George Wettling, painter, c. 1948, by William Gottlieb
“Christmas greetings from Mr. and Mrs. George Wettling, via the December 1952 issue of PARK EAST, The Magazine of New York*.”
THE NIGHT BEFORE BOPMAS
It was originally called “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and the illustrations here reproduced from the first edition show its vintage. This irreverent version for hipsters is recommended only for those who know and hold dear the earlier classic.
‘Twas the dim before Bopmas when all through the trap,
Not a goatee was moving — and who gave a rap?
The berets were hung by the jukebox with care
In big hopes that Daddy-O soon would be there.
The boppers were stashed real cool in their pads,
‘Cause Frustration and Frenzy didn’t bother those lads.
My queen in her scanties and I in my robe,
Had just fixed our wigs for a long winter’s load,
When out in the backyard I heard such a rumpus,
I thought all the saints had marched down to stump us.
Away for my horn-rims I flew like a jet
And latched on real crazy, like Macbeth at the Met.
When I dug that sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
I thought I had flipped drinking whisky and beer.
With a little old hipster so jivey and mellow,
I knew in a minute it wasn’t Longfellow.
His eight tiny coursers were really insane,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.
Blow Jackson, blow Yardbird,
Blow Basie and Hackett,
Go Louie, Go Dizzy,
Go Big T and Jacquet.
Just blow up a storm — get all over the scale,
Now, blow away, blow away, really sway wail.
As long hairs that sight-read a Bartok will fly
When they meet Stravinsky, rise to the sky.
So up to the fil-mill the Hipsters they flew,
And really got righteous — and Daddy-O, too.
And then they were jiving and mellow and fine,
And snapping their caps on King Kong and wine.
As I drew in my fuse box and was turning around,
Down the chimney old Daddy-O went with a bound.
He looked like a mess from his head to his feet,
His drapes were all crummy, his toupee was beat.
A bundle he had to beat off his fears,
And he looked like a peddler just getting ten years.
His eyes, how they lit up — his dimples so crazy,
His cheeks like Four Roses,
His nose was a daisy
His dry little mouth was drawn up like a prune,
And the beard on his chin hummed a flatted-fifth tune.
The butt of a stogie held tight in his choppers,
And the smoke would have knocked over six dozen boppers.
He had a round face that was covered with hair,
And he really came on like a square at the fair.
He was big, round, and fat,
A right frantic old cat,
And I laughed like a fool as he stood on the mat.
He spoke not a word, he didn’t say nuttin’,
And I thought for a minute he’d sure lost his button.
And laying his index aside of his smeller,
And giving a nod, went down to the cellar.
He dug up his horn, to his boys gave a cue,
And away they all blew up the flew to see you.
But I heard him exclaim as he hit early bright,
Boppy Xmas to all, and to all a good nite.
* A word or two about “provenance.” I never knew the exquisite George Wettling to write poetry, but he did paint, so I am comfortable in assuming his talents did not stop with drumstick or paintbrush. I found this poem or parody stretching over two pages with the requisite antiquarian Christmas drawings pasted into drummer Walt Gifford’s scrapbook. I thought it a peerless piece of Americana and wanted to share it with JAZZ LIVES readers on Christmas Eve. Recently, however, I learned that it was also printed in the January 1957 issue of NUGGET, an early “men’s magazine,” so it is possible Mr. Wettling knew full well the axiom I heard in graduate school, “Waste nothing.” I can’t quite tell — at this distance — how much of this is affectionate spoof or barbed satire. Jazz scholars now often say that the war between the “Dixielanders” and the “beboppers” was created and fomented by journalists and publicists eager for copy, and we know that (let us say) that Louis and Dizzy and Jimmy McPartland were friends for years. Yet I also recall Lee Konitz saying on a radio interview that he found Louis’s BOPPENPOOF SONG so offensive that he couldn’t listen to Louis for years. I wonder whether George Wettling had become tired of being called “old-fashioned” and “corny” when his playing was neither. Musicians who lose work because they are told they are out of fashion might see mockery as fit revenge. Ultimately, all we can do is wish each other “Boppy Xmas,” no matter what musical variety we celebrate. And I send those wishes to anyone reading these words.
May your happiness increase!