Slim
O'VOUTIE O'ROONEY. 1947
Director: Jack Reiger

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



SlimSlim Gaillard Trio. Black performers. Gaillard's original act was just two guys billed as "Slim & Slam" with Leroy "Slam" Stewart his original partner, later adding Rex Stewart on drums. They can be seen in Hellzapoppin (1941).

Gaillard's best known song is "Flat Foot Floogie (with a floy-floy)" which was often covered by such greats as Fats Waller & many since. Slim would riff nonsense words taking scat in new directions, & he called this new jive language "Vout," or vout-a-rooney.

Bulee "Slim" Gaillard sings lyrics that will seem totally nonsensical & unique, entirely unfamiliar unless you've heard Slim Gaillard before, in which case it'll be like a lot of his songs which are particularly fun & full of a-rooties & a-vouties.

SlimWhat he's doing, of course, is taking "hepcat" slang to the next stage, fusing it with scat, so that it came off to his audiences as more hip than funny.

"Areet" had long been in use as a variant of "Okay" & was just about a universal piece of slang at the time; the "voutereenies" were Slim's fans, the hippest of the hip. Some of his audience may actually have believed they could understand all the words.

Any who didn't understand it all might be tempted to purchase a copy of Slim Gaillard's Vout-o-Reenee Dictionary (circa 1945), from which one learns that "Foot" means "Hand," headpills are balls of hail, rep-o-vouty is an answer to a question, root is same as reet, a shovel in a skoo-pee is a spoon in a cup, sis-ta-da is sister, Tracy is a policeman, and vout-o-ree-nee is good music.

It's doubtful Slim had much to do with publication of the dictionary, though, beyond letting his name be on it; & it leaves out important definitions for such words as floogie & floy.



SlimThe trio also produced the quarter-hour short O'Voutie O'Rooney (1947) directed by Jack Reiger & distributed by Astor Pictures which specialized in black cast films.

These were filmed live at one of the Trio's nightclub performances at Berg's Nightclub in Los Angeles. The surviving film is in abominable condition, nevertheless wonderful to see.

O'Voutie O'Rooney also features Mabel Lee, who holds up cards with the songs' titles to show the audience. Two versions of clips are presently circulating, one version deleting Mabel's presence entirely but keeping the intertitle cards, the other version deleting the intertitle cards but showing Mabel in the audience with hand-written signs. She must've had more to do than hold signs in the complete act since she can sing & dance.

The film's poster promised "Mabel Lee & a host of others" though the only "host" seen is the white audience. The "clips" from the film each have their own title cards which were probably included so that the songs could be distributed to Panoram visual jukeboxes, as was done with many short black-cast films that had limited distribution possibilities to regular theaters in Jim Crow days.

Unless the film's poster got it wrong, then the complete short-feature presumedly has a "host" of other performers & may well have given Mabel a dance scene.



Slim Slim introduces the first number as "from that little picture The Road to Hobokan O'Rooney, a very groovy flicker-reety. This is yours truly Slim Gaillard Trio coming to you from Billie Berg's located in Hollywood-o-rootie, Voutville." No such film existed, of course, but Slim keeps a total pokerface.

He's playing piano. The performance is excerpted in a clip titled "O'Rooney's Overture," though "Road to Hobokan O'Rooney" seems to be the actual title.

It's a very nice piece of sweet & cool piano jazz, entirely instrumental, with some good slap-bass moments behind him from Bam Brown, who had replaced Slam Stewart. Bam is an enormous man, tall & broad, & very antic.

The Hobokan arrangement also has a fine drum solo from Scatman Crothers (who had replaced Rex Stewart by this time in the Trio's existence).

SlimScatman became better known in his later career as a character actor. For one part of the number, Slim is playing piano with the backs of his fingers holding his hands upside down.

A title card is inserted to read "Picking up speed & power, Slim now bangs into..." & the next song title zooms toward us, "Dynamite O'Rooney."

Slim has his electric guitar now, & introduces the song with it's longer title. Slap bass side-man Bam Brown sings the absurdist lyrics with as a lot of conviction, the words "dynamite" & "explosion" popping out of the scat, & Slim rhythmically adding "Dynamite!" as he works that guitar.

When Slim does such numbers it seems as though his lyrics were carefully composed even though absurdist. Bam Brown, however, does a lot more pure scatting. He's unconditionally great, even if Slim is greater.

We're periodically shown the sizeable audience as Slim, Scatman, & Bam get their solo moments during the jumping instrumentation for "Dynamite O'Rooney."



Slim Another text card appears, saying "In any language Slim & his boys are equally fluent, as you will discover before they're through Ovouting."

A second text card zooms at us with the number's title "Spanish Melody & Swing." Slim introduces it by a longer nonsense-word title, & the slap bassist begins vamping intensely, with help from Slim.

The lyrics include "O by goochy/ Goochy goochy goochy ganda," & Bam's sometimes overtly spoofing Fats Waller, in contrast to some scatty bits by Slim that would seem to spoof Nat King Cole for high contrast. Slim is also tosses in a bit of fake Spanish. He's doing great at the piano & it's a very nice piece musically even though rendered as big fun.

The title cards next announce "Chile & Beans Ovoutee." Slim says, "Here's were we swing right into a little specialty titled Chile O'Rootee & Scooty O'Routee Vango." Slap bass man Bam says "Areet! Solid!" high-fiving Slim. And off they go with a rapid piece of jump-jazz instrumentation.

The number is strictly an instrumental. Without "lyrics" it's a hundred percent serious piece of top-grade jazz. The slap bass solo is especially antic, with Bam shaking his head like a speeded-up bobble-doll, Scatman getting his drum solo.

And while it's easy to miss Slim's amazingly strange notion of words & wish he'd included some nutty lyrics, it's nice to have this totally serious "break" from stuff that makes you grin.



SlimAgain a text card informs us that "Dunkin' Bagels" was a number designed to prove "Ovoutee Slanguage is absolutely kosher." It's one of the coolest of these cool numbers. A huge coffee pot has been placed on the stage as a prop into which Slim will toss a bagel at number's end.

That big man of a bassist here is Bam Brown who had replaced Slim's former partner Slam Stewart. Bam does some scatting & some call & response with Slim's crazy lyrics, so is a tremendous asset to this strange act. And the drummer, no longer Rex Stewart, is none other Scatman Crothers!

Typical lyrics give this short film its title: "Dunkin' bagels. Dunken bagels. Dunken bagels. Smash! In the coffee/ Dunkin' bagels. Dunken bagels. Dunken bagels. Smash! In the coffee/ Matza balls! Ah, matza balls a-rooney/ Gefelte fish! Gefelte fish a-routy..." & so on in a silly manner, with a jump-jazz beat throughout, joyfully odd lyrics to a fine instrumentation.

Slim"Lagoona Melody" is the title of the next piece according to a title card upheld by Mabel in the audience. Or it is simply "Lagoona" according to an intertitle card. Or possibly it is really "Lagoona O'Roonie" according to Slim's own introduction, "here's a little number called "Laguna a-roonie mcfootie spooly-rotty o'reety."

The lyrics run in part: "Lagoona, a reety/ Lagoona, a rooney/ Lagoona, a-reeny/ Lyin' in the sun & havin' fun/ Lagoona, a reety/ Lagoona, a rooney/ Lagoona, a-reeny/ Lyin' in the sun & havin' fun/ Seagulls flyin' floppity flop floppity flop floppity flop/ Crabs in the sand...."

About halfway through "Lagoona Melody" it switches for a "bridge" from jump-jazz to exotica & the nonsense words sound almost Latino.

When it's over, a "The End" sign is held up by Mabel in one version of the excerpted clips. As with most of Slim's numbers the absurdity of the words doesn't interfer with the greatness of the jump-jazz beat. He plays these numbers as though absolutely serious, even though the audience is grinning.

Obviously this stuff has to be heard to have even a faint notion of what it's like, & until you do hear it your life is incomplete.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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