HOT ETYMOLOGY at WHITLEY BAY: The WINTELER-PERSSON-NICHOLS-WARD WASHBOARD WIZARDS (Oct. 26, 2012)

The song is called FORTY AND TIGHT — at the time, this expression was the highest expression of slang praise . . . an in-group encomium for absolute perfection.  What did it refer to?  Even today, a cohesive band refers to itself as “tight,” but what scale had forty at the very top?  One can privately construe all sorts of potentially lewd meanings — but JAZZ LIVES requires the services of some hot etymologist with solid Chicagoan credentials.

While we’re waiting, here are the Whitley Bay Washboard Wizards — Thomas Winteler, clarinet; Bent Persson, cornet; Keith Nichols, piano; Nick Ward, washboard.  They evoke the Johnny Dodds Washboard Stompers (recording for Victor) and Jimmy Bertrand’s Washboard Wizards.

“Forty and tight,” indeed.  (Incidentally, the neatly coiffed woman sitting to the right told me that she was Tommy Rockwell’s great-niece, but this hasn’t been verified yet.)

May your happiness increase.

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3 responses to “HOT ETYMOLOGY at WHITLEY BAY: The WINTELER-PERSSON-NICHOLS-WARD WASHBOARD WIZARDS (Oct. 26, 2012)

  1. Eric Townley’s book “Tell Your Story”, subtitled “A Dictionary of Jazz & Blues Recordings 1917-1950″, which explains the derivation of the titles of various jazz recordings, says ” ‘Forty’ is slang for wonderful or excellent and is generally descriptive of a woman, as is ‘tight’ for a woman who is sexually satisfying.” So your suspicion of lewd meanings is supported by this weighty tome. Incidentally, another intriguingly titled tune – “Piggly Wiggly” – was recorded at the same session (on 24th July 1929) that Johnny Dodds Beale St Washboard Band recorded “40 & Tight”. It’s nice to see Dodds -who was my first “hero” on clarinet – being honoured by playing his music.

  2. This was a cracker, in the real South Side Chicago style. Can’t be done much better!

  3. I suspect that the origin of “forty” may have been the Italian “Forte”. As to “Tight”, it surely doesn’t just have a sexual connotation, but rather generally connotes excellence. as in “It’s tight like that” and “Too Tight” (another Dodds title of course). Amusingly, the Australian Bob Barnard recoded a tune entitled (and memory fails me here!) either “Fifty and Fat” or possibly “Sixty and Slack” – maybe Michael McQuaid can confirm!

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