Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Song of the Week: Louis Prima - Jump, Jive An' Wail

Our Song of the Week probably isn't new to anyone who knows their music. The song is Jump, Jive, An' Wail. It was written and recorded by veteran New Orleans band leader, Louis Prima. It is just flat out one of the all time great songs ever recorded. A perfect song. So perfect, it was always hard for me to imagine anyone actually writing it. My reasoning has been that it must "just have been" because it was too great to be written by an actual person. But it was. And that person is the aforementioned Louis Prima.

Mr. Prima grew up in the storied New Orleans neighborhood called Storyville. There he learned his art at the feet of his fellow Storyville local, Louis Armstrong. (click here to listen to Dave Alvin perform Armstrong's Perdido Street Blues). Sometime around '34, Louis Prima began fronting his own jazz bands and making a name for himself in the competitive world of New Orleans jazz. Prima's larger than life personality, solid trumpet playing and gregarious vocals would form a new, hyped up form of jazz that would become known alternately as Jump Blues and Swing, a direct ancestor, many would argue, to Rock-N-Roll.

By the time Louis Prima wrote and recorded his original composition, Jump, Jive, An' Wail in the Spring of '56, Rock-N-Roll had already taken a foothold in Memphis (see previous two videos). Jump, Jive, An' Wail was a huge crossover hit for Prima where his number struck a responsive chord with Rock-n-Roll crazed white teenagers, the pop music fans of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and be-bop Jazz fans alike.
Papa's in the ice box looking for a can of ale/Momma's in the backyard learning how to jive and wail. You gotta jump and jivin', and then you wail away. 
Prima calls out "Willy the Wailer" and a rollin' piano, subdued for most of the song, deftly propels the song along with a rapid rag. One more verse and a beautiful call and response with the dueling horn section takes the song to a crazed finale. Just a damn perfect song.

P.S. See our Los Straitjackets post to hear a surf version of Louis Prima's original composition -- made famous by Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa-- Sing, Sing, Sing.

P.S.S. Brian Setzer scored a hit with his version of Jump, Jive, An' Wail back in the Swing craze of the early 90's. Don't believe me? Look below.


  1. Cool cat!

    Not sure but my ear tells me that Setzer added a key change for the Jack and Jill verse (as indicated by his gesture and the word up?). The best key changes are the ones you can't quite tell.