[Ads-l] gig, gigging, gigger (1921)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 6 13:14:55 UTC 2015

Here's a nice antedating for the musical sense of "gig" as noun and
verb. OED2 has the noun from 1926 ("an engagement for a musician or
musicians playing jazz, dance-music, etc.") and the verb from 1939
("to do a 'gig' or 'gigs'").

"Gigging," The Billboard, Aug 6, 1921, p. 64, col. 1
When an orchestra played soft and low behind the palms at a
fashionable wedding, when a jazz band sang and played as you ate, when
the musicians played a tune or two to keep the audience amused till
the speaker arrived, when some of the boys entertained the gang with a
colored orchestra, when two or three played a dance at a private home,
when these similar events occurred you may not have not known it, but
you witnessed a "Gig," for that is the term by which such employment
is known to about four thousand musicians and singers who are daily
engaged at it.
No sympathy need be wasted on the musicians you see passing on the
streets late of a night. Most of them are union men who because of
special adaptability or reputation command a salary beyond even the
union scale. To this may be added the tips or gratuities that come
their way.
The most famous group of players of this type is the Clef Club of New
York, whose members have played engagements everywhere society
foregathers. There are more than two hundred "Clefties" as they call
themselves. In the organization are twelve different "bookers," as
those who direct engagements are called. They work as soloists or in
group formation, as when they give their annual concert tours.
Usually, however, small units of from three to a dozen persons work together.
There are in the country probably a hundred similar musical
organizations of lesser size as to membership, but wherever they are,
they are "the life of the party." They are an integral part of the
amusement life of the country. Their value in popularizing new music
is beyond measure.
>From the Giggers come many of the vaudeville artists of the stage.
Composers of many of the song hits of the decade are playing at the
present time with one outfit or the other. The work is attractive not
alone because of the pay, but for the more intimate contact with folks
of importance in the business and social world.
They live well, own cars, and several of the organizations own clubs
or other headquarters for the transaction of their business and for
their social relaxation.


Ben Zimmer

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

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