Possible Antedating of "Bebop"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 10 06:31:32 UTC 2012

On Sat, Dec 8, 2012 at 9:46 PM, George Thompson <george.thompson at nyu.edu> wrote:
> A reporter from some squares' magazine -- Time, as I recall -- came to a
> recording session featuring Dizzy Gillespie.  He was dumbfounded by the
> music and asked "what in the world is that?"  Gillespie thought he was
> asking for the name of the tune, and said "Be-bop".  The next week there
> was a story in the magazine about this weird new music called Be-bop.
> I don't vouch for any part of this as history, but it does suggest that
> there was a tune called Be-bop.  REcorded by Gillespie? or anyone else,
> before the word came to be the name of the style of playing?


Billboard - Mar 27, 1948 - Page 15
Magazine - Full view
Lionel Hampton's April 10 Carnegie Hall concert (he goes in at $2,500
against 60 per cent of the gross) will feature the following
Oo- Bop Zoo-Bop Ee-Oo-Bop
And just for the helluvit, something will be slipped in called _The
Crystal Suite_. [italics original]

I've read a version of the story. My memory is very vague - didn't
think you'd ever see that, did you? - on this. It had to have been
later than 1944, though, since I definitely *read* it and it was
supposed to illuminate the origin of the *word* and not that of the
genre. The word and the music were both already sufficiently
well-known, by that time, that people had begun to wonder about its
"first beginning," as _origin, start, initial occurrence_, etc. were
expressed in the StL BE of the day. It even replaced "Once upon a
time" when people recounted fairy-tales in their own words.

"In the first beginning, God, he said, 'Let it be some light.' And it
was some light."

As Redd Foxx once rhetorically asked,

"What would I look like, standing in the jungle wearing a silk suit
and some alligator shoes?"

IAC, the story went that, as Gillespie was rehearsing the first group
of which he was the leader, somebody unhip to the new sound kept
goofing the syncopation. Dizzy finally snapped and shouted at the
miscreant something to the effect of

"No! It's _be-BOP_, motherfucker, _be-BOP_!"

Meh. Even as a pre-adolescent, I found this origin-tale unreal.

Naturally, the magazine didn't express it in quite those words, but,

_soft LOUD, NP, soft LOUD_

is a template commonly used with emphatics. I.e., there's a popular
joke with the punchline,

"You wanna hear 'em ring?! ding-DONG, motherfucker, ding-DONG!"

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list