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DJing at the Savoy Ballroom - did it ever happen?

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:24 am
by Haydn
The Savoy Ballroom in New York was open from 1926 to 1958. Presumably at some time in its' history, they had DJs as well as live bands. However, I can see no mention of DJs or records being played on the Savoy Ballroom website, or anywhere else. Whenever they mention music, they talk about musicians and bands, never records or DJs ... ... rveour.htm ... ebands.htm

So was it exclusively live music every night throughout its' history :o ?

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:41 pm
by Toon Town Dave
According to Frankie, there were no DJs.

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:17 pm
by julius
Live music was the norm for nightly entertainment in the early to mid twentieth century, even when movies and radio came along. There were literally thousands of musicians in major cities playing hundreds of venues, and not just jazz. In the early part of the century it was de rigeur to have a piano in your home.

TV came along and blew all that away.

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:00 pm
by Eyeball
If the music was continuous at the SB, alternating between the house band/s and the feature band, where would they squeeze canned music in?

Maybe towards the end in the late 50s?

Did they have 2 bands up until the end?

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:17 pm
by Haydn
Thanks for the replies. The question did they ever play records there. I think the place was open just about every day. They played lots of different music, not just swing. And it was apparently open until 1958 ... I think in Britain (where there was also a tradition of live music) they started using records in dance halls in the late 1940s.

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:00 pm
by julius
I seem to recall that Whitey's practiced there using records. I can't imagine that a band played for all their practices, but ... wilder things have happened.

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 3:04 pm
by lipi
actually, i seem to recall frankie explicitly stating that they did not practice to a gramophone. the bands would rehearse in the afternoons, and they would rehearse during band practice.

i don't have a transcript of the talk i think he said this at, though, so perhaps my memory is faulty.

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 3:50 pm
by zzzzoom
No, I remember that too.

Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 8:17 am
by Terry Monaghan
I do remember someone saying that on occasions records were played for rehearsal sessions by Savoy Lindy Hoppers and I'm pretty sure it was Frankie. However given the quality of live music at the Savoy I don't think there would be any question of not rehearsing to a band if one were there. In addition both dancers and musicians would have had a vested interest at times in getting particular numbers/routines right for a forthcoming gig. It would be unlikely that they were especially rehearsing for performing at the Savoy itself, but if the band were playing the right tempos it is also unlikely that they passed up a good opportunity to dance along with them.

The other relevant issue would be the abysmal level of the PA that barely enabled the vocalist/s to be heard above the music and perhaps more importantly the sound of the collective feet on the ballroom floor. I believe it was improved at the suggestion of the musician's union after the NYPD closed the ballroom for 6 months in 1943.


Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:03 pm
by Terry Monaghan
Further note on DJs at the Savoy

I can confirm now that this did take happen at the Savoy when it re-opened after the NYPD shut down in 1943. The details my contact remembers is hearing records being played through the PA although she couldn't remember where the deck/s were. And that when Charles Buchanan (the main manager) finally emptied out his store of remaining Savoy relics in the late 1970s he offered her the entire collection of 78's which consisted of many heavy boxes. She took one of those 78 folders with about seven records in it - but only because it was easy to carry. The records are mostly Hampton, Basie, Hawkins and Eldridge. Presumably the rest were trashed.

Thus she remembers the records being played inbetween band sets - I need to ask other contacts re rehearsals which continued to take place there until the Savoy closed.

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:00 am
by Toon Town Dave
Wow, Terry, thanks for taking the time to research this!

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 9:09 am
by kitkat

Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 10:07 pm
by remysun
I'm not sure if that is deejaying as we think of it today-- perhaps the playing of records on one turntable in between sets-- but I doubt that there was a night where people danced the entire evening to recorded music, because that would make musicians' unions angry. I doubt there could be two turntables because of the lack of consumer electronics back then. A continuous, uninterrupted flow of music was not expected back then, and to blend the inputs would have required engineering. In addition, any rube could argue that if he wanted to listen to records, he could have stayed home.

So yes, they had records and a turntable, because it's always good to have a back up plan, but the draw was a live venue and the liquor, not the lacquer.