[Dixielandjazz] DARKTOWN STRUTTERS BALL - One more time.

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Mar 15 12:43:41 PST 2005

In a recent message, some said they are not aware who wrote Darktown
Strutter's Ball, or the context in which it was written. So, I repeat my
post which appeared two digests ago. If you are still offended by this tune,
PLEASE READ THE POST, and then understand why others are not.

Please note that the Goeffrey Brooks quoted as a source, was a member of the
Shelton Brooks Family. Shelton Brooks wrote the tune. And that Shelton
Brooks was half Black, half Indian and a Canadian by birth.

Please also note that James Reece Europe and his U.S. ARMY Hellfighter Band
recorded Darktown Strutters Ball in 1919. THEY WERE ALL BLACK and activists,
not Step & Fetchit, and/or minstrel Blacks. This band was way ahead of its
time both musically and in the social context of the fight for racial
equality. It did not offend them.

When we play this tune, and/or Shine, we are quick to point out the tune
history which goes a long way towards removing an unwarranted reason for
either blacks & whites to be offended. Much of the "offence" taken these
days by races, religions, musicians, etc., ad nauseum is simply because of
ignorance of the subject matter which "offends" them.

Sorry to repeat this, but it is obvious that some of us have missed the
point entirely, or did not read it the first time, or are otherwise ignorant
of who people like Shelton Brooks and James Reece Europe were. And so the
word "Darktown" taken out of context, conjures up all sorts erroneous racial
stereotypical images.

This tune, explained as below, goes a long way towards a cogent presentation
of jazz to audiences and is quite acceptable in the Black & White audience
venues in which Barbone Street, a Black & White Jazz Band, performs.

Steve Barbone


List mates:

Here is some more conjecture about Darktown. The Composer, Shelton Brooks
was the child of one Native American, and one African American parent to be
politically correct. (Or half Negro and Half Indian for the politically
incorrect) and was  born in Canada.

The below is from a biography on the web. It seems from this version of the
inspiration, that Whores were the subject, and mighty proud of it. :-) VBG

Like we all know, or should, Jazz was mostly about Sex. Note also that James
Reece Europe's Black "Hellfighter band recorded it in 1919.

Why then, should anyone be offended now?

Steve Barbone

Brooks's most famous song was Darktown Strutter's Ball. Published in 1917
and introduced to the public on record by The Original Dixieland Jazz Band,
it became an instant success. The story behind the song according to
Geoffrey Brooks was that:

"there was a formal dance held in Chicago once a year for those who you
might say "practiced the oldest profession in the world" and their
associates. Each year they dressed in the proper attire of tall hats, coats
and tails, and spats. This was their night that they suffered no oppression
and were not bothered very much if at all by the local authorities. It was
if they were ignored and as long as "they" were all in one place, no bother!
Granted these people did have some clout of their own and were the pride of
their people, even though some of them were practicing illegal moonlighting
in their illicit affairs after their day jobs. It was a marvelous occasion
looked forward to each year by thousands and to be a guest was by all means
a pride of honor. In their minds, they were (and who could disagree) the
bottom of the social ladder. But with the likes a Shelton Brooks, Fats
Waller and some of the most talented musicians to grace one place in one
night would be a great honor in any human book. " The song has been recorded
countless times since on the way to becoming one of the first standards in
Jazz. One of the most unique recordings was in 1919 by Lieutenant James
Reese Europe's 369th Infantry Band." 

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