Saturday, April 18, 2015

"'Tain't What You Do" Record & The Shim Sham Dance

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a sound file of the Jimmie Lunceford band's record "Tain't What You Do" (It's the Way That You Do It)" and includes lyrics for that song. Information about James Lunceford orchestra and "Tain't What You Do" as well as information about "Tain't What You Do"'s association with the Shim Sham dance are also also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to James "Trummy" Young & Sy Oliver for composing this song and thanks to Jimmie Lunceford and the rest of his band for their musical legacy. Thanks also to the composers of "Tain't What You Do" and all others who are featured in these videos. In addition, thanks to the publishers of these videos, and all those who are quoted in this post.

"James Melvin "Jimmie" Lunceford (June 6, 1902 – July 12, 1947) was an American jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader in the swing era...

In 1927, while an athletic instructor at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee, he organized a student band, the Chickasaw Syncopators, whose name was changed to the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Under the new name, the band started its professional career in 1929, and made its first recordings in 1930.[4] Lunceford was the first public high school band director in Memphis. After a period of touring, the band accepted a booking at the Harlem nightclub The Cotton Club in 1934 for their revue 'Cotton Club Parade' starring Adelaide Hall.[5][6] The Cotton Club had already featured Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, who won their first widespread fame from their inventive shows for the Cotton Club's all-white patrons. Lunceford's orchestra, with their tight musicianship and the often outrageous humor in their music and lyrics, made an ideal band for the club, and Lunceford's reputation began to steadily grow.[7] Jimmie Luncefords band differed from other great bands of the time because their work was better known for its ensemble than its solo work. Additionally, he was known for using a two-beat rhythm, called the Lunceford two-beat, as opposed to the standard four-beat rhythm.[8] This distinctive "Lunceford style" was largely the result of the imaginative arrangements by trumpeter Sy Oliver, which set high standards for dance-band arrangers of the time.[4]

Though not well known as a musician, Jimmie Lunceford was trained on several instruments and was even featured on flute in "Liza".[9]

Comedy and vaudeville played a distinct part in Lunceford's presentation. Songs such as "Rhythm Is Our Business" (featured in a 1937 musical short with Myra Johnson (Taylor) on vocals), "I'm Nuts about Screwy Music", "I Want the Waiter (With the Water)", and "Four or Five Times" displayed a playful sense of swing, often through clever arrangements by trumpeter Sy Oliver and bizarre lyrics. Lunceford's stage shows often included costumes, skits, and obvious jabs at mainstream white bands, such as Paul Whiteman's and Guy Lombardo's."...

On July 12, 1947, while playing in Seaside, Oregon, Lunceford collapsed and died from cardiac arrest during an autograph session, aged 45. Allegations and rumors circulated that he had been poisoned by a fish-restaurant owner who was unhappy at having to serve a "Negro" in his establishment.[10] This story is given credence by the fact other members of Lunceford's band who ate at this restaurant were sick within hours of the meal.[citation needed] He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis."...

"The Shim Sham Shimmy, Shim Sham or just Sham originally is a particular tap dance routine and is regarded as tap dance's national anthem.[1] For swing dancers, today it is a kind of line dance that recalls the roots of swing...

... today the Shim Sham — particularly the Frankie Manning version — is danced more often to "'Tain't What You Do (It's The Way That Cha Do It)" by Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra, or "Tuxedo Junction" by Erskine Hawkins. In fact, it is typical now at a Lindy dance party for dancers to start up a Shim Sham whenever "'Tain't What You Do" is played."
Click for a sound file of "Tuxedo Junction" by Erskine Hawkins

(James "Trummy" Young & Sy Oliver, 1939)

When I was a kid about half past three,
My ma said, "Daughter, come here to me";
Says, "Things may come and things may go,
But this is one thing you ought to know!"

Oh, 'tain't what you do, it's the way that you do it,
'Tain't what you do, it's the way that you do it,
'Tain't what you do, it's the way that you do it,
That's what gets results!

'Tain't what you do, it's the time that you do it,
'Tain't what you do, it's the time that you do it,
'Tain't what you do, it's the time that you do it,
That's what gets results!

You can try hard, don't mean a thing;
Take it easy, breezy, then your jive will swing!

Oh, it - 'tain't what you do, it's the place that you do it,
'Tain't what you do, it's the time that you do it,
'Tain't what you do, it's the way that you do it,
That's what gets results!

You've learned your A B C's
You've learned your D F G's,
But this is something you don't learn in school;

So get your hep boots on,
And then you'll carry on,
But remember if you try too hard,
It don't mean a thing, take it easy!

'Tain't what bring do, it's the way that you bring it,
'Tain't what swing do, it's the way that you swing it,
'Tain't what sing do, it's the way that you sing it,
That's what gets results!

That's what gets results, rebop!
Information and lyrics from

Example #1: Tain't What You Do - Jimmy Lunceford

L. Heitmann, Uploaded on Mar 25, 2009
Here are a few selected comments from that sound file's discussion thread:
dudedad629, 2010
"Lunceford was a high school music teacher in Memphis and his 1928 band was so good that he basically told them that they were going pro. His band was a very discliplined one, and you can hear the marching band in them."

bwfeliciano, 2010
"This is the version that the dance hall I go to plays weekly during the shim sham shimmy. I love swing dancing.... <3" ** Rosie Michell, 2011 "Gotta love Swing Dancing. It makes me so happy ^_^ I love this song as well, makes me wanna dance and sing a long!!! Shim Sham Shimmy all the way!" ** Cleftonefan, 2012 "Great. Vocal by James "Trummy" Young who co-wrote it with Sy Oliver. I believe both were in Jimmie Lunceford's band at the time." ** Letty Lem-Burruel, 2014 "My Godfather was Kurt Bradford, an alto and tenor saxophonist in the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra and I grew up loving this music and him with great fervor. He taught sax until the day he passed, his students even visiting him in hospice- so great was his love for jazz and all music. It wasn't until very recently when one of his daughters handed my father two of Lunceford's CD's with several personal photos of my godfather with the band laughing and performing that I began to look more deeply into this history on the Internet for my father, who is now 83 years old and was my godfather's best friend. Btw: His real name, in fact, was not Kurt, but Mustapha Hashim; social norms being what they were back then, and even now, he found it necessary to adopt a stage name. I hope people are more accepting and just focus on his contributions to music rather than his race/culture. I know my family is an eclectic mix of every race you can get except perhaps penguin. Thanks Jazz! And thank you to whoever is putting up these videos and mp3s. More kids should know where all their music came from: it started here." ** u89worlds, 2015 "i knew mustapha aka kurt bradford in the early 80s in sf, ca. what a beautiful character and what a wonderful tone! i wish someone would write his biography. alto saxophonist of the first degree, he was one of arthur blythe's teachers. thank you for the update, letty. peace to the maestro. great band." **** Example #2: Shim Sham

Peter Blaskowski, Uploaded on Apr 14, 2006

Demo of the classic line dance "Shim Sham", from the instructional video starring Frankie Manning

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