plaza Theater in Greenville, NC. It was a huge local and regional success, but never saw distribution outside of the South. Shortly after the premiere, Warner got into a disagreement with distributors and was blacklisted. Then, the African-American community boycotted the theater following an incident at The Plaza where the police arrested a disorderly patron, who was taken to the police station and beaten.
The Block faded, The Plaza closed, another theater named The Roxy opened and closed near The Block, and in 1975 some people using The Roxy building discovered one of the remaining reels for “Pitch a Boogie Woogie.” The nitrate film was restored by the American Film Institute, and the film re-premiered in Greenville on February 8, 1986 with the living members of the cast and the Rhythm Vets in attendance. In 1988, the UNC Center for Public Television put together a documentary of the making of the film and the rediscovery of the film called “Boogie in Black and White.”
It has taken me a long time to get this information and video posted. I still had my research paper, but the copy of “Boogie in Black and White” I used belonged to ECU’s Joyner Library. A few years after I graduated I decided I wanted a copy of “Boogie in Black and White” and wrote to UNC-TV to try to obtain a copy. They wrote back that they could not locate any archived material on this program, but to call a number and speak with someone else. I called the UNC-TV number given to me and the person I spoke with said they had no idea what I was talking about.
I gave up on trying to obtain a copy until last year, when I thought about all the great Lindy Hop clips on YouTube and thought I’d search the Interwebs to see if any clips or information would come up on The Count and Harriet. The only hit was the Joyner Library archives at ECU. It was important to me that these clips survive because of my research, my love of dancing, and that this footage came from my home state and my mother’s home town.
I thought to email ECU professor Alex Albright, who was of the people I interviewed for my paper, who was also a driving force behind the “Pitch a Boogie Woogie” restoration, conducted much of the research for the documentary, and wrote most of the content for the UNC-TV documentary. He was not surprised at UNC-TV’s response to my request and was as disappointed as I was at the possibility that this film might be forgotten. The only right he retained to the documentary was the right to make VHS copies of the documentary for a small fee. I was elated that I could finally, after 10 years, get my hands on a copy of this film. Dr. Albright also told me that Tom Whiteside, a technician at Duke University, still has a film copy of “Pitch a Boogie Woogie,” so there’s still hope for the film beyond the VHS copies.
I hope you enjoy the clips I have posted and this bit of background information. I’d like to give special thanks to Alex Albright for his initial research, assistance with my research, and for the VHS tape of the film. Additional thanks to Chris Owens for converting the VHS tape to digital format. I’d also like to thank Bobby White for suggesting that there should be a post on this topic and for offering to do a story on this for his Swungover blog. I believe that there are many things already on his plate, so I decided to play swing archivist for the day.
(Edited to add that Norma Miller has identified that these are not Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers; however, Peter Loggins and Harri Heinilä have posed possible theories that could place them as Whitey’s. I suppose we shall stay tuned to find out the answer to the question – who are The Count and Harriet? To tune into the discussion visit the Jassdancer Facebook page)
(Edited again to add that Harri Heinilä found verification that The Count and Harriet were members of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, or were at least trained by Herbert “Whitey” White: “Count & Harriet were former members of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers according to Willie Jones, who was possibly one of the oldest members of the group…you can find that from Robert Crease’s Willie Jones interview, which was published in New York Swing Dance Society’s Footnotes in Spring 1990.” Both Peter and Harri are checking their sources for information on Southern tours that might place them in or near Greenville, NC)
***The sources listed below are from my research paper, which focused more on the local theaters and the climate that gave rise to the film, but are also relevant to the information in my post.
Albright, Alex. Personal interview, December 4, 2001.
Boogie in Black and White. Written by Alex Albright and directed by Susan Massengale. Videotape. UNC Center for Public Television, 1988.
John Warner Papers. East Carolina University Manuscript Collection. East Carolina University.
Kammerer, Roger. “The Movie Houses of Greenville: Part II.” Greenville Times, January 5-18, 1994.
McLawhorn, Melvin. Personal interview, December 7, 2001.
Pierce, Candace. Personal interview, November 30, 2001.
Shiver, Charles. Personal interview, December 9, 2001.
Windley, Gayle. Telephone interview, December 9, 2001.
We’ll be donning our finest emerald apparel for the Mint Julep Jazz Band show on March 17, 2012 at the Triangle Swing Dance Society swing dance, held at the Carrboro Century Center. Come dance on the finest sprung wood floor in the Triangle! Don’t know how to dance? No problem! There’s a beginner lesson at 7:00 p.m. that is included with the price of admission.
Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro Street
Beginner east coast swing lesson – 7:00 p.m.
Band plays from 8:00-11:00 p.m.
Admission: Members/students $8.00, general admission $12.00
Starting a new band raises a lot of questions – in conversations with people, these questions have come up most frequently, so here’s a little FAQ to get you more acquainted with the Mint Julep Jazz Band:
What kind of music will you play?
We will focus on music from the 1920′s and 1930′s, but some early 1940′s tunes may creep into the mix. The band will be playing arrangements that are either transcribed from original recordings or reproductions of original recordings (or a combination of both – sometimes having a hi-fi reference helps a lot) and arrangements that our maestro Lucian Cobb creates on his own, based on songs from this era. We will be playing a few arrangements Lucian has done in the past and songs you may have heard vocalist Laura Windley perform, but the majority of the material will be new. Most importantly, this music will swing!
How many people will be in the band?
Right now, we really like the idea of having either a 7 or 8 piece band, giving us either a 3 or 4 piece rhythm section with 3 horns, plus a vocalist. With this format, we are able to play arrangements of big band or smaller group charts, giving us a fuller sound than a jazz combo. We are also able to offer a more affordable alternative to a big band.
Will you have a smaller group?
Unfortunately, we will not have a smaller group. We understand that this limits the venues we can play, especially locally, but we are more interested in creating a specific sound.
Who is going to be in the band?
We’d like to have a set lineup, but in the jazz world this is not always possible – some of our band members have bands of their own, so we are fortunate enough to have other jazz musicians that we have worked with in the past to fill their shoes. You can be sure you will see Peter Lamb (sax), Al Strong (trumpet), Aaron Tucker (drums), Jason Foureman (bass), Aaron Hill (sax), Rich Willey (trumpet), Kyle Santos (trumpet), Mark Wells (piano), and other great jazz musicians from the Triangle and beyond who we enjoy performing with and will lend their unique talents to this endeavor.
When will you be ready to play?
The goal is to be ready in March and, indeed, we’ve already got gigs in March 2012 and beyond! For more details, see our calendar page. We do have a show on February 23 for RDU Rent Party – we invite everyone to come to this sneak preview!
Where will you play?
Our bread and butter will be swing dances, and we’ve already got a wedding on the books. We are also available for community events, outdoor festivals, jazz societies, schools, private parties, charity events/fundraisers, historic and reenactment-related events, and, really, anywhere that people enjoy music. We are looking to travel outside of the Triangle area of North Carolina and would welcome gig opportunities in other cities.
This weekend, November 3-6, is the Eastern Balboa Championships, the epic Balboa workshop and competition weekend that takes place in Raleigh, NC every year. I’m pleased to be a part of the DJ roster again this year, along with head DJ Kyle Smith, DJ Kristy Milliken, and DJ Abigail Browning. I am also excited to be a featured vocalist with Russ Wilson’s Nouveau-Passe Orchestra on Saturday night.
On Saturday, I have made arrangements with the Raleigh Vintage Collective to have a trunk show at EBC from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. that will feature clothing and accessories for men and women from the 1920′s, 1930′s, 1940′s, and 1950′s. This is an exciting prospect because everything offered will be era-appropriate for swing dancing! Lindy Shopper will be reporting, of course.
In light of recent events and a lot of questions from friends and fans, I feel the need to clarify a few things. A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Atomic Rhythm All-Stars bandleader, George Knott, terminating my involvement with the band as the vocalist and as the marketing person for the band. My involvement was terminated over a dispute regarding intellectual property rights. As of two weeks ago, I will no longer be performing with the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars and have been removed from all future performance dates.
I’d like to thank those of you who have been supportive of me during this time. It’s tough to pour your heart and soul into a project for three years, use your contacts to obtain gigs for the band, invest time and effort into developing an online presence and fan base, share in the joys and woes of being part of a band, and see something you got into on the ground floor grow and flourish, only to have your efforts and talents be deemed unnecessary.
To borrow from lyrics, the song is ended, but the melody lingers on…after hearing the news, most of my friends expressed that I should start my own band. I discussed this with my husband, trombone player and arranger Lucian Cobb, who is leaving the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars as well, and we both decided that we love this music too much to stop playing it. As our options for joining other bands as regular members are non-existent in Raleigh/Durham, we will be forming our own group to play 1920′s, 30′s, and 40′s jazz, featuring Lucian’s arrangements from Atomic and many more new arrangements. We will also need a band name, equipment, ideas for songs, a book, a website, and gigs, among other things I’m sure we haven’t considered. It’s hard to start all over again, but, hopefully, we will continue our dreams of playing vintage jazz music and share the joy of this music through a different conduit.
We already have a gig on the books for next year and are accepting gigs for dates in March 2012 and beyond. Thank you to everyone who has faith in my abilities as a vocalist, organizer, and business-woman. I look forward to performing for you again!
There’s another busy weekend in the works, with The Atomic Rhythm All-Stars taking the stage at the Murphey School in Durham, NC this Saturday, June 18, 2011 for a night of swing dancing, thanks to the Triangle Swing Dance Society.
On Sunday, June 19, The Carolina Fascinators will be performing their Shortenin’ Bread routine at Greensboro, NC’s Summer Solstice Festival, around 4:30 p.m. TCF member Abigail Browning will also be performing social swing dancing with her dance partner and partner in crime, Adam Speen. Looking forward to being a part of this outdoor festival!