[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Etymology

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 26 20:21:45 PDT 2009

Jack Mitchell wrote:

"The article in the Frisco Cricket on the San Francisco origins of the  
word Jazz is most interesting.
Dick Holbroiok wrote an article in OUR WORD JAZZ in the  December 1973/ 
January 19754 issue of Storyville Magazine (London). He mentioned much  
of "Scoop" Gleeson's writings, although as widely as Daniel Cassidy.  
Holbrook traced what is apparently the first use of the word Jazz in  
relation to music - uttered by George Demarest to his brother William  
at the Portola Theatre, San Francisco in May, 1910 when he said "Come  
on, jazz it up."  That was three years before Gleason's use of the  
word. Obviously George didn't mean to play jazz as we know it today,  
but to make it "loud and snappy". Maybe  he did mean it as we  
understand it after all!  The whole article in Storyville ius well  
worth reading."


List mate Dan Hardie wrote a book, published in 2002 called "Exploring  
Early Jazz" It too is well worth reading and I'm a bit surprised no  
one mentioned it yet.

Starting on page 171, he describes a White Band, called the Razzy  
Dazzy Spasm Band and how they may have been the first ever white jazz  
band. Now I don't want to copy it word for word because it is  
copyrighted, but the gist of their story is this:

1) Founded about 1895 as a street band, by young kids..

A 1919 letter to a New York Newspaper from a New Orleans resident then  
describes the following events, starting about 1895.

2) They played the latest airs of the period with an attempt at the  
present jazz effects.

3) Then the Haymarket Cafe, hire a group of professional musicians to  
play what this street band was playing and advertised the new band as  
the Razy Dazy Spasm Band.

4) The kids got pissed and gathered up a bunch of rocks and stoned the  
new band and the sign outside the cafe until the name of the new band  
was changed to  DRUM ROLL HERE . . .
Razy Dazy Jazzy Band.  (NO year is mentioned but this would have been  
circa 1905 or so.)

5) Other sources claimed that friends of Johnny Stein  frequented the  
Haymarket and if true, that links them to ODJB.

Why did Armstrong/Bechet/Keppard hate the word Jazz as applied to  
their music? Perhaps because they viewed Jazz with distaste as  
Whorehouse Music which was the reputation it acquired by 1918. They  
probably, preferred to be known as musicians, not whorehouse  
musicians. And perhaps they felt it was a White term from folks who  
were stealing Black music.

Why did many of the older musicians dislike the term "Jazz Music"?  
Because until about 1975, Jazz Musicians were treated as the scum of  
the earth. We remember those days of police harassment, public  
distaste for our supposed lifestyles, the description of our music as  
illegitimate or noise by ignorant elitists, the hated looks of bigots  
when we played in mixed race bands, the low pay gigs in toilets (jazz  
joints) owned by shady characters, etc. Today, those of us who  
survived all that BS, wear the term as a badge of honor.

To go to Dan's book and page 171 to read about Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band  
and Razy Dazy Jazzy Band; google search:    Razzy Dazzy Spasm Ban +  
Dan Hardie

Or to buy Dan's book. It is in stock at Amazon. 428 pages  $21.95  It  
is a great book.


Steve Barbone

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