Slim Gaillard - The man who introduced the world to Wowtee.

Slim Gaillard And Arthur Prysock – Live At Birdland – 1952 – Past Daily Downbeat

Slim Gaillard – The man who introduced the world to Wowtee.

Live Jazz from the 1950’s this weekend with a double bill, live from Birdland in New York City on September 9,1952. Starting off the set is the ultra-smooth and mellow Arthur Prysock, who does several tasteful turns with some standards.

Prysock was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He moved to North Carolina as a young child, and then to Hartford, Connecticut to work in the aircraft industry during World War II, singing with small bands in the evenings. In 1944 bandleader Buddy Johnson signed him as a vocalist, and Prysock became a mainstay of the live performance circuits. Prysock sang on several of Johnson’s hits on Decca Records including “They All Say I’m the Biggest Fool” (1946), “Jet My Love” (1947) and “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone” 1948), and later “Because” (1950).

In 1952 Prysock went solo. He signed with Decca, who marketed him as a younger rival to Billy Eckstine, and recorded the No. 5 R&B hit, “I Didn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night”, with Sy Oliver’s orchestra. Over the years Prysock gained a reputation as an emotive balladeer and as one of the most popular acts on the Chitlin’ Circuit. He recorded R&B classics such as Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight”. In the 1960s, Prysock joined Old Town Records and did an R&B cover of Ray Noble’s ballad “The Very Thought of You” (1960) and a pop hit “It’s Too Late Baby, It’s Too Late” (1965). For Verve Records he recorded Arthur Prysock and Count Basie (December 12, 13, 14, 20 and 21, 1965, at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey), and A Working Man’s Prayer (1968). He read verses from Walter Benton’s book of poems against a jazz instrumental backdrop on his 1968 album, This is My Beloved. Between 1960 and 1988, he released over 30 LPs. He also briefly had his own television show in the 1960s.

Next up is the inimitable, incomparable (their words, but mine too) Slim Gaillard and his trio who rip things up nicely for this NBC radio program Stars In Jazz.

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 (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)” and the hipster anthem, “The Groove Juice Special (Opera in Vout)”.

Gaillard’s appeal was similar to Cab Calloway’s and Louis Jordan’s in that he presented a hip style with broad appeal (for example in his children’s song “Down by the Station”). Unlike them, he was a master improviser whose stream of consciousness vocals ranged far from the original lyrics. He sang wild interpolations of nonsense syllables, such as “MacVoutie O-reeney”. One such performance is celebrated in the 1957 novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Gaillard, with Dodo Marmarosa on piano, appeared as a guest several times on Command Performance, recorded at KNX radio studios in Hollywood in the 1940s and distributed on transcription discs to American troops in World War II.

In 1943, Gaillard was drafted in the United States Army Air Forces and “qualified as a pilot flying B-26 bombers in the Pacific” and resumed his music career on his release from the draft in 1944. Upon his return he released the song Atomic Cocktail, which featured seemingly lighthearted lyrics laced with symbolism about nuclear war.

He later teamed with bassist Bam Brown. They can be seen in a 1947 motion picture featurette O’Voutie O’Rooney filmed live at one of their nightclub performances. Slim and Bam was featured at the first Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles that was produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. on September 23, 1945 along with Count Basie. Gaillard also played for the 2nd Cavalcade of Jazz held at Wrigley Field on Oct. 12, 1946, and played for the 3rd Cavalcade of Jazz held also at Wrigley Field on September 7, 1947.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gaillard frequently opened at Birdland for Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips, and Coleman Hawkins. His December 1945 session with Parker and Dizzy Gillespie is notable, both musically and for its relaxed convivial air. “Slim’s Jam”, from that session, is one of the earliest known recordings of Parker’s speaking voice.

And if you ever wondered how Wowtee got its start, here’s the man responsible.

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7 thoughts on “Slim Gaillard And Arthur Prysock – Live At Birdland – 1952 – Past Daily Downbeat

  1. Hey, Gordon – what happened with C&L/ Newstalgia? I’d been waiting over there for your next post, thinking maybe something bad happened to you. I even went so far as to inquire about your welfare with John. (He just said you were fine.) Just today got a third-party post directing me to this site – a good week after I’d posted the initial inquiry.

    I’d like to know what happened and if this has anything to do with the fundraiser. I felt like I worked pretty hard to help save your site, both in terms of giving and in terms of campaigning, so I was shocked when you suddenly disappeared.

    FWIW, I have no problem checking in here, instead, but I do wish you would change to a light background and dark lettering, with a larger font. It is difficult to the point of distraction to try to read what is here. Thanks in advance for responding. DHSmd

    1. Thanks for your note. I will be closing that site soon. The Fundraiser was successful, but there was no support from C&L and I was asked to leave. So I set up shop here. Eventually, all the posts that were over there will be put up here because everything will be wiped from that site. The fit is better over here anyway and the support has been huge since I got here. So bookmark this page and come back as you used to with C&L. Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for the update, Gordon. I figured it was something like that. First and foremost, I’m glad that’s ALL it was. While I feel a little bit of regret that the C&L connection is lost, it sounds like it may be better for you.

    I’ll be back – in the mean time, PLEASE consider that font and color request. I really like reading the background information you put up.


  3. So glad to have found this site PastDaly. I’ve had my problems with C&L as their audio player is defective and starts and stops and then crashes. Will those Nostalgia posts I’ve only found linked from here to there be available on PastDaly in the future? Keep up the good work and keep the jazz coming. Best Dean

    1. Glad you found us! Yes, I’ve been re-posting and upgrading the old Newstalgia posts, while putting up new ones, and even revising the posts from two years ago by adding an additional player. But we’re slowly making progress. I have been going through the old posts, revising them and dumping the old ones. It’ll take a little time, and we’ve also got a whole revamp of the site planned, to give readers a better access to older stories. So, fingers crossed, 2016 will be a busy year. And hopefully a profitable one. Stay tuned! – Gordon.

  4. i’d like to hear the story of how Slim got
    involved in the film “Absolute Beginners.

    “Selling Out” is a show-stopper!

    1. I believe Julien Temple (the director of the film) was a big fan and Slim was living in the UK at the time.

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