[Dixielandjazz] Gig etymology

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 13 20:23:44 PDT 2009

> Don Kirkman <donsno2 at charter.net> wrote (polite snip)
> On Fri, 9 Oct 2009 07:53:08 -0500, Norman Vickers wrote:
>> 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:

Perhaps so Don. As some may know, my wife's passion is carriage  
driving and 3 day events with them. (Combined Driving Events) I  
sometimes ride on the back of our marathon carriage as ballast. <grin>

Horse drawn Gig references have been around since the late 1700s. They  
are two wheeled, pulled by one horse and usually quite small. carrying  
only one or two people.

Bands may well have played on horse drawn carts, but they would have  
been quite a bit larger than "Gigs".

Most carriage people thing that this type of carriage gig originated  
in France where they were also called chaises, and that "gig" became a  
term for them in Great Britain about the time Fitzroy Stanhope  
designed the Tilbury Gig and  Stanhope Gig which is quite popular  
today among the Carriage drivers..

Steve Barbone

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list