A music revival swept through Ivy League colleges in the 1950s, and it wasn’t the new rhythms of rock ’n’ roll that turned kids on. It was classic jazz of the 1920s. You wouldn’t find jazz taught as a college course, as it is today, but the sound of hot jazz from the 1920s was the preferred ‘party music’ for many college students.
Fraternities imported top talent like Sidney Bechet and Eddie Condon from New York for their functions. And on holidays, Ivy League campuses emptied out and re-adjourned in jazz clubs along 52nd Street and in the Village.
The dress code was chinos, argyle socks and penny loafers, or Harris tweed blazers and button-downs. Whether your school actually belonged to the Ivy League or not, everyone wanted to dress ‘Ivy League.’
The late 1940s and the early ‘50s was a special time for jazz. The music was both visceral and danceable. Almost every college had its own band that played hot jazz for mixers and parties. Princeton had the Tigertown Five, and Eli’s Chosen Six were from Yale. There was a band called the Indian Chiefs at Dartmouth, and Harvard had The Crimson Stompers. The movement spread with the Salty Dogs at Purdue and the Spring Street Stompers at Williams College. Many of these bands had success far beyond the college circuit. They toured Europe, spent summer vacations playing on board cruise ships, and at resorts in Bermuda. They landed spots on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show and performed in popular annual Thanksgiving Concerts at Carnegie Hall.
This week on Riverwalk Jazz, piano legend Dick Hyman joins The Jim Cullum Jazz Band to discover classic jazz in the Ivy Leagues. And host David Holt talks with Jim Hayne, a founding member of the Spring Street Stompers who was the first trombonist with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band, and a key figure behind the launch of The Landing jazz club more than 40 years ago.
Riverwalk Jazz would like to thank the following musicians who generously contributed their knowledge and personal experience in the preparation of this broadcast: Steve Barbone, Tom Bartlett, Peter E. Bullis, John Cooper, Kim Cusack, Lew Green, Ron Hockett, Don Ingle, Ed Metz, Sr. and Stan Rubin.
Photo credit for Home Page and Recent Radio Broadcast Page: Carnegie Hall College Jam Poster.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2008