EDDIE CONDON’S WORLD OF JAZZ: September 4, 1940

This is the first of a series devoted to the wonders created by Eddie Condon and his friends.  Unfortunately, I cannot offer rare musical examples.  That you will have to do for yourselves, and it is reassuring that so much of what Mr. Condon and his colleagues created was documented on disc so that we can now hear it.

What I have to offer you are snippets of print documentation — new to me at the time I discovered them, and I hope to you. Perhaps a decade ago, at work in the microfilm archives of my college’s library, I was searching the New York Times archives for something literary.  On a whim, I typed in “Eddie Condon” and found perhaps thirty or forty mentions of him in that newspaper.  I remember putting dimes into the printer and copying each page.  The file folder with the copies turned up not long ago — reason to begin a series for JAZZ LIVES.

Eddie’s wife, Phyllis (born Smith) was an invaluable part of the D’Arcy advertising agency (she handled the Coca-Cola account, which should tell you something about her stature at the firm). Eddie was ambitious about getting the music heard — by people who might not come down to a night club where the clientele was drinking liquor and smoking — so Phyllis made connections.  A New York Times advertisement from September 4, 1940, is one of my favorite Imagined Delights.

John Wanamaker

Fashion Show

Today at 3 P.M.!

Cum Laude Clinic

(A line drawing of a guitarist, string bassist, trumpeter, clarinetist, trombonist)

Do you know what Bennington girls bowl in? what Smith seniors snooze in? what the Princeton stags think of black? of red? Do you know of what stuff Daisy chains are made–and what about knees?  and prom-bees?  Get the lowdown insight straight from the shoulders of our cum laude clinic–five brainy beauties from Sarah Lawrence, VAssar, Michigan State, Swarthmore, Mt. Holyoke.  See big men from Virginia, Williams, Cornell, M.I.T., Stevens turkey-trot down the runway in tweeds and tails. Learn how pink-snuggle-bunnies can help you get an A-double-plus in Pol. Sci.; learn what clothes distract half-backs, shot-putters.

*    *   *

Hear swing as swung by Bobby Hackett’s All Star Band from Nick’s-in-the-Village — hear jive experts Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russell, Brad Gowans, Artie Shapiro, Joe Sullivan, George Wettling. Come early and hear the music, today at 3!  Fourth Floor, Fashion Store.

We could deconstruct this advertisement for all the obsolete assumptions about young women and young men, about college life, about materialism in the United States, but I’d rather think about the band.

If I had been twenty in September 1940, I’d be ninety-four now.  Had I a Presto disc cutter or a 16 mm sound camera . . . that way sadness lies.  Better to bask in the whimsy of one of the best bands ever playing hot those gorgeously and expensively-dressed young men and women.

And, yes, there was once a time when hot music was popular music.

May your happiness increase!

7 responses to “EDDIE CONDON’S WORLD OF JAZZ: September 4, 1940

  1. Fascinating post, Michael – thank you as always. Any light you can shine on the career of Eddie Condon is important and well-deserved. The allusion to Cornell reminds me of undergraduate days of long ago when we used to turkey-trot into the lecture halls wearing tweeds and tails.

  2. I compliment Eddie Condon for his choice of super sidemen such as Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Bud Freeman, Ed Hall, Pee Wee Russell and so on.

    Condon himself was a lousy guitarist and I hated it when he continuously made fun of the versatile clarinet stylist Pee Wee Russell on stage.

    I liked his one comment though; he was fond of saying, ” the beboppers
    flatten their fifths but we drink our fifths” . R.I.P.

    Girish

  3. Girish, I must say this to you gently but firmly: you are wrong about Condon’s guitar playing. He was not Charlie Christian nor did he want to be. But THE MUSICIANS who played with him always praised his swing, his correct chords, his subtlety. I suggest you listen to a good many Commodores and Columbias and then reconsider.

  4. Girish Trivedi

    Because of your opinionated say so, I am not going to waste my time looking
    for Condon recordings when I can listen to and enjoy the works of Ellis,
    Doc Pizzarelli, Hall, Burrell, Pass, Almeida, Farlow and others for the joy of
    listening to Jazz guitar playing.

    I have listened to Eddie Condon recordings for the sidemen that adorned him; except perhaps, Hackett , none of them was a leader and Condon was merely a meal-ticket to them.

    Potato, Patato, Tomato, Tamato. This is a free country my friend and I can
    express my opinion regarding any musician ; I always thought Yusuf Lateef
    bombed on the flute but was ‘huge’on the Tenor.

    Try to be discretionary and honor other people’s opinions.

    No hard feelings pal. Cheers.

    Girish

  5. Girish Trivedi

    Ha! Ha! Ha! to you too, Buddy.

    Cheers.

    Girish

  6. Girish is, of course, entitled to his opinions, but may be interested in the following from Billy Butterfield (interviewed by Alan Littlejohn in ‘Jazz Journal International’ February 1985):
    “He [Eddie Condon] was a very under rated guitarist, with very extensive knowledge of the proper chords to all the tunes the fellows wanted to play. He wrote one beautiful song, ‘Wherever There’s Love’, which I recorded with him and Lee Wiley.”

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