jitterbug

psastillThree glorious black and white Public Service Announcements remind an “ordinary Joe” not to be “Joe Shmoe.” How? “Don’t be prejudiced.”

“Negroes and whites, Jews and Christians, [women are seen but not heard],” says the cheery announcer. “We are all in this together.” Also we’re all in the circus and on the baseball diamonds, high rise construction sites and neighborhood block parties.

Ground-breaking integrated pre-rock-n-roll boy band, the Benny Goodman Quartet, swing the PSAs to a brilliant climax as silhouetted jitterbugging hep-cats prefigure iPod commercials. We can make beautiful music together if we all play ball! Bake a cake for your colored neighbor. HOME TEAM USA! Tuned up for freedom! Solid!

Do you think Mustache Guy is Latino? [Mas…]


It’s not much of a video but it rules as a wild examplar of 1940s pachuco “boogie-woogie jitterbug” (like Lalo Guerrero’s Los Chucos Suaves.) This performance features unstoppable rhumba-flavored proto-rock-n-roll beat-me-eight-to-the-bar-boogie-woogie highlighted by shouted Spanglish insanity. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a nice welcoming round of applause to Orquesta de Don Ramon as they perform Chicano Boogie. [The artwork is from the Arhoolie compilation album. Yes, the track ends abruptly.]


Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me (1961, 22 mins.) Adult suspicion, pompadours, cigarettes, chromed cars, pool halls, the jitterbug and pinball machines conspire to turn kids into juvenile delinquents, but earnest do-gooders can save the day! Great rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack and candid footage make late 1950s early 1960s gang life look sweet — in the days before guns and drive-bys.

The camera follows the day-to-day lives of San Francisco teenage gang members (AKA “jacket clubs”) — white, Asian, Mexican, black — and the unfriendly world they inhabit. The documentary was produced by the American Friends Service Committee, which wanted to set the kids on the right path with community service projects.