The Troy Street Observer

Oct 16, 1951: Vout-O-Reenee! Slim Gaillard at the Hi-Hat

In the first half of the 1950s, the Hi-Hat was one of Boston’s busiest clubs, and the best jazz and rhythm & blues artists performed there regularly. Charlie Parker appeared five times, Oscar Peterson six, Dizzy Gillespie seven, Illinois Jacquet eight. But the most popular star was Bulee “Slim” Gaillard, who played the Hi-Hat eleven times in 1951-54. He commenced his first engagement on October 16, 1951.

Photo of Slim Gaillard
McVouty himself, in an undated publicity photo

Gaillard played piano and more often guitar, but we remember him especially as a singer. There was his duo with bassist Slam Stewart, with whom he had the big late thirties hit, “Flat Foot Floogie.” It got Slim and Slam to Hollywood, but army service interrupted Gaillard’s career. After the war there were records with the likes of Leo Watson and Dizzy Gillespie, and a well-known trio with drummer Scatman Crothers and bassist Bam Brown. This is when his wordplay hit its peak.

Vout was a nonsense language invented by Gaillard, as well as his stage gimmick. As with Cab Calloway’s Hepster’s Dictionary, everyday words assumed new meanings, but it didn’t end with that. According to the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vout was “a humorous language invented by Gaillard in which he inserted nonsense syllables into everyday words.” You can ponder pages of the vout dictionary here.

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