Query: Earliest attestation of "Razzy Dazzy Jazzy Band"

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 4 09:07:03 UTC 2011

An article that may be relevant appeared in the Oakland Tribune of
California in 1903 in the section "New Things Strange Curious." A
picture is included with the article that shows six "urchin" band
members with instruments.

The band is referred to as: "Spasm Band" of New Orleans. The article
does not mention Razzy, Dazzy, or Jazzy. According to the New York
Times and the Chicago Tribune articles that I cited above the original
name of the band was "Spasm Band" in 1895. (But there were other Spasm
bands I believe.)

I do not know if this is the band in question, a knock-off of the
band, a Menudo-like version of the band with an ever-shifting line-up
of members, or an unrelated band. The members look too young perhaps
to be playing in 1895, but it is unclear exactly when the picture was

Cite: 1903 February 26, Oakland Tribune, Page Title: New Things
Strange Curious, "SPASM BAND" OF NEW ORLEANS, NA Page 12, Oakland,
California. (NewpaperArchive)

The most bizarre musical fraternity on record is the Spasm Band of New
Orleans. It is composed of six urchins who divide their time equally
between mischief and selling papers in the day time, but as soon as
night falls they blossom forth as full fledged members, managers and
active players of the Spasm Band.

(End excerpt)

On Sat, Sep 3, 2011 at 9:42 PM, Gerald Cohen <gcohen at mst.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Gerald Cohen <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: Query: Earliest attestation of "Razzy Dazzy Jazzy Band"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Â  Â  First, many thanks for all the helpful replies. ---
> Now, for easy access, here is Herbert Asbury's 1936 treatment of "jazz" as
> presented by David Gold (noncommitally) in his 2009 book Studies in
> Etymology and Etiology, pp 155-156). Asbury's passage appears on
> pp. 437-438 of his book The French Quarter. (Btw, the instances of three
> dots are made by Gold):
> Â  Â  Â  Â ÅšA few of the best brothels regularly employed orchestras of from
> two to four instruments, which played each night in the ballroom from about
> seven oąclock to closing, which was usually at dawn. [...]. One of the most
> popular of these combinations‹though not for dancing‹was a company of boys,
> from twelve to fifteen years old, who called themselves the Spasm Band.
> They were the real creators of jazz, and the Spasm Band was the original
> jazz band. [...]. Â In short, they apparently originated practically all of
> the antics with which the virtuosi of modern jazz provide the hotcha spirit,
> and sometimes downright nausea. [...]
> Â  Â  Â  Â  ÅšThe Spasm Band first appeared in New Orleans about 1895 [...],
> [...] they were advertised as łThe Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band.˛ [ ]. About
> 1900‹the date is uncertain‹Jack Robinson, owner of the Haymarket dance halls
> on Custom house Street between Dauphine and Bourbon , engaged a band of
> experienced, adult musicians, who imitated the antics and contortions of the
> Spasm Band and, moreover, used their billing -- Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. When
> the members of the original Spasm Band appeared at the Haymarket with their
> hands and pockets filled with stones and bricks and made violent protest,
> Robinson repainted his advertising placards to read: łRazzy Dazzy Jazzy
> Band!˛ Thus it began.ą
> Gerald Cohen
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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