[Dixielandjazz] Re: Shine & That's Why They Call Me Shine

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 1 14:46:40 PST 2004

"John Farrell" <stridepiano at tesco.net> asked:
> Arn said :

No, I said it, Arn just quoted it.
> "Jazz has been the music of social protest, ever since "That's Why They Call
> Me Shine" was written circa 1910."
> Is "That's Why They Call Me Shine" the tune which is generally referred to
> as "Shine"? 

Yes, they are probably the same tune.

"That's Why They Call Me Shine" was written circa 1910 for the Black stage
play "His Honor The Barber". It was written by a Black composer and is a
parody of white racial prejudice. (Just because my hair is curly etc.) The
play successfully toured the black theater circuit around the USA for about
10 years.

At the time, most Blacks who saw the play got the message. Most Whites did
not, thinking it was about a sort of a "Step & Fetchit type bumbling, happy
go lucky, black man.

Today, MANY, of both races here in the USA, still do not get its original
message. I believe Louis Armstrong did, (he played and sang the tune often)
but band mate Arvell Shaw may not have. We do the tune often, and I always
give just a little of the history to make it clear what the tune is about.

The first time I really "heard" it was when Frankie Laine sang it circa 1950
and I thought it was a "happy little tune". Then one night a black band mate
gave me his perspective and so I researched it.

In 1927 or so the lyrics were changed to "Shine your shoesies, shine away
your bluesies" or some other nonsense. Perhaps to make it less threatening?
This version (same melody) goes by the title "Shine".

The verse, along with some historical perspective, makes it pretty clear
that the tune was a protest against a beating that one Samuel Johnson Brown
(the Shine in the lyric) was given by a gang of Whites around 1900 in New
York City. It is typical of the introspective Black "black humor" of the
times regarding their status vis a vis White folks.

Steve Barbone

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