Query: Earliest attestation of "Razzy Dazzy Jazzy Band"

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 4 11:08:50 UTC 2011

There are a variety of conflicting references to "stale bread" in
articles that discuss Jazz history. The 1903 article about the Spasm
band mentions an interesting variant:

... "Dry Bread" the little fellow passes his hat in which a shower of
nickels and dimes fall from daintily gloved hands ...

On Sun, Sep 4, 2011 at 5:07 AM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: Query: Earliest attestation of "Razzy Dazzy Jazzy Band"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
> taken.
> 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:
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>> Sender: Ā  Ā  Ā  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster: Ā  Ā  Ā  Gerald Cohen <gcohen at MST.EDU>
>> Subject: Ā  Ā  Ā Re: Query: Earliest attestation of "Razzy Dazzy Jazzy Band"
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Ā  Ā  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):
>> Ā  Ā  Ā  Ā Å A few of the best brothels regularly employed orchestras of from
>> two to four instruments, which played each night in the ballroom from about
>> seven oÄ…clock to closing, which was usually at dawn. [...]. One of the most
>> popular of these combinationsā€¹though not for dancingā€¹was 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. [...]. Ā 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. [...]
>> Ā  Ā  Ā  Ā  Å The Spasm Band first appeared in New Orleans about 1895 [...],
>> [...] they were advertised as Å‚The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band.Ė› [ ]. About
>> 1900ā€¹the date is uncertainā€¹Jack 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: Å‚Razzy Dazzy Jazzy
>> Band!Ė› Thus it began.Ä…
>> Gerald Cohen
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