Saturday, December 27, 2008

1912 - James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra - "Down Home Rag"

America's dance craze began in the 1910s and lasted well into the 50s and 60s. In 1910, white americans were well into the 'ragtime era', and even hotter forms of music produced by america's "colored" community were seeping out into the general population and causing their butts to twitch with a desire to get up and shake it!

The impeccably refined white couple Irene and Vernon Castle were the premier dance instructors for this segment of white america in the 1910s. The favorite presentation by far was "how NOT to dance the Turkey Trot". The Castles would demonstrate the most earthy, society-unacceptable moves of the Turkey Trot (the ancestor, of course, of the Fox Trot), the hot hot hot moves that everybody really wanted to shock their parents with, all the time warning the audience, toungue in cheek, to NEVER perform these steps under any circumstances!! The Castles were very famous, and were portrayed by Astaire and Rogers in a 1939 movie.

And whose music did the Castles dance to??? Why, James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, the most prominent colored ensemble of the day! Based in NYC, Europe became so well know through playing for the Castles that a special musical contingent of the US Army National Guard was formed for him, and enabled him to bring 'colored' music to the battlefields of France, where it was reported that the strange, exotic sounds caused even the provincial french butts to unaccountably sway back and forth in a manner that reminded an american musician in Europe's ensemble of the "Eagle Rock", described as a dance movement with its origins in the boudoir... Unfortunately, Europe was killed by a neurotic band member shortly after his triumphant return to the US after the war.

Please enjoy here the Society Orchestra's 1912 rendition of Wilbur Sweatman's Down Home Rag...

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