The Voutians!

Phil Ford

I’m doing a talk at next week as a part of an art-and-politics-themed week for Bloomington Artsweek. The panel I’m on will also include presentations by Eric Drott, Bruce Durazzi, and Peter Schmelz. (I haven’t met Bruce, but Eric’s a friend from Texas who does fascinating work on Paris ’68 and the avant-garde, and Peter and I were both on the AMS cold war studies panel back in November. It’ll be nice to see them again.) My own offering deals with the peculiar way that hipness is not exactly politics, and not exactly style, but (as I’ve said elsewhere) and stance where style becomes political. But in the early postwar years, before Howl and On the Road, this rather abstract and dialectical nuance was lost on most people. Thus a funny 1948 Life magazine article on “voutians,” which makes hipness out to be something like the collegiate fad for swallowing goldfish. “Voutians” were fans of Slim Gaillard, a jazz guitarist who invented his own hipster slang called “vout.” (This clip gives you a dose. Basically it’s a hipster pig latin, heavy on the suffix “-orooney.”)

Anyway, should be fun. In the meantime, another bleg. Do any of you smooth-jazz-savvy people out there (Charles Carson and Gabriel Solis, I’m looking at you) know what this thing is?

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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4 Responses to The Voutians!

  1. rootlesscosmo says:

    The audio file sounds like Booker T. and the MGs, though I can’t identify it with any particular recording.
    I think–it’s not the kind of claim you can prove, but based on my memory of growing up as a Red Diaper kid and wannabe bebopper in New York in the 50’s–that style became political in hipness because the world of hip (like the Old Left) was one of the few cultural spaces where Black and white Americans encountered each other on terms that, if not equal, at least were aiming at equality. I don’t have the citation at hand, but I’m pretty sure Birtd and Monk played at a Harlem benefit for African-American Communist leader (and onetime City Councilman from Adam Clayton Powell’s uptown district) Benjamin J. Davis when he was indicted under the Smith Act.

  2. I vote for The Crusaders doing Way Back Home (perhaps from the Scratch album), although the sax has a definite King Curtis edge.

  3. GABRIEL says:

    I’m more inclined to say it’s like The Crusaders than BT and the MGs (no organ, for one, and the groove is too laid-back, finger-poppin’ 1976). For my money, though, I’d say it’s not The Crusaders, either; Wilton Felder’s tenor sound is way reedier, I think, than this recording. I also don’t hear King Curtis, who I think has a rattle-y noise like a chest cold or a wet candy bar. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Houston Person on tenor, but that’s a pretty wild guess.
    Incidentally, this prompted me to listen to The Crusaders’ version of “All Along the Watchtower”; takes me back to junior high and my earliest forays into jazz listening. Thanks.

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