“THE THRUSH AND THE SKINMAN” (January 18, 1944)

I will explain my odd title-quotation below.

Billie Holiday and Sidney Catlett in concert at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, January 18, 1944.

And here is the soundtrack: DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME, BILLIE’S BLUES, and I’LL GET BY, with Billie accompanied by Roy Eldridge, Jack Teagarden, Coleman Hawkins, Barney Bigard, Art Tatum, Al Casey, Oscar Pettiford, and Sidney Catlett:

And you all know that Louis Armstrong, Teddy Wilson, and Mildred Bailey appeared, with the Goodman Quintet being beamed in from the other coast.

When I bid on and won that photograph of Billie and Sidney on eBay, it came with a small rectangular strip of yellowed paper taped to its back, which read

THE THRUSH AND THE SKINMAN

“Two top jive artists are shown at the Esquire All-American jazz concert, held at the Metropolitan Opera House on January 18th. Billie Holliday does the vocalizing as drummer boy Sid Catlett pounds the skins.”

I am nostalgic about 1944 music, but I am glad that no one feels compelled to write that way anymore.  Incidentally, when I looked online to see where this picture might have appeared — searching for THRUSH and SKINMAN — I got a whole host of entries about candida, male and female yeast infections. Mmmmmmm.

My unanswered and unanswerable question about the photograph has to do with it being a posed, rather than candid shot.  Notice that neither of the two participants is in motion; there is no blur.  So.  Did the photographer say to the two of them presumably before or after the concert, “Billie, Miss Holiday.  Could you come over here?  We need a shot of you and Sidney — how do you people say it — giving each other . . . some skin?”  And for those who like metaphysics, which one put out a hand first for this hip charade?  I know the photograph is in some ways fake, but the emotions behind it are not.

P.S.  If you’re going to lift the photographic image for use on your own site, be my guest.  I wouldn’t disfigure it with a watermark . . . but real gents and ladies also write, “Photo courtesy of JAZZ LIVES.”  Thanks.

May your happiness increase!

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4 responses to ““THE THRUSH AND THE SKINMAN” (January 18, 1944)

  1. The album of this concert was my initiation into jazz, especially Art Tatum, back in 1980. Such an amazing lineup! Thanks for your post and photo! Didn’t realize that Goodman beamed in, as you say.
    Adam

  2. Don "Zoot" Conner

    I don’t have this recording, but maybe it isn’t available. Sounds like “The thrush and the skinman” is a porn site known only to you, Michael. Thanks for the post.

  3. I’m not sure if I should be pleased that you assume I know porn sites that well, but we can let that jest pass. However, some of the concert was issued fairly shortly after the event on V-Discs, and I saw my first issue of the complete concert on three Palm Club 12″ lps. I am sure that it is still available on various collectors’ CDs now.

  4. Just found it on my streaming service as Esquire’s First All American Jazz Concert, FYI (and am listening to it as I write).
    Adam

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