state of nonchalance
can be respectedly cool
on the after beat
Can I return to that state?
That State of Nonchalance.
Right now, it sounds so … so … so .. right.
I am not sure of the first time that I heard the name, Duke Ellington.
I am willing to guess that it was in a Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs goe sback in time and takes on a Knight.
Bugs asks the Knight if he has ever heard of Bugs’ friend, the Duke of Ellington, Count of Basie and Cab of Calloway.
“Rogues and upstarts all of them.” replies the Knight and the two fall to battle which Bugs win when he trips the Knights horse and the Knight is catapulted by his own lance into the next shire.
The house were I grew up was filled with records.
Everyone bought records.
Even my Mom, which I covered in an earlier entry.
I played them all.
Some of them maybe once.
Some of them maybe less than once.
Some I played a lot.
At some point I discovered my Dad’s big band records.
And at some point I discovered Duke Ellington.
On Saturday afternoons in the fall at my house, you could count on my Dad tuning in that day’s Michigan football game.
My Dad was a HiFi (not wifi, HiFi) or High Fidelity nut and wired our house for sound,
You could hear the game in any room of the house.
This of course was back in the day that there was one, 1 … ONE college football game on TV for the entire country.
There was also a rule that any one college could only be on TV twice in a given season with special dispensation that any school could be on three times but never more that 5 times every two years.
We listened on the radio.
We listened to the University of Michigan Radio station, WUOM, and the deep voice of Tom Hemingway.
It was the background sound to fall at the Hoffman House.
I mention all this because after the football game was the UOM Radio’s show “Music of Big Bands” with the wonderfully named Hazen Schumacher.
Schumacher was another of the great voices you could hear on this radio station.
I would sit and listen to the music until someone noticed the game was over and turned the radio off.
On one afternoon, the show featured Duke Ellington.
No one noticed or maybe everyone enjoyed the music because I listened to the entire show.
When the show came to an end, Schumacher played Duke Ellington’s sign off song, Satin Doll.
Side note: It was years later that I found out this tune had lyrics. It was even later that I found out the lyrics were written by Mr. Johnny Mercer, Savannah’s own.
It was a trademark of the Duke to close by talking to the audience, thanking the audience and reaching out to the audience on how to be cool.
I can hear it now.
The deep deep deep voice of the Duke saying, “I see I don’t have to tell you; one never snap one’s fingers on the beat, it’s considered aggressive. Don’t push it, just let it fall. And so by routining one’s finger snapping and choreographing one’s ear-lobe tilting, one discovers that one can be as cool as one wishes to be.“
I was about 10 or 11.
A 10 year kid trying to be respectedly cool.
I tried it.
I tried it and tried it.
I stood in the bathroom and I tried and tried and tried.
I had some problems.
Some more obvious than others,
One I didn’t discover until much later, that I had no natural sense of rhythm.
Not making that up.
Another problem was that I didn’t understand half of what he was saying.
But the sound.
The richness of that voice.
The love in that voice.
I felt like he was speaking to me.
I only heard it that one time and I never forgot it.
And I never forgot the Duke.
Named my youngest son after him.
Got his music in my heart,
He was very beautiful, very sweet, very gracious, very generous.
As Alistair Cooke wrote is his obit of the Duke, we have his music, all of it.
I loved it all madly.
PS: Here is the text of the Duke Ellington Sign Off – through the magic of the internet, I also included a clip of of the Ellington Band -It is a short short clip and worth the time)
Thank you very much, ladies and gentleman; you’re very beautiful, very sweet, very gracious, very generous.
This is Satin Doll [band playing behind him].
We use it for the purpose of giving background to this finger-snapping bit, and you are cordially invited to join in the finger-snapping.
I see I don’t have to tell you; one never snap one’s fingers on the beat, it’s considered aggressive.
Don’t push it, just let it fall.
And if you would like to be conservatively hip, at the same time tilt the left ear-lobe.
Establish a state of nonchalance.
And if you would like to be respectedly cool, then tilt the left ear lobe on the beat and snap one’s finger on the after beat, thus.
And then you might be as cool as Inez Cavanaugh.
And so by routining one’s finger snapping and choreographing one’s ear-lobe tilting, one discovers that one can be as cool as one wishes to be.
With that, we certainly want to thank your for the wonderful way you’ve inspired us, and remind you that your are very beautiful, very sweet, very gracious, very generous, we do love you madly.