Friday, December 16, 2011
Bowler Hats, Checkered Vests: Singapore Dixieland
"Way down in New Orleans at the Golden Goose/I grabbed a green-eyed dolly that was on the loose/Well I dig that music and she sent me too/I said pretty baby come on let's do/The Dixieland Rock /Well the Dixieland rock /Let your hair down sugar, shake it free/And do the Dixieland Rock with me...
With the blue light shining on her swinging hips/She got the drummer so nervous that he lost his sticks/The cornet player hit a note that's flat/The tromboner hit him while the poor cat sat... Elvis Presley, King Creole: Dixieland Rock lyrics."
"Dixieland music, sometimes referred to as hot jazz, early jazz or New Orleans jazz, is a style of jazz music which developed in New Orleans, USA at the start of the 20th century. It spread to Chicago and New York City by New Orleans bands in the 1910s. Well-known jazz standard songs from the Dixieland era, such as Basin Street Blues and When the Saints Go Marching In, Tiger Rag, Basin Street Blues, Panama are a few known songs. Edited: Wiki."
New Orleans came early to Singapore and this island has no Golden Goose Club but the above lines from Presley's song prompted me to write this posting as I vaguely remember when a *Dixie band performed in the sixties in Singapore. These were music artistes well-versed in their craft and as the above images prove, were well established and even televised in black and white way back when.
The music caught on some in Singapore and there has always been a steady stream of enthusiasts who love the genre. Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Louis Armstrong were some of the imports that locals listen to.
Check out their full regalia too - bowler hats, checkered vests, special bow-ties and sleeve garters that were usually worn by musicians playing this genre, be it barbershop, ragtime or dixie. But suspenders (master interviewer Larry King's favourite) and straw hats, familiar accessories for the uniform, were not used here. To all 21st Century male fashionists. You don't know what you've been missing. Cool Cats they were man!
The first image features a Radio Television Singapore (RTS) camera in a studio at Caldecott Hill, filming a group playing Dixieland music for a Special Easter programme. The second one shows Anthony J Danker with his solid Hofner guit with bowler hat intact. The third shows, from left, Eddie Fernandez, Harry Klass, Anthony Danker, Claude Oliveiro and Jimmy Gan. If there's ever to be a 50s Music Hall Of Fame line-up, these boys would definitely fit the bill.
Today, Dixie is alive and well on our island, thanks to the various schools, Community Clubs and music institututions that help to organise groups. One group, the Summertimes Big Band (Singapore) has a thoroughbred of jazz players, vocalists and music directors trained, qualified and schooled from licentiate colleges in the UK and US to lead the way.
The pictures above could have been taken in the mid-sixties after the advent of television in 1963 but are labelled under a 1958 portfolio. Is this a mistake? Anyone?
*Read Horace Wee's (previously with RTS/SBC Orchestra) under Comments below:
Images: Thanks to Anthony Danker for them. Courtesy of National Archives, Singapore (for online reference viewing only).
Original article: Andy Lim.