[Dixielandjazz] Thats Why The Call Me Shine

Don Kirkman donkirk at covad.net
Wed Nov 3 10:45:54 PST 2004

On Wed, 03 Nov 2004 10:51:20 -0500, Steve barbone wrote:

>on 11/3/04 7:07 AM, PATRICK LADD at pj.ladd at btinternet.com wrote:

>> We can speculate all we want about "pipe" meaning "look at" but that doesn't
>> make any sense at all given the actual wording >> (By Steve Barbone)

>> sorry, but I think it makes perfect sense. The previous words lead into it.
>> `they call me `chocolate,` sometimes `Hey!  Rastus` and then these guys say
>> `Look at Sambo` or `Pipe the Shine`.
>> I too remember Leo Gorcey using the phrase `Pipe that broad`

>Of course, that is from a white guy trying to be hip. A sort of lovable dead
>end kid. Yeah right. There is a big difference between Leo Gorcey and the
>plight of Blacks in the USA in those days. Gorcey is a product of "White"
>media trying to portray life in the white ghetto as glamorous. Leads folks
>to all sorts of erroneous conclusions, just like "Westerns" and "Gangster"
>movies when you and I grew up.

The relevance of the Gorcey reference (and it was the Hollywood film
people, not Gorcey, that wrote the words--Gorcey was playing the part he
was hired for) is that it was a common expression in the period the film
series was set in.

>> It strikes me that given the propensity of the black race to dress flashily
>> it is a not difficult to accept that that a group would make such  comment
>> on a passing person much as we might have said (in our younger days) `Hey,
>> Dig those gams`( for the benefit of the younger listmembers that means `Look
>> at those legs`)

Parallel to "did you pipe her hands?" which I cited from Eugene O'Neill
in an earlier post.

>Are you stereotyping here? ;-) VBG. Too many Leo Gorcey movies?

>> Your comment that blacks had better things to do than protest about being
>> `looked at` reinforces my contention that it is not a `protest` song at all.\

>Strongly disagree.

>> It is just what it presents itself as, a song about a bright, outgoing guy
>> that passersby recognise in a friendly way. It is all very well trying to
>> make a connection between someone who happened to be the companion of
>> someone who was beaten up but it is pretty tenuous There is no reference to
>> such a thing apart from the somewhat spurious connection of the name.

>Well, the oral testimony is from a black song writer of the times. He was
>the husband of one of the singers in the play. He said he believed it was
>about a guy named "Shine" who was beaten up during a race riot in NYC. He
>was there at the time. To me, that's connection. Your view is based upon? An
>opinion of what words mean out of context. From a non-American who may have
>less historical input about US Racism. I think the oral testimony has to
>carry more weight.

Unfortunately, black folks are just as susceptible to urban myth, faulty
memory, and tendentious remarks as any of the rest of us.  ISTM the
operative phrase is "he said he believed it was about a guy."  Haven't I
read a number of messages in DJML about people, blacks and whites alike,
who were there at the beginning but nevertheless got things wrong,
sometimes famously so?

>I refer you back to the web sites that I posted about black parody and the
>black view of the play, His Honor The Barber, and the oral testimony about
>"Shine" being beaten up, not the companion of someone who was beaten up.
>That is direct connective reference. Also, to get back to the time in
>question, 1910, it would have been impossible for it to be "a song about a
>bright, outgoing (black) guy that (white) passersby recognize in a friendly
>way". Certainly not since it was written by blacks. The relationship between
>Blacks & Whites was not in any way, shape, or form in that context, anywhere
>in the USA at that time. Nor was the black music and theater in those days.
>Black historians present it as being part of black music and theater that
>was being written in order to help them gain some measure of equality

Are you sure the passersby in the song were white?  :-)  

>Again, rather than trying and understand it in light of our current personal
>environment, it might be better to read the history of the music and
>theater, and "Shine" as written by the blacks.

Remembering, of course, that over next door in the ragtime world there
was a lot of mutual respect and admiration between blacks and whites in
entertainment in those days; many thought or assumed the great composer
Joe Lamb was black until he was rediscovered in the 1960s.  As early as
the end of the 19th century 15-year-old white Texan Brun Campbell
learned the Maple Leaf Rag directly from Joplin, as he was proud to
remind  others. Eubie Blake and his collaborators opened "Shuffle Along"
in 1921; it attracted large white audiences and ran for four years,
Blake and Sissle turning out other hit shows in the meantime.

Writing of New York soon after 1907 when Scott Joplin moved there,
Edward Berlin in "King of Ragtime" [ISBN 0-19-508739-0] writes "Also
important to the Tenderloin life were the many eating and drinking
establishments. . . .  These early cabarets were the major meeting
places for major black entertainers and sportsmen.  [. . .]  The clubs
were also frequented by a white clientele that included both curious
sightseers and professional performers out to observe and gather
material on black performers."  [p. 165]  Berlin quotes James Weldon
Johnson, one of the Johnson Brothers and Cole songwriting team, "There
was at the place almost every night one or two parties of white people,
men and women, who were out sight-seeing, or slumming. . . .  There was
also another set of white people who came frequently; it was made up of
variety performers and others who delineated 'darkey characters'; they
came to get their imitations first hand from the Negro entertainers they
saw here." [p. 166]

IMO we need to be careful not to read the attitudes of the 1950s and
1960s, of whatever ethnic group, back into the early 20th century, but
we also need to remember that the entertainment world was not typical of
much of the US at that time..
donkirk at covad.net

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