Friday, March 19, 2010

More cheating- Ol' Green River

Writing about my husband, Pete, the other day and the trials and tribulations of those who wrestle with Demon Rum  brought back a wonderful old Dixieland Jazz song that I can't get out of my head. I wish I could publish the music so you could sing along, but I do not have it so I will simply quote the lyrics and try to give you an idea of the rhythm.   Please remember that this is old fashioned stuff where the lyrics tell a simple story and the melody has.....well melody....many of you young whippersnappers may find it difficult to relate.

I was floating down
    that old Green River
On the good ship Rock and Rye.

But I drifted too far,
   I got stuck on a bar

I was left all alone
  Wishing that I was home......

The ship went down with
     the Captain and Crew
    So there was only
          one thing to do.

I had to drink
 that whole Green River dry
   to get back
       home to yoooooou.

What a hoot! 

I remember vividly the first time I heard Dixieland (or, as I prefer to call it, Classic Jazz.  I was about 10 years old.  My Mother, Dad and I were sitting around the kitchen table with watercolor paints and brushes, adding color to a stack of Christmas cards my Dad had just printed after carving the image into a linoleum block.  (This was one of the few times that Pappy roped me into one of his projects that I was tickled pink to cooperate.)  As was usual in those days, the radio was on and it began to broadcast a show that was entitled "The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street."  The host was Milton Cross, a very respected announcer and commentator of the weekly broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House.  The program started out very seriously as a spoof of a classical music concert and then the music began and it was glorious jazz with a fantastic little band of consummate musicians and a vocalist who was just getting started named Dinah Shore.

At the first driving phrase my heart pounded, I couldn't breathe and then I couldn't keep my feet from tapping......I was in love.  It was a love affair I never got over.  Almost 40 years later, after I had met Pete, I had the incredible joy of meeting one of the same musicians who had been a regular on that show. His name was Henry "Hot Lips" Levine, by then in his 70's or maybe 80's,  and he was playing with his great little 5 or 6 piece band in a lounge in one of the big hotels in Las Vegas.  Of course he knew Pete and was tickled to see him after many years  so I got a hug and a kiss from this idol of my childhood and had the chance to sit and eavesdrop while they schmoozed about the good old days.  What a double hoot.

I must be honest and confess that, even though I am faily well adjusted to this technological age, every now and then I wish for the days when you could turn on your radio and listen to the The Shadow, The Green Hornet, Fibber McGee and Molly and......Basin Street Chamber Music.

The drawing above is barely related to anything else on this page, but what  the is sort of related to music.  It comes from my previous life as an Artist and while I often still do these scribbles for my own amusement or to celebrate some occasion in a friend's life I do not do it often enough. Perhaps the Blog will get me back to my roots and I can begin leading a double life for your entertainment.


  1. The older I get the more I seem to like Dixieland. Whilst I enjoy all forms of jazz, there is a simplicity about Dixieland which, for me, stimulates emotions. Your blog is a treat - a mixture of fine words, jazz and art : what could be better.

  2. 'Double life' - on the double bass eh? (ha ha)
    Basin Street - would that be the origin of that wonderful jazz number 'Basin Street Blues' I wonder?
    Must say I prefer New Orleans style than Dixieland, but I have a very catholic taste when it comes to jazz, and am equally 'at home' with the MJQ or Mahilla Jackson belting out a 'jazz gospel'number!
    Did Pete ever make any recordings? There's a big 'revival' here of some of the early stuff, so 'tis more than likely it will be re-issued at some point.Think my favourate of that period is Sidney Bechet. He really made that soprano sax 'sing'!And of course Harry James (got some of his shellac 78s) - and of course, two or three 'wind-up'machines to play 'em on!(Somehow they sound MUCH better with all the hisses and scratches than the 'clinically cleaned-up' CDs! Again 'Thanks for the memories' Lo.

  3. I grew up listening to Dixieland. My father was a big fan. He would swing and dance with me to the beat of that wonderful music. It's been 50 years and I can still hear it in my mind. The Dukes of Dixieland, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt. Oh my -You have transported me back to some sweet memories this morning. Thank you so much!

  4. For anyone who wants to listen to "I've Been Floating Down the Old Green River":'ve_Been_Floating_Down_the_Old_Green_River

  5. Lois -

    Not sure if you ever looked, but there are a bunch of videos of Pete Daily on youtube. Here's a sample:

  6. I so enjoy all your stories!
    They are wonderful!
    Great drawing!

    Margie :)

  7. Hi Lo, thank you for introducing me to this song. I looked it up on youtube as suggested by Ken and I really enjoyed it. Perfect song for a rainy UK Friday evening after work with your feet up!

    Really enjoyed your descripton of falling in love with the music and enjoyed the drawing to. Hope to see more soon! :-)

  8. Alan: Thank you, thank you! Yes...about is such happy music....even the blues make you happy when they play them with that wonderful counterpoint.

    Willie: Yes, the radio show was named after the famous Basin Street in New Orleans....
    Incidentally, you said you preferred N.O. jazz to Dixieland...this is only meant to clarify things for you.....there is the New Orleans stye, the Chicago style and even a Kansas City style but I believe they are all called Dixieland jazz and they are all good stuff. Don't ask me how they differ...I can't really say.....I just love 'em all.

    Rae: So glad you share my love for the have a good memory for all those great musicians.

    Margie: Thank you....please keep coming back.

  9. Margie: Thank you....please keep coming back.

    Frog: Glad you like the tune and the blog.

    Ken: You are can I ever thank you properly? I did not Know the Snader videos were on Utube. I have them but am so glad they are being seen. As for Green was wonderful to hear it again and to know who wrote it. You are a treasure chest of 'ya.

  10. I've always thought that the New Orleans style tended to use more brass (and that lovely wrap-around 'Sousaphone'); whereas the Dixie mob used more clarinet & banjo etc.? But I'm no 'expert'- I just love listening to the stuff! Also nice to know the 'origins' of these pieces - Wonder if there is a REAL St James Infirmary for instance?

  11. Willie: I'll bet there was a St. James Infirmary......just like there really was/is a Streetcar Named Desire.

  12. Having a boyfriend-husband (that's what I call him as we are married in our minds) I have had the amazing opportunity to be introduced to all kinds of music. His love for everything older has made me open my eyes to so many wonderful styles of music out there!

    We are some of the few youngsters who take advantage of going to the symphony regularly because of the opportunity for people under 35 getting cheap tickets. Who wouldn't take advantage of that??

    I bet you led an amazing life with Pete, and it sounds to me like you have great taste in all things musical....that's wonderful!

    P.S- love the drawing!!