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Slim Gaillard

Slim Gaillard was a jazz Renaissance man who doubled as its court jester. He played, to one degree or another, nearly all of the most common instruments of jazz, including guitar, piano, organ, drums, vibraphone, and various saxophones; he also composed music and tap- danced. It is for his humor that he is most widely remembered and loved. It is immortalized in masterpieces such as "Flat Foot Floogie," "Yproc Heresy," "Chicken Rhythm," "Serenade To A Poodle," and "Laughin' in Rhythm," all of which are saturated with a dadaist sense of absurdity. Like early dada music, Gaillard sang and composed songs in his own private language: Vout. This master musician, who early on worked as a professional cook and merchant seaman, turned to acting later in life, appearing in numerous television shows and movies. Bulee "Slim" Gaillard was, according to most sources, born in Detroit, Michigan. He sometimes claimed to have been born in Cuba, during a stopover on the island by his merchant marine father. More certain is that Gaillard was raised in Detroit where he attended school and studied music for the first time. His first instrument was the vibraphone; piano and guitar eventually became his main instruments, although he was more or less accomplished on others, including congas, bongos, and different saxophones. In fact, Gaillard got his start in music as a tap dancer who played guitar. He was a regular on the amateur shows that abounded on radio in the early 1930s, including one of the most popular and influential, the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. Foremost among the musicians whose work influenced Gaillard was pianist/composer Fats Waller. Hearing guitarist Charlie Christian was also a revelation for Gaillard and led him around 1937 to buy his first electric guitar. Gaillard eventually got to jam with his guitar idol at New York's Leland Hotel. It was around 1937 at another jam session, at Jocks, a Harlem after-hours club, that Gaillard met his first and probably most important musical collaborator, Leroy Stewart. Stewart was a bassist who had just finished a course of studies at the Boston Conservatory of Music and was playing around the Boston club circuit. The two hit it off from the start and Gaillard invited Stewart to appear with him on one of the amateur shows. Martin Block, a New York disk jockey, heard the duo on the show and approached them with an offer to become their manager.

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Album Review

Slim Gaillard: Laughing in Rhythm

Read "Laughing in Rhythm" reviewed by AAJ Staff

Does it really matter if Slim Gaillard was born in Detroit, Michigan or Santa Clara, Cuba? Is it important to know with certainty whether he was accidentally abandoned for half a year in Crete by his seafaring father?

I say no. Slim Gaillard the entertaniner spun tales both musical and verbal for effect, for laughs and notoriety. He spoke with authority and glibness in a jive tongue all his own. He knew what to do when the spotlight ...

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Music Industry

Correspondence: On Slim Gaillard

Correspondence: On Slim Gaillard

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Rifftides reader Ries Niemi reflects on the Slim Gaillard performance in the clip from Hellzapoppin'.

It's interesting to contrast this with one of the very last Slim Gaillard clips I have seen, in the movie Absolute Beginners, from 1986. Gaillard was in real life what he plays in that movie- one of the midwives of the birth of postmodernism in music.

The novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes, on which the movie is based, is part of a trilogy about ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Laughing in Rhythm

Proper Records


Laughin' In Rhythm

Proper Box UK


Slim Gaillard Rides...

Verve Records


Laughing In Rhythm:...

Verve Records


Volume 1 - Laughing...

Verve Records


Tutti Fruitti

Verve Records



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