A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 02, 2009
Black Bottom (dance)

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Black Bottom (dance)
Black Bottom refers to a dance which became popular in the 1920s, during the period known as the Flapper era.

The dance originated in New Orleans in the 1900s. The theatrical show Dinah brought the Black Bottom dance to New York in 1924, and the George White’s Scandals featured it at the Apollo Theater in Harlem 1926 through 1927 where it was introduced by dancer Ann Pennington. Jelly Roll Morton, jazz player and composer, wrote the tune “Black Bottom Stomp” with its name referring to Detroit’s Black Bottom area. The dance became a sensation and ended up overtaking the popularity of the Charleston, eventually becoming the number one social dance.

“The Original Black Bottom Dance” was printed in 1919. It came from an earlier dance called “Jacksonville Rounders’ Dance” printed in 1907. The word “Rounder” was a synonym for “pimp”. Both “dance-songs” were written by black pianist/composer/dancer Perry Bradford and were based on a dance done in Jacksonville, Florida “way back”. One professional dancer stated, “That dance is as old as the hills” The dance was well known among semi-rural blacks across the South. A similar dance with many variations had been commonly used in tent show performances, and “Bradford and Jeanette” had used it as a finale. The dance was featured in the Harlem show Dinah in 1924, and then “The Scandals of 1926”, whereupon it became a national craze.

Bradford’s version printed along with the sheet music

. Hop down front then Doodle back, (Doodle means slide)
. Mooch to your left then Mooch to the right
. Hands on your hips and do the Mess Around,
. Break a Leg until you’re near the ground (Break a Leg is a hobbling step)
. Now that’s the Old Black Bottom Dance

Instructions for the Mooch are “Shuffle forward with both feet. Hips go first, then feet.”

Dictionary of American Regional English
Black Bottom n [Black Negro + bottom n 2] esp SC
The part of town where Black people live.
1915 Lit. Digest 51.500/2 Sth, Uncle Mose aspired to the elective office of justice of the peace in the “black bottom” part of town.
1967-68 DARE (Qu. C35, Nicknames for the different parts of your town or city) Inf GA19, Black Bottom—colored section; SC32, Black Bottom—mostly Negro inhabitants; SC51 Black Bottom—Negro area; (Qu. II25, Names or nicknames for the part of town where the poorer people, special groups, or foreign groups live) Infs GA19, SC32, 54, Black Bottom [where Black people live]

(Oxford English Dictionary)
black bottom
The name of a dance, esp. popular in and for a time after 1926. Also as v. orig. U.S.
1926 N.Y. Times 19 Dec. VII. 4/6 It occurred to the producer that if you could dance before the beat you would have a new rhythm… The result is the Black Bottom.
1927 Observer 6 Feb. 15/7 The accounts of the new dances are discouraging. There is the Black Bottom, the very name of which spoils a spring morning.
1927 Daily Express 25 May, Miss Bradhurst had black bottomed nineteen miles..before she collapsed.
1928 ‘SAPPER’ Female of Species v. 76 ‘What matter that his Black Bottom is the best in London.’ ‘My Gawd! sir,’ gasped the other. ‘His ‘ow much?’
1968 D. BRAITHWAITE Fairground Archit. viii. 137 The mock elegance and good taste of the Victorian soirée gave place to the rumbustious ‘Charleston’ and the ‘Black Bottom’.

OCLC WorldCat record
James P. Johnson & Perry Bradford
Author: James P Johnson; Perry Bradford; James P. Johnson’s Harmony Eight.; Dunn’s Original Jazz Hounds.; Georgia’s Strutters.
Publisher: [S.l.] : Arcadia, [1920]
Edition/Format: Musical LP : Jazz : English
Contents: Dear old southland—Bandana days—Skiddle-de-scow—Can I get it now?—Chicago blues—Mournful tho’ts—Put your mind right on it --Fare thee honey blues—What’s the use of being alone?—Original bugle blues—Everybody mess aroun’—Georgia grind—Wasn’t it nice?—Original black bottom dance—Rock, Jenny rock—It’s right here for you.

Google News Archive
6 September 1925, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “News Notes from Movieland,” pg. 16?, col. 8:
Frances Williams, the whirlwind dancer in “Artists and Models, Paris Edition,” has created a new step called “The Black Bottom” which is of so unusual a nature as to perhaps revolutionize modern dancing.

OCLC WorldCat record
George White’s scandals
Author: Ray Henderson; B G De Sylva; Lew Brown
Publisher: New York : Harms, [©1926]
Edition/Format: Musical score : Musical revues & comedies : English
Contents: The birth of the blues.-- Black bottom.-- Lucky day.-- Sevilla.-- Tweet tweet.-- Selection (for piano).-- The girl is you and the boy is me.
Other Titles: George White’s scandals, 8th ed., George White’s scandals (1926).
Responsibility: comedy scenes by George White & William K. Wells ; lyrics by B.G. DeSylva & Lew Brown.

OCLC WorldCat record
Old folks shuffle : (black bottom fox-trot)
Author: Clarence Williams; Fats Waller; Joseph Jordan
Publisher: New York : Clarence Williams Music Pub. Co., Inc., ©1926.
Edition/Format: Musical score : Dance forms : No Linguistic Content

OCLC WorldCat record
The chant : fox trot
Author: Jelly Roll Morton; Red Hot Peppers (Musical group)
Publisher: Camden, N.J. : Bluebird, [1926]
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm : Dance forms : Jazz : Multiple forms : No Linguistic Content
Other Titles: Black bottom stomp.
Responsibility: Mel Stitzel ; [performed by] Jelly-Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers. Black bottom stomp / Morton ; [performed by] Jelly-Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers.

OCLC WorldCat record
Original black bottom dance
Author: Guy Horsley; Perry Bradford
Publisher: New York City : Perry Bradford Music Co., ©1926.
Edition/Format: Musical score : Songs : English
Notes: Song from the musical revue Broadway gaities. For voice and piano ; includes ukulele chord diagrams. Cover title. Cover photo. of Stella Doyle. “As introduced by Billy Pierce in ‘Broadway gaities’"--Cover.
Description: 1 score (5 p.) ; 32 cm.
Other Titles: Black bottom dance., Broadway gaities.
Responsibility: by Gus Horsley and Perry Bradford.

27 September 1926, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Dallas Girls at Majestic; Rehearse ‘Black Bottom’ Dance for Next Week Headliner,” part 1, pg. 6:
First rehearsals for Dallas girls who next week will be featured to the headline act at the Majestic Theater were held in the English room of the Baker Hotel Sunday.

B. Herbert Shaver, New York dance producer, put the Dallas dancing aspirants through a routine that included the now famous “Black Bottom,” the outstanding dance hot of all the Broadway shows.

7 November 1926, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Black Bottom, St. Louis Hop, Princeton Toddle, Valencia and French Tango toBe Rage,” section 1, pg. 13:
NEW YORK, Nov. 6.—The really snappy young men who expect to further their social careers on the ballroom floor this winter will have to know these steps:

The black bottom.
The Princeton toddle.
The St. Louis hop.
The French tango.
The Valencia.

This program is formulated after conversation with Arthur Murray, president of the exclusive National Institute of Social Dancing, who has taught dancing to the Prince of Wales and some 400,000 others.

The big cities are beginning to take up the black bottom, which came from the Louisiana swamp lands to be made popular in New York, but Murray says it has yet to be modified to the point where it will be available for othodox ballltoom use.Just now it is crude in spots, like the Charleston when that dance first appeared, and is used mostly on the stage, but Murray and others are seeking to mold it into something more acceptable and within a matter of months he expects to see it established as the leading dance of the season.

OCLC WorldCat record
“The black, black bottom of the Swanee River” : revealing at last the truth about the origin of a dance whose strange name is causing certain whispers.
Author: Vera Caspary; Leopold De Sola
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Dance magazine. Mar 1927, p 15-16. illus
Notes: History, origin, and description of the Black bottom dance, with sketches by Leopold de Sola, posed by Buddy Bradley and Bernice Speer.

OCLC WorldCat record
Ma Rainey’s black bottom : a play in two acts
Author: August Wilson
Publisher: New York : New American Library, ©1985.

Google Books
Jazz dance: the story of American vernacular dance
By Marshall Winslow Stearns
Published by Da Capo Press
1994
Pg. 110:
The gem of the last of Bradford’s dance-songs, “The original Black Bottom Dance” printed in 1919, came from “Jacksonville Rounders’ Dance,” which he composed in 1907. “It was a dance they were doing in Jacksonville ‘way back,” says Bradford, “but people didn’t like the title because ‘rounder’ meant pimp, os I wrote some new lyrics in 1919 and renamed it ‘The Original Black Bottom Dance.’” (The Jacksonville ROunders’ Dance may have been one of the earliest-known versions of the Pimp’s Walk used in West Side Story—shoulders hunched, fingers popping.)

The Black Bottom was a well-known dance among semiurban Negro folk in the South long before 1910. Both Henry “Rubberlegs” Williams and Jodie Edwards of the Butterbeans and Susie team are sure that the name came from a Negro section in Atlanta. “That dance is as old as the hills,” says Rubberlegs, “done all over the South—why, I remember doing it myself around 1915.” A similar dance with many variations had been common in earlier tent shows, and before they reached T.O.B.A. in the early teens, Bradford and Jeanette were using it as a finale.

The Black Bottom became a craze, second only to the Charleston, when it was introduced by Ann Pennington in George WHite’s Scandals of 1926. (Miss Pennington never claimed to have invented it, perhaps because there was truth in the widespread belief that a Negro dancer, Freddie Taylor, taught it to her. “I introduced Ann Pennington to Freddie Taylor. says Mae Barnes,” and she gave him a Cord automobile.") According to Bradford, George WHite saw the dance in a Harlem show, (1924), produced by Irving C. Miller, bought it, and hired three white composers to write a song for it. The result was the DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson hit.

Bradford’s lyrics and the lyrics of DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson contrast sharply. Unlike the later version, Bradford’s directions are explicit:
Pg. 111:
Hop down front and then you Doodle back,
Mooch to your left and then you Mooch to the right
Hands on your hips and do the Mess Around,
Break a Leg until you’re near the ground
Now that’s the Old Black Bottom Dance.

Now listen folks, open your ears,
This rhythm you will hear—
Charleston was on the afterbeat—
Old Black Bottom’ll make you shake your feet,
Believe me it’s a wow.
Now learn this dance somehow
Started in Georgia and it went to France
it’s got everybody in a trance
It’s a wing, that Old Black Bottom Dance.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • (1) Comments • Saturday, May 02, 2009 • Permalink


Hey Barry!
Awesome post once again.  It’s funny how the Charleston in certain respects is still famous today.  Although people don’t necessarily do the dance style anymore it’s still known by name.  For some reason though the Black Bottom didn’t stand the test of time.  I wonder why?

Posted by Jazz Piano Lessons Love  on  03/09  at  04:21 PM

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