Your point is well taken. Two suggestions:
1) Perhaps a bit of chronology can help sort matters out.
2) While the number and kind of records issued cited by others is useful
data -- its not definitive. I'm talking about larger cultural movements
that may or may not be reflected in record issues or sales.
The Watters influence started in 1940-41, including local and regional
radio broadcasts that waxed and waned until c. 1947-ish. A very large
number of American servicemen on their way to and from the Pacific theater
passed through San Francisco and the doors of the Dawn Club.
The immediate postwar influence was significant and greatest in Australia
(Graeme Bell and Southern Jazz Group, among others) and Great Britain
(Humphrey Lyttelton's earliest records share a great deal in common with
the Watters sound).
Lyttelton farewell tribute:
But by the early 1950s many of the musicians initially inspired by YBJB
began experimenting with other styles: *Bob Mielke's band DID NOT PLAY
TRADITIONAL JAZZ by any definition and never did. * By 1956 Mielke was
giving interviews saying his Bearcats were NOT influenced stylistically by
Watters. Instead by Basie and Kansas City, Ellington, New Orleans and,
wait for it . . . George Lewis were cited as influences.
Lewis' recordings became popular in the mid to late 1950s. Bands like
Mielke's and the Brits you cite, had fundamentally shifted to a four-beat
rhythm, driven by string bass (with either banjo or guitar) by then. Like
Mielke's band, they often dispensed with piano or even drums.
Yet many of the same musicians pointed to Watters as their first exposure
to hot music and rebellion against the late Big Band era. Some four-beat
bands even closed their sets with Watters' "Friendless Blues" theme song in
tribute for decades.
Watters cultural importance was his stance of open rebellion against the
straightjacket of late-era swing and dance bands playing charts, with
little collective or solo improvisation. It was a movement among musicians
who wanted to express themselves and weren't allowed to in the big
And, American was engaged during the late-1930s and early 1940s in a search
for cultural roots ("Spirituals to Swing" at Carnegie): the rediscovery of
the Blues, WC Handy, New Orleans music and etc. Louis Armstrong soon
dropped his big orchestra in favor of a New Orleans format.
Most of the West Coast bands would never have happened without Watters and
his social movement. He built the audience (with the assistance of a
cultural attitude, many local allies, and broadcasters) but then was out of
the music business effectively by the early-1950s when he retired to gem
Perhaps the chronology can add nuance to the trail of influences. And
quite frankly, as a jazz researcher I'm becoming more and more skeptical of
"stylistic influences" anyway -- a great deal of it is largely the
invention of researchers, writers and critics duly repeated until it
On Sun, May 24, 2015 at 6:13 PM, Doug Pomeroy <[log in to unmask]>
> Not meaning to start a spat:
> New styles were being born after WW II, eg., rhythm 'n' blues and be-bop.
> So revisiting a music which had never died out could be called a "revival".
> Real New Orleans jazz hadn't died out but, unlike the Condon gang, it was
> was largely unheard at the time. Then Bill Russell's label American Music
> and a few others spread the music among collectors, which lead to interest
> in Bunk and in the George Lewis band, which eventually toured Europe
> The Watters bands honored the New Orleans connection, using the two cornet
> front line of Joe Oliver's band, altho rhythmically they often tended to
> plod rather than swing (one man's opinion).
> Did the Watters bands have a worldwide impact? I respectfully disagree.
> Think of Ken Colyer and all the other British, Scandinavian and Australian
> bands which followed more closely George Lewis, with more emphasis on
> collective improvisation.
> This doesn't mean I didn't like them and their progeny (eg. Murphy, Scobey
> and Mielke).
> One moldy fig's 2¢.
> Dave Radlauer wrote:
> > But the size of the social movement worldwide associated with the
> > Watters-initiated traditional jazz movement in the 1940s and 50s is
> > consistently underestimated today. Dixieland was a cottage industry
> > precisely because it was *alternative.*
> Doug Pomeroy
> Audio Restoration and Mastering Services
> 193 Baltic St
> Brooklyn, NY 11201-6173
> (718) 855-2650
> [log in to unmask]