jas band (New Orleans, Nov. 1916)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jun 3 21:21:56 UTC 2009

America's Historical Newspapers (Readex/Newsbank) has digitized the
New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1837 to 1920. Here are the earliest
cites I've found in the Times-Picayune for "jas(s) band" (HDAS has a
June 20, 1918 cite from the paper):

Times-Picayune, Nov. 14, 1916, p. 4, col. 5
Will Give "Jas Parade."
Stage Hands Plan to Utilize New Orleans Material for Parade Before Dance.
Theatrical journals have taken cognizance of the "jas bands" and at
first these organizations of syncopation were credited with having
originated in Chicago, but any one ever having frequent the "tango
belt" of New Orleans knows that the real home of the "jas bands" is
right here. However, it remains for the artisans of the stage to give
formal recognition to the "jas bands" of New Orleans. The day of the
"Stage Workers" annual masquerade ball, which is November 23, the
stage employes of the city are going to traverse the city led by a
genuine and typical "jas band." Just where and when these bands, until
this winter known only to New Orleans, originated, is a disputed
question. It is claimed they are the outgrowth of the so-called "fish
bands" of the lake front camps, Saturday and Sunday night affairs.
However, the fact remains that their popularity has already reached
Chicago, and that New York probably will be invaded next. But, be that
as it may, the fact remains the only and original are to be found here
and here alone. The "boys behind the scenes" have named their parade
the "Jas parade." It's going to be an automobile affair with the
actors and actresses of the various theaters right behind the band.
The ball is to be at the Washington Artillery.
Times-Picayune, Nov. 22, 1916, p. 6, col. 6
"Jas Band" To Be Novelty.
Parade of Stage Employes Preceding Ball to De Startling Inovation.
Some of New Orleans' best known musicians will be seen in a new role
Thursday when they join the "Jas band" paraders, for the purpose of
heralding the stage employes' ball at the Washington Artillery Hall
that night.

Despite the assertions made by the first article, Chicago still lays
claim to the first known use of "jaz(z)/jas(s)" in the musical sense
(from the Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1915). By late 1916 it was showing
up in print in many other cities, so it remains to be seen if New
Orleans had much to do with the spread of the word (as opposed to the

--Ben Zimmer

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

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