Cement Mixer

Well, term is over and, inevitably, there are signs that the weather is on the turn. Time, I think, for a bit of inspired silliness by the great Slim Gaillard. I’ve posted about Slim before, but for completeness Slim Gaillard was a truly remarkable character who led a remarkable life, as his wikipedia page makes clear. He was a superbly talented musician in his own right, but also a wonderful comedian and storyteller. He’s most famous for the novelty jazz acts he formed with musicians such as Slam Stewart and, later, Bam Brown; their stream-of-consciousness vocals ranged far afield from the original lyrics along with wild interpolations of nonsense syllables such as MacVoutie and O-reeney; one such performance figures in the 1957 novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

In later life Slim Gaillard travelled a lot in Europe – he could speak 8 languages in addition to English – and spent long periods living in London. He died there, in fact, in 1991, aged 75. I saw him a few times myself when I used to go regularly to Ronnie Scott’s Club. A tall, gangly man with a straggly white beard and wonderful gleam in his eye, he cut an unmistakeable figure in the bars and streets of Soho. He rarely had to buy himself a drink as he was so well known and such an entertaining fellow that a group always formed around him, just in order to enjoy his company,  whenever he went into a pub or club. You never quite knew what he was going to do next, in fact. I once saw him sit down and play a piano with his palms facing upwards, striking the notes with the backs of his fingers as he does in this clip, wherein he interpolates an upside-down but nevertheless very accurate version of the opening passages of Debussy’s Claire de Lune.  I’m posting this primarily because it’s such a hoot, but I think it also demonstrates what a marvellous musician he was both on piano – check out the size of his hands! – and on guitar, playing a medley of his hit Cement Mixer to accompany his own gloriously daft vocal.

Other random things worth mentioning are that Slim Gaillard’s daughter was married to Marvin Gaye and it is generally accepted that the word “groovy” was coined by him (Slim). I know it’s a cliché, but he really was a larger-than-life character and a truly remarkable human being. As one of the commenters on Youtube aptly put it “To Slim Gaillard, the whole world was just one big O-roonie”. Enjoy!

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One Response to “Cement Mixer”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    “there are signs that the weather is on the turn.”

    Of course – the cricket season is imminent.

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