One-hundred years ago today, on January 4, 1916, pianist, guitarist, and singer Bulee “Slim” Gaillard was born. Though the details of his early life are disputed, he claimed to have been born in Cuba and spent his childhood picking bananas and sugar-cane there before embarking on a world-round voyage with his Greek father where he was accidentally left on Crete from where he worked his way to America. Whatever his origins, Gaillard first found fame in the 1930s performing with bassist Slam Stewart as half of “Slim and Slam”, who had a hit in 1938 with “Flat Fleet Floogee” (as it was originally titled, better known as “Flat Foot Floogee”). By the 1940s, Gaillard had become a leading bebopper and hepster supreme, famous for a scat language of his own creation called “Vout”, which involved interjecting a lot of the word “vout” and suffixing just about everything with “o’reenie” or “o’roonie”. He had a smash hit in 1946 with “Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)”. Gaillard died February 26, 1991.
Atomic A-215 was recorded December 15, 1945 in Hollywood, California. The band includes Slim Gaillard on guitar, the always distinguished Zutty Singleton on drums, “Tiny” (aka “Bam”) Brown on bass, and Dodo Marmarosa on piano. These Atomic records had a very distinctive label design didn’t they, one of my favorites, artistically.
Mere months after the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II in the Pacific Theater, Slim Gaillard’s Quartette cut “Atomic Cocktail”. In the rather esoteric genre of “atomic music” that appeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s as the atomic era began, with such songs as “Atom and Evil” and “Old Man Atom”, this one, in my opinion, stands out as one of the best.
According to legend, “Yep-Roc-Heresay” (pronounced “yep rock ha-reesy”) has Gaillard and Tiny Brown reading the names of Arabic dishes from the menu of a Middle Eastern restaurant offering such fare as yabra, stuffed grape leaves, harisseh, an Arabian dessert, kibbeh bil sanieh, a meat dish, and lahem meshwi, lamb kebabs. “That’s a good deal McNeil” is, of course, not in Arabic. Despite its innocuous nature in reality, it was reportedly banned from airplay by several radio stations for fear of carrying secret messages promoting drugs and crime.