[Dixielandjazz] Gig-etymology- Charlie Suhor writes

Don Kirkman donsno2 at charter.net
Tue Oct 13 15:52:17 PDT 2009

On Fri, 9 Oct 2009 07:53:08 -0500, Norman Vickers wrote:

>To: Musicians and Jazzfans list;  DJML & Bill Campbell
>From: Norman Vickers, Jazz Society of Pensacola

>This is a continuing discussion about the etymology of the word "gig" as
>relates to a musician's job.  It was initiated by Bill Campbell, super
>jazzfan, retired military officer and current journalist in Ft. Walton Beach
>area.  He plans a column about it and will give contributors credit.  He's a
>member of the Musicians and Jazzfans list, so he'll get it that way.  Or you
>can address him as listed above.

[Big snip]

>How interesting that the first known reference to "gig" as a music
>engagement was in the British tabloid "Melody Maker" in 1926. Especially in
>light the idea of the term originating in New Orleans based on a small
>carriage, or gig, that black musicians used to avoid being arrested for
>playing in the streets--the source of this being a London broadcaster! I've
>read several early jazz histories, by no means all of them, and have never
>heard of guys playing in "small carriages." The classic (documented) story
>of course is trucks with the tailgates down, currin' contests, etc. Has
>anyone else heard of a gig on a gig in early N.O.? 

Wouldn't the earliest jazzmen have been tailgating on horse-drawn
wagons, not in small gigs (carriages) nor on motor trucks? This is one
description, possibly from Wingy Malone:

"Down the street, in an old sideboard wagon, would come the jazz band
from one ballroom. And up the street, in another sideboard wagon,
would come the band from another ballroom, which had announced a dance
for the same night at the same price. And those musicians played for
all their worth, because the band that pleased the crowd more would be
the one the whole crowd would go to hear, and dance to, at its
ballroom later that night. 

"At the back of the wagon were the trombone players, because the only
way they could handle their slides was over the end of the wagon. And
that's how they got the name "tailgate" trombonists. They all played a
Dixieland "vamp" style, because there weren't any room in the wagon
for fancy stuff."
Don Kirkman
donsno2 at charter.net

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