Neo-Swing and the Swing Revival


By the Summer of 1998 -- now known as variously as "The Summer of Swing" and "The Summer of the Daddies" - swing dance music and swing dancing had been brought back to life, including the nearly forgotten swing jazz. This revival, however, can be traced back to the early 1980s.

Out of early rhythm & blues and jazz evolved ska which then evolved into rocksteady by 1967, then into reggae, and finaly punk. By the beginning of the 1980s, "new wave" punk had become the the latest pop music trend. Among the many new wave bands, however, emerged a few bands playing strains of rockabilly and jump blues, and a few bands re-introducing the brass and reed instruments to pop music. Notable among the rockabilly bands was the Stray Cats with lead singer Brian Setzer.

Electric blues music and an old Jump & Jive swing jazz bandleader/preformer (Cab Calloway) would regain popularity from the release of the movie, "The Blues Brothers." Cab Calloway himself would come out of a long retirement because of the movie and would perform for audiences until his death in 1993.

These bands, performers, and partly revived strains of music were setting the stage for the revival of the swing dancing music as a whole. As in the beginning, swing jazz had a symbiotic relationship with Lindy Hop, the early swing dance. Both helped create each other. Here that relationship would again come into play in the early 1980s. Both would eventually help each other bring each other back to life.

In the early 80s, a group of dancers from Sweden, and a couple of dancers from Pasadena, California began tracking down original swing dancers from the 1930s and 40s. Among the dancers they found was Frankie Manning who, along with his partner at the time, are credited with performing the first aerial swing dance move. The group from Sweden and the group from Pasadena convince Manning, and others, to teach them Lindy Hop and other styles of swing dance. With the knowledge they gained, these two groups began teaching dance classes and workshops.

From the punk bands came Eddie Nichols, the son of a jazz singer. He began to look into the roots of punk, early rhythm & blues, rockabilly, and other early styles of American music. In 1989 he formed Royal Crown Revue combining elements of these early styles forming the foundation of a new swing sound -- neo-swing.

At the same time, rockabilly performer Brian Setzer was also beginning to play with these early Swing Era sounds. In 1992, Setzer introduces the Brian Setzer Orchestra and his own neo-swing style to the fans of his Stray Cats days.

The popularity of swing dances like Lindy Hop and West Coast swing began to grow, fueled by the new neo-swing sound, and vice versa. Night clubs featuring swing dancing nights, and bands such as Royal Crown Revue, Brian Setzer, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy begin opening which draws in the dancers who pay for the increasing number of neo-swing bands that feed their new dance and music addictions.

By 1997, neo-swing music has incorporated even more elements of jump blues as well as the increasingly popular ska & punk sounds. This drives up the energy of the sound even further and foster a greater diversity in the neo-swing styles. Movies such as Swing Kids in 1993 and Swingers in 1996 have added fuel to the fire. Additionally, a band called the Squirrel Nut Zippers revives the hot jazz sound of the mid to late 1920s, the sound which influenced the birth of the Lindy Hop in the first place.

In April 1998 the fire explodes after the realease of a khaki commercial featuring the aerial acrobatics of Lindy Hop done to the original Louis Prima version of "Jump Jive an' Wail." This commercial also featured impressive and flashy freeze-and-pan camera techniques that drew even more attention to it. Those who had not yet heard about, or seen anything neo-swing related, by now, likely knew about it.

By that Summer, bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Hipster Daddy-o and the Handgrenades, Brian Setzer, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers are zooming up the charts. Many of these bands make it into the top 50 in the charts. Because of the high profile neo-swing had achieved , the Summer would come to be known as the "Summer of Swing." It would also come to be known as the "Summer of the Daddies" due to the number of popular neo-swing bands with Daddy in their name.

Although media coverage of the swing "fad" and record sales of neo-swing music have declined since 2000, swing dancing and swing music has still maintained a faithful following. Several organization around the country, as well as outside the United States, have been created the assist their local swing communities. With the infrastructure that has now been created, the next up-swing in swing dance and swing dance music will likely be much stronger and influencial than the revival that peaked from 1997 to 99.


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