Date: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 00:16:27 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: "SALTY," "SWING," and "TRUCKING": Harlem words and phrases.
Roi Ottley wrote the column "Hectic Harlem" for the Amsterdam News in
the 1930s. I urge everyone to check out the "Webster Abridged" column of 8
February 1936 in which many terms are defined, such as "hip," "gum shoe,"
"pitch a boogie woogie," "pull a bootsie," "chick," "pig meat," et al.
For our recent discussion of "Salty," he defines this as "Sarcastic,
supercilious, highbrow, as 'Don't jump salty.'" "Prissy" and "Hincty" were
listed as the same.
"The Macarena" might be the fad of this year, but his discussions on
"swing" and "trucking" are instructive and well worth recording for
dictionary usage. Here they are.
SWING: Amsterdam News, 4 April 1936, pg. 13, col. 7.
"Hot" Music Revived as "Swing"
THE SWING MUSIC craze and its origin which has struck the ofay brethren
and which has been the hot rhythms of the Harlem dance citizenry for many
seasons, has Charles A. Lindbergh to thank for its return to
popularity...Notthat the flyer is a dancer or musician, but his amazing
exploits as an airman had profound effect upon the local inhabitants--and so
goes dance or music in Harlem, so goes the ofay's interpretation.
Great feats always cause the poets of a nation to sing praises...But no
great poetry or prose came from America's throat to commemorate Lindbergh's
spanning the Atlantic...White America merely rested in its rockin' chair and
beamed with pride at the exploits of one of its sons.
Black America, therefore, became poet-laureate and wrote across the
Harlem dance floors, with a terpsichorean tap, a record of the flyer...That
lifting dance, the Lindy Hop, was consciously originated by the Savoy
Ballroom dancers, to commemorate the Lindbergh flight.
The new dance, of course, needed a special type of rhythm which would
best enable the lindy-hoppers to express the various figures of the
dance...Some genius, therefore, obliged with "Ol' Nagi," which probably
started the cycle of "swing" music...This number is the theme song of the
lindy-hoppers...Dance music is more often geared to the dance.
Considerable discussion has been going the rounds about the origination
of the so-called "swing" music...The Savoy Ballroom was probably the first
dance hall to feature this type of music in recent years...However, despite
all the various viewpoints expressed, "swing" music remains merely "hot"
Some ofay will surely come along and claim its origination.
TRUCKING: Amsterdam News, 31 August 1935, pg. 11, col. 1.
Who Originated the "Truck"?
NOBLE SISSLE claims credit for originating the "Truck," the latest dance
craze, that is rivalling the Charleston and the Lindy Hop in popularity...Ed
Sullivan gives credit to the Cotton Club...Cora La Redd emphatically states
she is the originator...Pigmeat Markham, the comedian, is among those who
carries the torch of having first done the truck...This observer first saw
the dance done down in Dickie Wells' Theatrical Grill by Rubberlegs Williams
to the accompaniment of a Shim Sham Band...This was at least three years
ago...But the dance was really first done in Philadelphia by Red and Struggle
and Rubberlegs Williams and originated as a finale for a show...Its name is
derived merely from the fact that Red of the Red and Struggle team emitted
the cry of elation "truck" when he had seen the first steps done...It is an
outgrowth of the "shuffle" which old-time waiters used to do when they
carried heavy trays of food...Noble Sissle's claim is based on the fact that
he titled a show at the Harlem Opera House in the winter "Trucking on Down"
and wrote a song with the same title...The Cotton Club is trying to cash in
as originators of this dance to fill the already depleted coffers...Ted
Kohler, author of "Stormy Weather," has penned a truck number for the Cotton
Club show with some familiar strains from the Noble Sissle number inserted in
his work..However, when all the scramble is over W. C. Handy appears on the
scene as the only man who will cash in on this number, as he recently
published and has copyrighted a "Trucking on Down" number...On the reverse
side of the music copy are illustrated instructions of the truck...If you
journey down to the Old Colony (Lenox avenue, on 128th street) you can hear
Fats Waller play some mellow "truck" music...We hope this concludes the
"trucking on down" debate.