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Archiving and remembering Black Women Jazz and Swing Performance through “Lazy Bones,” “The Lady is a Tramp” and “How Could You?” recorded by Glenn Miller, his Orchestra and Military Band 1940’s; Glenn Miller Orchestra 2014; and, Midge Williams and the Jazz Jesters, 1930′s.

Jazz and Swing Artists musical tracking takes on a life of its own through web detective work which follows the dot to dot connections between people who were recording jazz and swing during the 1930′ and 1940’s when Jim Crow was alive and in full swing. Glenn Miller, along with Miff Mole, crossed paths with black Jazz Singer, Midge Williams to make a recording “How Could You?”.  While Williams artistry with the Japanese version of “Lazy Bones” exudes brilliance; on-the-other hand, the Miller Bands (1940 and 2014), exudes a powerful gender performance with “The Lady is a Tramp“, a racially defined military masculinity, and a subtle segregation still reproduced today.

Original Glenn Miller with Orchestra with “female vocalists called canaries” (Tucker, p.4) performed “The Lady is a Tramp” from the musical Babes in Arms, 1937, Rodgers and Hart.  As a side note, the original versions had strong political overtones with discussions of Nietzsche, a Communist character and two African-American youths who are victims of racism.” Babes in Arms (Wikipedia). A new version was rewritten during the McCarthy cold era eliminating all these political references.


According to Sherrie Tucker, Glenn Miller during WWII, bleached swing all while retaining normative masculinity, which is potent, authoritative and in the domain of the white male. “His swing was a perfect fit for a segregated military.” Miller’s “music promoted images of rural white America replete with gendered and racial stereotypes” that bleed into Wartime messages which in turn, “fed into the Office of War Information, selling the idea of idealized home front.” (“Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (2008), edited by Nichole T. Rustin, Sherrie Tucker, (pp 132-133).


Midge Williams (May 27, 1915 – January 9, 1952)

African-American swing and jazz vocalist during the 1930s and 1940s, had a distinguished musical career both as a respected artist, and with her group, the Jazz Jesters, including Raymond Scott, Frankie Newton, Buster Bailey and Charlie Shavers, went on tour to China and Japan in 1934. While in Japan she made the first recording of her career “Lazy Bones”, singing it in both Japanese and English.

レージー・ボーンズ – ミッヂ・ウィリアムス, Midge Williams – Lazy Bones ,1934・昭和9年, Japanese version

After the Asian tour Williams went to New York and appeared on radio programs and in 1936 began recording songs such as “The Lady is a Tramp” for American record labels. While living in New York, she performed at the Apollo Theater and the Savoy Ballroom. It was at this point in time that she recorded “How Could You?” with Glenn Miller and Miff Mole.

(I purchased “How Could You?” but do not how to download from my Library to URL)


Glenn Miller Orchestra 2014 (all white male) under the direction of Nick Hitscher, and with vocalist Natalie Angst, (1940′s Doris Day blond persona) performed “The Lady is a Tramp” at the Benaroya Hall, Seattle POPS Series. Hitscher reproduces Miller’s WWII “masculinized whiting of swing” to a predominately white audience. Halfway through the performance he had all Veterans in the Hall stand and receive audience applause in recognition of their service. I was in the audience 4/11/2014.