[Ads-l] Lewis Porter on the origins of "jazz"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 7 21:43:51 UTC 2019

As for people in San Francisco who might have brought the word Jazz to Chicago, the Chicago White Sox were in California in 1913 when Scoop Gleeson and Spike Slattery started using the word in their sports columns.

In this piece, I detail the connection between the master of ceremonies at Boyes Springs where Gleeson and Slattery used the word "jazz" and Bert Kelly who later claimed to have first used the word as a musical term.  Art Hickman was the musical director at Boyes Springs - and picked up the baseball players at the station.  Bert Kelly played at Boyes Springs in 1914.

And the word "jazz" started appearing in print outside of California a few months after Slattery and Gleeson started using the word.  For example, the Daily Republican (Rushville, Indiana), June 7, 1913, page 4 noted that, "Now, out in San Francico, the most popular word is 'the old jazz.'  It means anything you may happen to want it to."

Later that month, the Winnipeg Tribune, June 28, 1913, page 18, published a review of a Lew Fields show, "Hanky Panky," from a San Francisco newspaper.  This does not use the word "Jazz" as a form of music, but it may be the earliest example of music-related use of "jazz."

From the San Francisco Bulletin, the Winnipeg paper quoted: "It's been many a day since fun was produced as freely as last night.  There wasn't any plot to follow, there were no near-comedians; all were headliners.  And the chorus.  They must have put the 'J' to 'Jazz,' for they teemed with pepper and ginger.  'It's some show!' was the verdict when the last curtain dropped."

And of course, Portland pitcher Ben Henderson's "jazz curve" of 1912, playing in the same league as the San Francisco team Gleeson and Slattery covered, may suggest that the word, as it was understood in San Francisco at the time, may have pre-dated Slattery and Gleeson's usage in 1913.


------ Original Message ------
From: "Ben Zimmer" <bgzimmer at gmail.com>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 3/7/2019 1:02:33 PM
Subject: Lewis Porter on the origins of "jazz"

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster: Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Lewis Porter on the origins of "jazz"

Last year, jazz historian Lewis Porter wrote a piece for WGBO on the
origins of the word "jazz":


I was in touch with him after that to share my own research -- including on
Bert Kelly, who may have been the one to bring "jazz" from San Francisco
baseball circles to Chicago musical circles. Porter has now followed up
with another post, expressing some skepticism about Kelly's role in
originating the word.


Porter's latest post includes some other material I dug up: scans of ads
for Tom Brown's band in the Chicago Examiner from May 1915. The ad from May
22 calls the band a "jad orchestra," but on May 26 "jad" is gone and it's
just called "Brown's Band." These ads are mentioned Laurence Gushee's book
"Pioneers of Jazz" (and the first one gets a bracketed cite in the OED's
"jazz" entry), but fortunately the Examiner is now digitized for 1915 so
you can see them for yourself.

May 22 ("The Original Jad Orchestra"):
May 26 ("Brown's Band"):


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

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