jasbo band (1914)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Nov 7 20:17:14 UTC 2007

Various 1914 cites for "jasbo" have been posted here in the past, but I
believe these are the earliest found thus far in a musical sense:

Fort Wayne Daily News, Sep. 2, 1914, p. 5, col. 1
The Temple bill for the last half of the week will be headed by B.A. Rolf's
"Ten Dark Knights," a great review of southern singing and dancing. Johnny
Rooker and his "Jasbo" band are on the bill, as is the Great Lester, the
ventriloquist whose "Gee Whiz" has been a by-word here for two years.
Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Sep. 2, 1914, p. 9, col. 3
In this act are Johnny Rooker and his "jasbo" band, one of the funniest
creations of the vaudeville world.
Fort Wayne Daily News, Sep. 3, 1914, p. 4, col. 2
Their [sc. Ten Dark Knights] southern songs and dances are riots, and when
Johnny Rooker brings on his "jasbo" band the house doubles up and begs for a
minute in which to get its breath.
Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Sep. 3, 1914, p. 9, col. 2
The act was at the Temple once before, but this season Mr. Rolfe has put it
out with a raft of new songs and new funny business, including the "jasbo"
band led by Johnny Rooker, who as band master would make the gyrations of
the average leader look like a snail with bunions climbing the Alps.

The Fort Wayne cites are well before the July 11, 1915 Chicago Tribune
article "Blues Is Jazz and Jazz Is Blues" and the various 1916 cites for
"jaz(z)/jass band". It's hard to know if "jasbo" here referred to a style of
music or had more to do with vaudeville humor, along the lines of HDAS sense
1 of "jazzbo" ("low physical comedy; slapstick; vulgarity"). Most likely the
music and the slapstick went hand in hand.

In any case, "jasbo/jaz(z)bo band" would later be used in more explicitly
jazz-related contexts, as in the songs "Ephraham's Jasbo Band" (James
Brockman, recorded by Arthur Collins in October 1917) and "That Alabama
Jazbo Band" (W. Benton Overstreet, sheet music published in 1918).

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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