“Damn Tooting,” said Lucy, and that was the inspiration for The Best Damn Dance Band in the Land.
As I reflect back on it all now (“it all” meaning the formation of our orchestra: Ira Ironstrings, The Best Damn Dance Band in the Land), it must have been divinely blessed. Things Good like that just don’t happen every day in North Crumble. Not by a long shot.
I think it’s important that the world-at-large know about the day our orchestra was formed…for posterity’s sake, and also because we all get fed up with visiting anthropologists messing up the Good Life here in Macon County with their deep, probing questions. So here goes:
Actually, it was a non-Ironstrings but a fast-friend — Lucy N. Fairweather, our percussionist and Moral Beacon — who inspired us to form our orchestra. that sweet, grey-haired old lady had been passed out in our setting-room rocker for eleven days, just a-rocking and eyeing the bougainvillaea. Came the fateful evening, April 11, 1930. A typical Ironstrings family scene at dusk: the sun falling behind the Ice House, scented breezes wafting in from Kissing Bog, and the whole Ironstrings clan gathered underneath the creeping veranda. Lucy looked up at us Ironstrings, rubbed her antimacassars (which had been ailing of late), smiled benignly, and said, “You Clydes oughta do something about Dance Music. It’s damn well going to the dogs, and tha’s a fact.”
Well sir, we Ironstrings galvanized into action. After flooring the old lady with a feint to the mid-section and a mean right hook, I asked here just what more we could do. Already we had founded a fund to preserve used Andy Kirk 78’s. “Nothing more can be done!” we said, almost to a man. (“Almost,” because Armando Lauderdale had carried the maid, Thelma N. (for Nothing) Edison, off to Kissing Bog and couldn’t be contacted nohow.)
To tell the truth, Lucy was fit to be tied. (In fact, we had to forcibly restrain Polly Paradiddle, who was coming at her with a hunk of hemp and a mean glint in her good eye.) Lucy spoke up just in time. Saluting the colors, she said, “True grey Southerners! Be creative as all get out about the Dance Music Problem!” Taking it as her personal mission, she hailed a passing Red Cross van, clambered up on the hood, and stamped her right foot for attention. “Ira Ironstrings, Friends, and you Crumbums in the ally there,” she spake, still stamping her right foot for attention and also because the sole of her sneaker was flapping some. “I has come up with something, and in sheer reverence to this old grey head and also because I holds the notes on all your instruments, I think that mayhap we oughta form an orchestra! Horray!”
“Horray,” we answered, to a man. (Armando was back now, picking nettles out of his spats.)
“Damn tooting,” said sweet good grey-haired motherly affectionate Lucy.
That did it!
“Tooting!” I cried out. “That’s our answer!”
“The child’s been tetched since the day of the borning,” said Lucy, “and that’s a fact o’ nature.”
“Fellow Red Necks,” addressed I (never dreaming that this was the birth of what would serve in years yet unborn as a true elocutionary gift). “Tooting! Dwell on that word a mo’. Today in music everyone is ‘blowing!’ Every Man Jack of you has been faced with music that’s been blown! Bring back the Toot, say I.”
As if to emphasize my stand, Gutbucket Avakian, the Armenian Red Cross driver, gave his truck horn a whomp with his elbow. Toot, it went. Toot it kept on wenting. Stuck, it was.
“Crazy, pops,” said Thurston, my Portuguese step-sister, running toward the stuck horn, “G Sharp.” Pulling her trusty tuba out of her satchel, she ran off a wicked vamp. Lucy stomped her foot faster. “You fat heads are swingin’ now,” she wheezed.
Frenzy set in.
Maxwell Suggins (tenor washboard and temple bells) had tooted up a heavy four-beat rhythm on his “board.” Tanya Blackberry tooted a joyous cadenza on her three-string Woolworth guaranteed banjo, c. 1907. Reminding us all of a young Teschemacher, Hot Lips Skorstad tooted variations of “A Train” on kazoo, enough to make strong men weep.
I whooped, “Now we’re Tooting, bless our cute little hearts. Now we sound like The Best Bamn Bance Dand in the Land!” (I never could say it fast.)
Hearts full and feet a-flap, our 12 Hot Licks o’ Rhythm kept it up far into the night. As luck would have it, little Samuel F. B. Marconi, boy inventor, warmed up his cactus-needle recorder, the better to preserve all this on wax (as they say in Show Biz). Good thing, too, for you can now hear, at a ridiculously low price, The Best Damn Bance Dand In the Land.
Recorded April 11 and a hunk of April 12, 1930, in North Crumble, Macon County, Georgia, without benefit of clergy.
For your further dancing pleasure, may we suggest:
SORTA-MAY by Billy May, Capitol 562
HAWAIIAN WAR CHANT by Tommy Dorsey, RCA Victor 1234
CHARLESTONS by Ira Ironstrings, Warner Bros. 1297
GLENN MILLER, Epic 3236
- Across the Alley From the Alamo (2:12)
- The Blacksmith Blues (2:10)
- The Surrey With the Fringe On Top (2:21)
- Down By the Station (2:05)
- Christopher Columbus (2:48)
- Mountain Greenery (2:43)
- Jingle Jangle Jingle (2:33)
- Little Brown Jug (2:26)
- Jambalaya (2:00)
- The Huckle-Buck (3:01)
- I’d’ve Baked A Cake (2:22)
- Last Night On the Back Porch (2:05)
PRODUCED BY LOU BUSCH
VITAPHONIC HIGH FIDELITY
WARNER BROS. HIGH FIDELITY
MONOPHONIC W 1380