Query: "Jazbo on upper lip" (1915)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 19 08:39:49 UTC 2012

On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 6:24 AM, Eric Nielsen <ericbarnak at gmail.com> quoted:
> "The soul patch was popularized by jazz <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-jazz.htm> musicians, beatniks and
> other artistic or rebellious men in the 1950s and 60s, thus its name. Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie had a soul   > patch, leading the style to also be called a jazz dab or jazz spot. The style was popular with trumpeters in         > particular as the hair provided a cushion between sensitive skin and the trumpet's mouthpiece."

"… thus its name."

This makes it appear that "soul patch" dates to that era, which is not
so.  As for "popular with trumpeters in particular," name one other
than Dizzy, who wore that tuft of hair for the same reason that I
still wear it. It's the style for us black guys of a certain age.
"Sensitive skin"? No. Trumpeters don't try to avoid pain any more
than, e.g. bassists try to avoid pain in their fingertips or
saxophonists and clarinetists try to avoid pain in the mucus membrane
of their lower lips.

The first fifteen pages of GBooks take "soul patch" back only to 1999,
although, IME. it's certainly older than that. As recently as last
year, authors were still feeling that the term had to be defined for
the casual reader.

Dizzy was famous for the expansion of his cheeks and the popularity of
be-bop glasses and the be-bop tam were attributed to him, back in the
'50's heyday of be-bop. No mention was ever made of his facial hair
because we colored fellows all wore this patch of hair and had been,
since at least the '40's. But it didn't have a special name. is there
any indication that this bit of facial hair had a special name even as
far back as the lifetime of a famous white wearer of this style, the
late-great Frank Zappa?

I probably should clarify that my problem is with the pretense that
the terms, "soul patch / jazz patch / jazz dab" or whatever are
authentic jazz and/or BE terms dating back to the days of be-bop, is a
style popularized among the polloi by Dizzy or some other jazz
musician, and that the style once had a practical use.

FWIW, "jazz patch / dab" was unknown to me before now and I've never
heard "soul patch" spoken by anyone.  GBooks has "jazz patch" from
1947 in TIME. It's used as "cotton patch" is used. It's where jazz
metaphorically "grows" and not a style of facial hair.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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