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The Virginians: I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

February 18, 2010

The Virginians
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

Recorded in 1922

The Virginians were a small group from Paul Whiteman’s band. The clarinetist was Ross Gorman, who a year later would originate the famous glissando that opens Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The trumpet was Henry Busse, Paul Whiteman’s star soloist at the time. He later had a long career as a bandleader in his own right until 1955, when he conveniently died while his band was playing at an undertakers’ convention.

Henry Busse, from a group photo of Paul Whiteman's band in 1921.

Recording under a different name gave the musicians a chance to play a more informal sort of jazz than Whiteman would allow. It’s certainly not the freewheeling controlled chaos of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, or the manic improvisation of King Oliver’s band, but this side shows us a band that was more than the sum of its musicians.

The blues boom of the early 1920s was still in full swing, and even popular songs took on a blues tinge for a while. In this recording, though the tune itself is sixteen bars with a two-bar coda, Gorman’s clarinet solo is a twelve-bar blues.

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