If you thought DJing with cassettes was the height of retro clubbing this seems positively futuristic next to Swingin’ Dick’s 78 Social, where only original 78s from the 20s to the 50s are played. Taking place every other month at the Office on Sydney Street on a Saturday between 3-7pm, it recreates a speakeasy feel in the heart of the North Laine’s finest gin joint.
We asked shellac selector Shamblin Sexton how it all began.
Initially Chris ‘Sick’ Moore and I started an ad-hoc jazz and swing night at The St James’s Tavern played from LPs and jokingly named after a swing-loving colleague called Dick. Sadly Dick died but he left me his large collection of 78s which included a number of 30s and 40s jazz titles. I suggested a 78s only session to Chris who, after a little hesitation and a job lot purchase, agreed and Swingin’ Dick’s 78 Social was born. It now takes place every other month at the Office on Sydney Street on a Saturday between 3-7pm
Have you had any breakages while DJing 78s?
78s are very fragile indeed and break incredibly easily, especially after a couple of martinis. My worst breakage was a great western version of Cocaine Blues by Billy Hughes. It had managed to last seventy years until then. I was totally gutted but luckily, we haven’t had any breakages for some time.
And you’ve now turned this format into a radio show?
Yes, The Swingin’ Dick’s Radio Show on 1 Brighton FM. I choose the theme and select the tracks, write the script and present the show. There have been a number of specials focusing on specific areas of interest, including the Kansas City scene in the 30s and 40s and the story of Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and the birth of Lindy Hop. The next show will be a special on the music and career of Duke Ellington. Chris does all the artwork for the records, the posters and the radio show.
Tell us about the album
The Swingin’ Dick’s compilation is released on the 27th April as two 10” vinyl at 33rpm (volume 1 and 2) and as a CD (both volumes 1 & 2 back to back) and will be stocked by Resident Records and Mr Bongo in Brighton as well as being available online from our label Stag-O-Lee and from all good record stores… Plans for volume 3 are underway.
Swingin’ Dick’s Shellac Shakers 1 & 2 review
The two volume set of 10″ albums have an authentic look about them and have been expertly compiled to include a mix of famous and long-forgotten hipsters, flipsters and finger-poppin’ daddy-os. Both albums feature raging horns and dangerous rhythms played at an often-frenetic pace and the opening track is a swinging take on I Got Rhythm by Horace Henderson, where Viola Jefferson namechecks many of the stars and hits of the day. The king of the swingers has to be Slim Gaillard – a man who lived a life so full that it took 4 Arena documentaries to cover his career. His classic ‘The Jam Man’ appears here in a rarely-heard alternate version.
Chicago’s Harlem Hamfats display a gravelly Satchmo style vocal on ‘Root, Hog or Die’ and piano legend Albert Ammons’ ‘Jammin’ The Boogie’ is a wild romp. The hippest of the bandleaders, Cab Calloway delivers a ‘Jive’ talk on being hep while drummin’ man Gene Krupa ignites a ‘Ball of Fire’. The selections compliment each other really well and combine to make a great soundtrack for mixing the cocktail recipes on the back cover.
Swinging Dick’s Shellac Shakers is released on 24th April and there will be a gin-infused launch party at The Office, Sydney Street on 6th May from 3-7pm.
See their Facebook page for more details.
Interview and album review by Steve Clements