Classical Music Inspires Swing

At this year’s Balboa Experiment, Kate Hedin played a set of Swing music that was “classically” inspired, meaning it had many riffs and themes lifted from or inspired by classical music.1 Mike Guzzo, a dancer from the East Coast and excellent DJ in his own right, kicked off an excellent Facebook discussion based around Kate’s inspirational set. For those of you who aren’t Facebook friends with Mike, I’ve compiled the highlights and songs contributed by other Swing music geeks here (most of them by Kate), hopefully inspiring you to find Swing songs with a connection to Classical Music. (Not all classically inspired Swing songs will be danceable, but are a lot of fun to hear!)


Swing Version Classical Version
Moon Love (Glenn Miller) Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony, 2nd Movement
Going Home (Glenn Miller) Deep River, Dvorak’s 9th
Caprice XXIV Paganini (Goodman) Caprice No. 24 by Niccolo Paganini
Peter and the Wolf (Goodman) Peter and the Wolf by Provofiev
Bounce of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kirby) Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, from The Nutcracker
Swan Lake (Eddie Condon) Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake (Swan Theme)
Humoresque (Glenn Miller) Dvorak – Humoresque
Night on Bald Mountain (Mint Julep Jazz Band) Mussorgsky – Night On Bald Mountain
Chopin’s Minute Waltz (Charlie Ventura Septet) Chopin Minute Waltz
In An 18th Century Drawing Room (Raymond Scott)3 Mozart – Sonata #3 in C Major)
Prelude in C Sharp Minor (Jack Teagarden) Rachmaninov – Prelude in C Sharp Minor
Anitra’s Dance (Jack Teagarden) Grieg – Anitra’s Dance – Peer Gynt Suite
Prelude in G Minor (Jack Teagarden)4 Prelude in G Minor (Rachmaninoff)
Bacarolle (Jack Teagarden)4 Barcarolle (Jacques Offenbach)


1 Due to a broadcast boycott in 1941 when ASCAP tripled their licensing fees, bandleaders who wanted airplay recorded music that was in the public domain, from folk songs to classical music, in their preferred styles. [Source]

2 There’s a CD compilation of many classical inspired songs: Beethoven Wrote It… But It Swings

3 Raymond Scott has an interesting history and legacy, namely Powerhouse, which many will remember from a slew of Looney Toons cartoons.

4 You can find samples of the songs here.

It’s Sham Sham Time

Frankie Manning, Ambassador of Lindy Hop, member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and the Harlem Congeroo Dancers, Tony Award Winner for Black and Blue (at the age of 75!), and beloved mentor to hundreds of dancers throughout his instruction in the latter part of the 20th century and early Aughts, is also one of the notable godfathers of the Savoy Shim Sham (also known as the Shim Sham Shimmy).

The Savoy Shim Sham itself is based in the tap version of the dance created by Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant, originally called the “Goofus”, in the late 1920s. According to Frankie’s biography, “At the Savoy Ballroom, some Lindy Hoppers did the Shim Sham as a group line dance, without the taps. A bunch of dancers would just jump up and start doing the Shim Sham on the side of the ballroom, over in the corner”.  In the mid-80’s, Frankie introduced the line dance to the New York Swing dancers, building it out to the full 32-bar chorus we dance today.

The Savoy Shim Sham is just one of several Swing dancers around the world perform: Al Minns’ and Leon James’ version; Dean Collin’s Shim Sham (he had two variations, elements of the earlier incarnation can be seen here, and the wider performed version here); and of course, the original tap version.

In 2012, George Gee (an East Coast bandleader) released a live version of the Shim Sham, called by Frankie, available for free! You can download this version here (click the little download icon beneath the waveform). This is the song that will be played throughout the summer of 2019 for the Syndicate Shim Sham, where we can experience of the great Frankie Manning calling it for us!

If you’re interested in learning the Shim Sham, the Syndicate will occasionally offer group lessons (usually in August and December). Keep an eye on the newsletter and/or blog and/or Facebook for announcements. You also can contact the Syndicate using the form below the video to let us know your interest!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Frankie calling the Shim Sham in 1988!


About the Cover Image

Frankie Manning Calling the Shim Sham at this 85th Birthday Celebration at Roseland Ballroom in 1999 – Recorded in Swingin’ Away. With Chazz (Frankie’s son, to Frankie’s right) and Charlie (to Frankie’s left). From, Frankie’s 85th in NYC.


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King Porter Stomp

If you’ve danced at the Fed in the Main Ballroom or the Uptempo Side Room (on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month), chances are you’ve heard some version of King Porter Stomp. Created and composed by Jelly Roll Morton in 1905, it was a seminal contribution to what became Swing music a few decades later. One of the most recognizable versions of the tune was the arrangement by Fletcher Henderson for Benny Goodman’s band in 1935.

NPR recently did a story about King Porter Stomp, discussing the specific musical meaning of “stomp”, and Jelly Roll Morton and his influence on Jazz, including a rare audio interview with Jelly Roll himself! Click the player below to hear the story:

Jelly Roll Morton’s original version of King Porter Stomp:

Fletcher Henderson’s arrangement of King Porter Stomp by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra:

Keep scrolling for more links about Jelly Roll Morton, King Porter Stomp, and Fletcher Henderson:

NPR Source Audio for King Porter Stomp