Art Hickman, Boyes Springs & Jazz -- long note

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 31 23:04:57 UTC 2009

"Perfume," huh? Possibly a harbinger of the later use of the word to
mean "engage in sexual intercourse," a use that I heard in the wild as
late as 1958. Well, the fact of the matter is that "jazz" was commonly
so used only by a single individual with whom I happened to work in
that year at Washington U. in Saint Louis. I'd never heard it so used
before, though I'd seen it used that way in print, and I've never
heard it so used since.

Note that this speaker, "Dave Beach, the old (older than my parents,
younger than my grandparents: 60?-70?) Irishman," didn't use "jazz" as
an expletive, a la "fuck." He used it only in environments in which he
was discussing sexual intercourse: "Have you heard? A's been jazzing B
since the first week that she got here!"


On Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Art Hickman, Boyes Springs & Jazz -- long note
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Oddly or interestingly, GB has a 1920 ex. of "jazz water," apparently from
> the South, in the sense of "perfume."
> JL
> On Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 1:08 PM, Benjamin Zimmer <
> bgzimmer at> wrote:
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>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: Art Hickman, Boyes Springs & Jazz -- long note
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> A couple of belated notes...
>> On Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 6:06 PM, George Thompson
>> <george.thompson at> wrote:
>> >
>> >        It's believed that Hickman was also tickled by the word "jazz",
>> and began to use it to
>> > describe the sort of vigorous, energetic dance music his bands played.
>>  The SFChronicle
>> > file doesn't help to confirm that thought, though it remains very likely.
>> Are there any quotes from Hickman where he speaks approvingly of the
>> word "jazz" (other than the June 15, 1919 cite below)?
>> > The ads in the Chronicle for the Rose Room never identify Hickman's band
>> as a "jazz" band.
>> > Oddly, there was a "Jazz Orchestra" playing on Powell street a few blocks
>> way:
>> >        TECHAU TAVERN.
>> >        San Francisco's Leading High-Class Family Cafe on the Ground
>> Floor, Corner of
>> > Eddy and Powell Streets.
>> >        Entire change of repertoire by our Show Girl Revue, but retaining
>> by popular
>> > request the singing from the electric swings in midair.
>> >        The Jazz Orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. George Gould, San
>> Francisco's newest
>> > and most sensational find, for the dance lovers.  Mr. Gould renders a
>> number of his own
>> > creations with that Jazz syncopation rarely ever heard above the Mason
>> and Dixon line.
>> >        ***
>> >        San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 1916, p. 2, col. ?
>> George Gould played piano with Hickman and Bert Kelly at the St.
>> Francis in 1914, according to Tim Gracyk:
>> >        Hickman described his band as playing jazz in 1919:
>> >        "Jazz music was always a success.  The St. Francis was brave
>> enough to install it in its
>> > principal ballroom, and the society matron found she didn't have to go
>> slumming in order to
>> >  hear bright and snappy melodies.  It has been refined.  ***  [A Symphony
>> orchestra] plays
>> > but twenty weeks in a year.  My orchestra entertains people for fifty-two
>> weeks.  A legitimate
>> > musician must play according to his music.  He can't improvise.  that's
>> where we jazz
>> > musicians have the advantage.  ***  When liquor goes, jazz will be the
>> only thing with a kick.
>> > Instead of making people weep, we will give them an enjoyable pill of
>> jazz."
>> >        San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 1919.  p. S16, col. ?
>> This is a very interesting find, since the quotes I've seen from
>> Hickman around this time were more disparaging of "jazz". Lawrence
>> Gushee, in _Pioneers of Jazz_, suggests that Hickman might have had
>> reason to distance himself from "jazz" after moving on from Boyes
>> Springs to high-class venues like the St. Francis.
>> ---
>> _San Francisco Examiner_, Oct. 12, 1919, p. W16:4 (cited by Gracyk)
>> "Hickman does not like the use of the word 'jazz' in relation to
>> music. 'It has no association with music,' he said. 'It means
>> something effervescent. The word was born in the first training camp
>> of the San Francisco Seals at Boyes Springs, many years ago. The boys,
>> not being allowed to drink, would ask for the bubbling water of the
>> springs, calling it "jazz water." Gradually, the word was carried to
>> the ball ground, and when action was wanted, the boys would call out,
>> "come on, let's jazz it up." That is how an orchestra with life came
>> to be known as a "Jazz orchestra." But none of us like the word,'
>> added Hickman."
>> ---
>> _Talking Machine World_, July 15, 1920, p. 6 (cited by Gushee)
>> "Jazz is merely noise, a product of the honky-tonks, and has no place
>> in a refined atmosphere. We have tried to develop an orchestra that
>> charges every pulse with energy, without stooping to the skillet
>> beating, sleigh bell ringing contraptions and physical gyrations of a
>> padded cell."
>> ---
>> --Ben Zimmer
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
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