Bulee "Slim" Gaillard (1916-1991) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actor whose career lasted from the 1930s to the late 1980s. He is best known for his creation of a musical style based on the swing and bebop jazz of the 1930s and 1940s, but combined with comedy expressed in a personal language ("Vout") which added a surrealist element to the hipster jive talk of the time. Songs popularised by him include "Flat Foot Floogie" and "Cement Mixer" and he enjoyed enough commercial success to gain his own radio series in the 1940s and appear in a number of films, including the 1943 Hellzapoppin'. At the same time he was respected by jazz musicians, working with small groups including the bassists Slam Stewart (Slim and Slam) and Bam Brown, and he also recorded with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie at the height of the bebop revolution.
Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road (1957) contains a description of a performance by Slim Gaillard, which was doubtless a further boost to his "hip" credentials; but at the time of the book's publication Gaillard's career was on the wane, although as a consummate (if eccentric) entertainer he also recorded in R&B style and appeared on US TV in the '50s. He made a comeback in later years initially as an actor in American TV series and then, like many jazz musicians of his era, began to play the European jazz festival circuit. His British appearances were received with such enthusiasm that he decided to settle in the UK in 1983, performing regularly in jazz clubs and at festivals and being profiled on a number of TV programmes; but unlike many of his contemporaries he also succeeded in attracting a younger audience, appearing in Julien Temple's film Absolute Beginners and even collaborating with rap artists.
Links to Peel
Slim Gaillard's records did not feature often in John Peel's playlists, but his record collection contains eleven Gaillard LPs, several of them reissue collections on the Scottish label Hep Records (now Hep Jazz). In the early 1980s, these brought his music to the attention of British audiences through airplay on other radio shows and Gaillard recorded a new LP for the label, Anytime, Anyplace - Anywhere! in 1982. Peel's copy is autographed by the artist, apparently with a dedication to "John Peel", although the handwriting is unclear. Peel's copy of The Voutest!, also on Hep, contains a letter (undated, but before the "coming season of good will", possibly 1983) from label owner Alastair Robertson regretting that Peel disliked one of the tracks on Anytime, Anyplace - Anywhere!, "Everything's OK in the UK", and suggesting that Gaillard "rates a spot on your radio show". It is not known whether Peel or his producer followed up this hint by trying (unsuccessfully) to book the artist for a session.
Festive Fifty Entries
(The list below was compiled only from the database of this site. Please add further information if known.)
- 29 August 1981: Chicken Rhythm
- 31 August 1982: Opera In Vout (Groove Juice Symphony)
- 05 January 1983: Dynamite (LP - The Voutest!) HEP
- 27 July 1983 (BFBS) with Bam Brown: The Jam Man (v/a album - Stompin’ At The Savoy) Arista STOMP 1
- 29 September 1983: Slim's Jam
- 02 September 1984 (BFBS): When Banana Skins Are Falling (I'll Come Sliding Back Of You)
- 25 September 1984: Three-Handed Boogie (LP - Cement Mixer Put-ti Put-ti) Folklyric (JP: "I was very sad to hear during the week of the death of Slim Gaillard, who had been around for quite some time in London and I regret to say that I never got to see him playing live - and I shall regret that for a long time.")
- 09 January 1986 (BFBS): Chicken Rhythm
- 02 March 1991: Avacado Seed Soup Symphony Part 1 (album - Son Of McVouty) HEP HEP 11
- 02 March 1991 (with Dream Warriors): Easy To Assemble But Hard To Take Apart (12" - Ludi) 4th and Broadway (JP: "That's Slim Gaillard, who died this week. The first recording, from 1945. recorded live in Los Angeles and that was on an LP called 'McVouty, Slim & Bam' on Hep Records. ... Might be quite difficult to find that, because I picked it up, it must have been seven or eight years ago. And the second one was from the current compact disc in fact by the Dream Warriors. ... His name misspelled incidentally on the compact disc.")
- 03 March 1991: B 19 (album - Son Of McVouty) HEP HEP 11
- 02 September 1999 (Radio Eins): Poppity Pop
- 31 October 2000 (& Slam Stewart): Palm Springs Jump (v/a LP - Novelty Songs 1914-1946: Crazy & Obscure) Trikont
- 12 November 2000 (BBC World Service) (& Slam Stewart): Palm Springs Jump (v/a CD - 1914-1946 - Crazy & Obscure: Novelty Songs) Trikont