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Mr. Pinstripe Suit: ‘a smooth talker with an export cigarette’

Written by Rebecka McAleer


Welcome back to Additive Noise, where music goes for rediscovery. Today we have a blast from the past in the genre section. Ladies, put on your butterfly sleeves and rayon stockings, because we are going back to the 1930s and 40s– also known as the Swing Era.

Swing music really made its debut around 1935. American jazz music had taken hold and was becoming so popular that it had its own spin-off genres. Swing blended wonderfully with jazz, picking up tempos and populating dance halls across the country. Popular artists like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday experimented with swing, and helped blend jazz and swing into what we know today as “big band.” Big Band music encompasses the upbeat tempo and style of swing music with the heavy emphasis on horns and piano seen in jazz. Over the years it has lost much of its popularity, but big band is certainly not gone yet.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is a swing/big band revival group from California that has been bringing the swing back to America since the 1980s. They got their name from a nickname signed on a poster to frontman Scotty Morris from blues guitarist Albert Collins, calling him ‘the big bad voodoo daddy.’ Morris and his friend Kurt Sodergren took the name and ran with it, adding five more members and hitting the road.

One of the band’s most popular songs is “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” released on their 1998 album, “Americana Deluxe.” It’s a high-speed dancing song, designed to get people moving. Morris sings about a man he has dubbed “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” in reference to his obviously expensive lifestyle. He’s “a smooth talker with an export cigarette,” who always has “a kitten on his hand.” The song doesn’t have a whole lot of meaningful lyrical content, but it doesn’t really need it. The rhythm of the song makes you want to get dressed up and dance like Mr. Pinstripe Suit.

“Mr. Pinstripe Suit” is not only one of the band’s greatest hit singles, it also happens to be an excellent example of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s style. True to big band form, the many members of the band are each treated to their own solo moments, many of which are announced or teased by the frontman. The saxophones and trumpets work together to form some fabulous improvised bridges between verses, and they have so much fun doing it that the stage is always in a state of motion. This is one band that does not stand still. In fact, neither does the audience! A couple of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s live performances have featured audience members swing dancing in the aisles while the band plays.

Big band music is one of the crowning accomplishments of the American musical scene, and it is amazing to find bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy keeping that alive. They are currently on tour. To see “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” in BBVD’s live performance from 2004, go to www.vsuadditivenoise.blogspot.com.

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