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SLIM GAILLARD'S BIOGRAPHY

Born: Bulee Gaillard, January 4, 1916, Detroit, Michigan - Died February 26, 1991 - England
Other sources including Gaillard himself have claimed he was born on 1 January 1916 in Santa Clara, Cuba. Gaillard led an adventurous childhood. On one occasion, while traveling on board a ship on which his father was steward, he was left behind in Crete when the ship sailed. His adventures became more exciting every time he recounted his tales and include activities such as professional boxer, mortician and truck driver for bootleggers. Originally based in Detroit, Gaillard entered vaudeville in the early 30s with an act during which he played the guitar while tap-dancing. Later in the decade he moved to New York and formed a duo with bassist Slam Stewart in which Gaillard mostly played guitar and sang. Much of their repertoire was original material with lyrics conceived in Gaillard's personal version of the currently popular 'jive talk', which on his lips developed extraordinary surrealist overtones. Gaillard's language, which he named 'Vout' or 'Vout Oreenie', helped the duo achieve a number of hit records,  including 'Flat Foot Floogie'. Their success led to a long running radio series and an appearance in the film Hellzapoppin. In 1943 Stewart was inducted for military service and was replaced by Bam Brown. Now based in Los Angeles, Gaillard continued to write songs, often in collaboration with Brown, and had another big hit with 'Cement Mixer (Put-ti Put-ti)'. With Brown he co-authored a remarkable extended work, 'Opera in Vout', which premiered in Los Angeles in 1946. (In fact, it was not an opera and not much of it was in vout!) Another huge hit was 'Down By The Station', a song which, uniquely for a jazz artist, entered the catalogue of classic children's nursery rhymes. Contrastingly, he also recorded with bebop musicians, including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie ( Slim's Jam ). In the late 40s he continued his eccentric entertaining, which included such intriguing routines as playing piano with his hands upside-down. Not surprisingly, given his manner of performance and his private language, some people never quite understood Gaillard and one radio station banned his record 'Yep Roc Heresy', declaring it to be degenerate; in fact, the lyric was merely a recitation of the menu from an Armenian restaurant. In the late 50s and for several years thereafter, Gaillard worked mostly outside music but gradually returned to prominence by way of acting roles, (including a part in the USA television series Roots), festival appearances with Stewart and, in the 80s, numerous television and stage shows in the UK where he became resident in 1983. His tall, loping figure, invariably topped by a big grin and a rakish white beret, became a familiar sight in London's jazz-land. In 1989 he starred in a four-part UK BBC television series, The World Of Slim Gaillard. In addition to his singing and guitar playing, Gaillard also played piano, vibraphone and tenor saxophone.
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Copyright Muze UK Ltd. '89 - '98
 

 

Hello,

I just heard from my son Jim Voydat that you are looking for personal information about Slim Gaillard, also known to his friends as "Flako Del Gado Gailluardo". You have to say this with the proper accent, or you might suffer station static!

Slim and I worked together from 1965 to 1972. My stage name at that time was Marian Vee. I have lots of stills if you have need of them, and stories "galore", as well as an autographed copy of one of Slims original records: "Chicken Rhythm".

I am presently writing a book that contains many of the stories of Slim, how we met, how we started working together, how he became my mentor, how he taught me to "read an audience", and how to become more street wise, instead of being a "hick from the hills"!

Slim used to sing a song called "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere", usually only by request from fans who had heard him sing it before. It was a serious song, and many times, tears would flow from his eyes when he sang it. When I first heard the lyrics, I thought he was singing about an old flame, (of which he had many). They didn't call him "Dark Clark" for nothing! It wasn't until many years after we had stopped working together that I was singing this song in the shower, and I realized that this song was a prayer, and that it had come to Slim, directly from Spirit.

ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYWHERE,

SAY THE WORD, YOU'LL BE HEARD,

I'LL BE THERE.

MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF YOU LEAVE ME,

I'LL COME RUNNING IF YOU NEED ME,

ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYWHERE.

Perry Como recorded this song, way back when.

Slim and I stayed in contact right up until his death in the early 1990's. He was a close member of our family. My children's pet name for him was "Slimmer". There were many occasions when Slim would show up, unannounced, take over my kitchen, and cook us up some of his favorite Cuban dishes. We cooked together, and wrote "Chicken Noodle Soup", in that same kitchen.

I could go on and on, but perhaps you would like to talk with me if that's possible. I have some wonderful Mafia Stories, as well as Jimmy Lyons setting up Slim, Slam, Milt Buckner, on Jazz Organ Joe Jones, on Drums and myself on Vocals, and Congas at the Monterey Jazz Festival in the early 70's. Slim got the flu, the day before we were scheduled to appear, and my M.D. husband rushed him to the Monterey Hospital, filled him full of Penicillin, and got him ready to perform. It was touch and go, but old Slim came through. That was a wild performance that featured not only the old material Slim and Slam did together, but a lot of new material Slim and I wrote in the van on our way from Northern California to Monterey. We took a chance, and performed this material before we had it copy-writed. 

I  would be honored to share my stories about one of the most important men in my life.

-Mariah Adams aka Marian Vee
 

A Personal MacVouty Memory
 - Jim Calvagna

How delightful for me to discover a kindred spirit. I agree, Vic  and Sade was the funniest show ever on radio, and makes today's sit coms pale in comparison.

As to Slim what can I say. It was back in 1952 I was taking a date to Birdland. Usually when I went there I sat in the bleachers over by the bar where there were no tables etc. (i.e. the low rent district ) which Slim affectionately called Wino Junction. Since I had a date, I had to show off and sit at one of the tables on the expensive side (there was a $3.00 minimum per person). As we came in Slim was playing, when he spotted us he played the first few notes of "Here comes the bride'" and nodded his head yes. I shook my head no. This was repeated several
times. When the tune finished, Slim announced:
" We would like to dedicate this next number to our newlyweds here spending their honeymoon at Birdland. What a drag! If that was me I'd go somewhere and lock the vouty and throw the reeney away." A few years later we were married, we still are, but we will always remember Slim's dedication.

A few days later I was walking up Broadway and here came Slim the other way. As he neared me I said:
"Mac Vouty!!" Without missing a beat he responded:
"O rissimo reeny!"

Your station has brought back wonderful memories. Keep up the good work.
 

A Personal Memory

Arden Moser

Roswell, Georgia

In 1967 I was a television dirctor and was general manager a television station, KGSC-TV in San Jose, California. Being an ex-big band musician, I had heard a lot about Slim Gaillard. One day, Slim appeared at the station and we met. Slim wanted to produce a special musical show using music he had already written or would write. He had great ideas and the show could have been a raal winner. Our pre-production sessions went on over a period of two or three months.

 
In development and early rehearsals Slim brought in two young ladies who were to be featured dancers on the program. Both were very attactive and both also worked as hair dressers at a salon in San Mateo. Slim laid out a format for the program and we were all set, following initial rehearsals, to videotape the first program. Unfortunately, one of the young dancers was killed in a very bizaare murder that, to the best of my knowledge, is still  unsolved.
 
Slim took the murder very personally and deeply and did not recover from that tragedy. The show was cancelled before it  got off the ground,
 
Shortly afterward, on a weekly program about psychics that was produced by the station, one well-known psychic devined about the murder. The psychic, going into a trance during videotaping of the program, named the murderer and described the murder itself.
 
The San Mateo sheriffs department heard about the program and confiscated the videotape before the program aired.
 
I never saw Slim after that. But it was a real pleasure working with him and his production  ideas were great. Sorry it had to end so abruptly.
 
Arden Moser
Roswell, Georgia

Steven:

My association with Slim was 40 years ago. There were no stories that he related that I can remember. But Slim impressed me with the fact that he didn't talk about himself. He was always laid back and enjoyable to talk to, either in person or by phone.

On one or two occasions we would roll a piano into the television
 studio. Slim and I would sit there singing songs - foremost that I can recall was "Cement Mixer".

Slim impressed me as being a gentleman. We laughed a lot and once I poked fun at him about that song, "Cement Mixer". I think he told me where he got the idea but I really can't remember, it was a so long ago.

I do remember another incident, much earlier, right after World War II. I was stationed at Ft. Bliss Texas with the 62nd AGF Band. One of our guys returned from a home furlough in Los Angeles and told us about  visiting Billy Berg's on Vine Street when Slim Gaillard was playing there.

Slim's band took a break, then at the end of the break, one of the
 musicians wandered back to the band stand and began to play, solo. A minute
 or so later, another musician wandered to the bandstand aand joined in.
 This went on until all were on the stand, playing. At that point, Slim
 wandered up. All in all it took at least five minutes for the entire band to return to the bandstand.

That was the first I really heard about Slim. Later I found a 78 rpm record of Slim and the band that gave me chuckles. On the first side, Slim introduced the record by saying "Me and the boys would like to play a
 little tune for you, titled "The Groove Juice Special". On the flip side, Slim introduced the other side of the rpm by saying exactly the same thing, "Me and the boys would like to play another song for you
 titled The Groove Juice Special", like the first side had never happened.

That always broke me up and from that I became a fan of Slims. Later, as I said in the first email, I met and got to know Slim - probably as much as most other people would get to know Slim.

Our time together was really enjoyable because he was so easy to get along with. I was sorry to have it end the way it did. He took the murder very hard and just left town. I have no idea where he went after that.

Wish I could help you more. If I can remember anything I'll let you know.

By the way, I'm still a working musician in the southeast, working out of Atlanta - big band and jazz trumpet. One of our jazz groups still plays Slim's "C Jam Blues" as am intro number on gigs and I often think
 about the guy. What a unique talent he had.I feel honored to have known him and worked with him for the short while.

Arden Moser

 

 

A cult hero, Slim Gaillard was a frequently hilarious personality whose comedy (inventing his own jive language with a liberal use of the words "vout" and "oreenee") generally overshadowed his music. In the mid-'30s he had a solo act during which he played guitar while tap dancing! In 1936 Gaillard began teaming with bassist Slam Stewart as Slim and Slam. Their very first recording became his biggest hit, "Flat Foot Floogie." Slim and Slam were a popular attraction up to 1942 with such other songs as "Tutti Frutti" and "Laughin' in Rhythm." By 1945 Gaillard had a new bassist, Bam Brown (whose frantic vocals matched well with Slim's cool if nonsensical voice), and "Cement Mixer" and "Poppity Pop" caught on. Gaillard, who played electric guitar influenced by Charlie Christian, fairly basic boogie-woogie piano and vibes, led an unusual date with guests Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie (1945) that was highlighted by "Slim's Jam." Throughout the 1940s in Los Angeles, Gaillard had a strong following, using such sidemen as Zutty Singleton and Dodo Marmarosa, but the popularity of jive singers (which included Harry "The Hipster" Gibson and Leo Watson) ran its course and after 1953 Gaillard only led two other record sessions (in 1958 and 1982). In the 1960s he was largely outside of music, running a motel in San Diego, but by the late  '70s Slim Gaillard was back on a part-time basis, still singing "Flat Foot Floogie" and making one wonder why this comic whiz was neglected for nearly three decades. 
 Scott Yanow
 
One of the most eccentric vocalists ever to hit the jazz scene, Slim Gaillard became a legendary cult figure thanks to his own privately invented jive dialect “vout," a variation on hipster slang composed of imaginary nonsense words (“oreenie" and “oroonie" being two other examples). Gaillard's comic performances, laid-back cool, and supremely silly songs made him a popular entertainer from the late ‘30s to the early ‘50s, especially on the West Coast, and several of his compositions became genuine hits, including "Flat Foot Floogie" and "Cement Mixer." Versatility was not Gaillard's stock in trade, but he was highly effective at what he did, and his musical ability as a singer, Charlie Christian-style guitarist, and boogie-woogie pianist was perhaps a bit overlooked in comparison to the novelty value of his music.

Slim was born Bulee Gaillard, most likely on January 4, 1916 in Detroit, MI.; some sources list his birthdate as January 1, and Gaillard sometimes claimed to have been born in Santa Clara, Cuba instead of Detroit. His father worked as a steward on a cruise liner, and sometimes brought young Slim along, once accidentally leaving him behind on the island of Crete. Gaillard was mostly raised in Detroit, though, where he tried his hand at professional boxing, worked as a mortician, and ran bootleg rum for the Purple Gang during the ‘30s. He also developed an act in which he played guitar and tap danced simultaneously, and eventually moved to New York to work the vaudeville circuit. In 1936, he teamed up with bassist Slam Stewart as Slim & Slam, and two years later they scored a substantial hit with "Flat Foot Floogie," which was quickly covered by the likes of Benny Goodman and Fats Waller in the wake of the original recording's success. Gaillard and Stewart kept cutting songs in a similar vein, including "Tutti Frutti" and "Laughin' in Rhythm," and eventually took their act to Hollywood, where they appeared in the 1941 film Hellzapoppin. Their partnership continued on through 1942, when World War II interrupted; both served in the military, Gaillard in the Air Force.


Upon exiting the service in 1944, Gaillard settled in Los Angeles and took up residency at Billy Berg's Hollywood Boulevard club, a hot spot for stars of the era. Now in tandem with bassist Bam Brown, Gaillard became a top draw and a hip name to drop; his 1945 hit "Cement Mixer" returned him to national prominence, and he recorded frequently that year, often with a quartet featuring Brown, pianist Dodo Marmarosa, and drummer Zutty Singleton. He also cut a session with bop greats Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in late 1945, the most notable result of which was "Slim's Jam." The latter half of the ‘40s saw Gaillard's popularity at its peak; he appeared in several films and recorded for Verve up through 1951. He had further hits with 1948's "Down by the Station," which became a popular children's nursery rhyme, and 1951's "Yep Roc Heresay," a recitation of the menu from a Middle Eastern restaurant that one radio station banned for its "suggestiveness." He performed in New York frequently from 1951-53, and also participated in Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1953; a few years later, he was name-checked in Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

By the mid-‘50s, Gaillard's popularity was on the wane. He spent much of the latter part of the decade on the road with Stan Kenton, and recorded for Dot in 1958. He took a hiatus from music in the ‘60s; he managed a motel in San Diego for a time, and bought an orchard near Tacoma, Washington. He also played clubs and spent time in Los Angeles, where he drifted into acting toward the end of the decade, appearing on TV shows like Marcus Welby, M.D., Charlie's Angels, Mission Impossible, Medical Center, and Along Came Bronson. He reunited with Slam Stewart at the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival, and in 1979 he appeared in the miniseries Roots: The Next Generation. In 1982, Dizzy Gillespie talked Gaillard into returning to music. He traveled to the U.K. and made his first recordings since 1958 for Hep, which issued them as the album Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere; he also hit the festival circuit and toured Europe extensively, making London his new home base in 1983. He appeared in the cult film Absolute Beginners in 1986, and was the subject of a multi-part BBC special called The World of Slim Gaillard in 1989. Gaillard passed away on February 26, 1991 after a bout with cancer. — Steve Huey

DJ Slim

As I high school girl during that time, my girlfriend and I, along with every other teenager in San Diego, rushed home to turn on and get our requests in, to Slim Gaillard's stint as a D.J. doing requests. He got so acquainted with some of us, he could call us by name, remembering some of our earlier requests and asking what happened to ...... We loved him! I am 73 now, and his music and that request show are an integral part of some of my fondest memories. We got the great feeling that we knew him in person.

Vout!

Terri Adams (now of Beijing, China)
8/25/07
 

The other day I saw a cement mixer --- and you probably can guess the rest. What I wanted to tell you, if you are doing any research on Slim, is that back in the mid-1970s he was in Tacoma and the union called a few of us to come and jam with him because one of the educational TV stations wanted to do an interview with him, get some of his music on videotape or whatever they used back then.
I am sorry I can't be much help beyond that. I think it was a locally well-known musician, Wayne Simon, who got us together, but Wayne is long gone. I have to admit that I had barely heard of Slim at that time, so playing "Cement Mixer" and "Flat Foot Floogie" and whatever else we did was kind of a just-hang-on learning experience.
But someone around Tacoma might have that old tape or film somewhere. I think it was one of the community colleges that did it. I'm pretty sure it was not the two bigger schools, PLU or UPS.
Guess that's all. Good luck, and thanks for the info on your site.
Randy Dary
Lakeview OR - 08/08/09

When I was in high school some of my friends and I would take our dates to Billy Berg's Supper Club on Vine Street and Hollywood Boulevard.  Although we were all under age the management never turned us down when we ordered Singapore Slings and Frozen Daiquiris.  We were dressed well, wearing ties and jackets and we behaved like adults.   Among those appearing at Billy Berg's in addition to Slim were Harry the Hipster Gibson and Frankie Laine.  Slim Gaillard's "Cement Mixer" became our theme song.  We never tired of imitating Slim and improvising on the melody.  Voutoroonie became part of our vocabulary.  In addition to being there in person I would often listen to the midnight radio broadcast that emanated from the club.  Slim was a delightful entertainer who gave us many pleasurable hours of mirth and music.  It was nice to revive these memories on your site.  Thank you.
-Paul Wood 2-21-10

 

In the early fifties my girlfriend and I would travel to nyc from Flatbush and hit birdland, downbeat and a couple of times the latin quarter. We loved slim and saw him at both the downbeat and birdland. I still say mcvouty and I will be 78 in October. Those were the days when young girls could travel on the subways unescorted. I have slim’s autograph along with George Shearing’s on the same birdland cover charge card when they were both appearing there.

Fond memories for sure,

Janet Duaine

6/15/12

 

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