Slim Gaillard on the road

Slim Gaillard

In On the road (New York: Viking, 1957), Jack Kerouac described an encounter with the pianist, guitarist, and percussionist Slim Gaillard, “a tall, thin Negro with big sad eyes who’s always saying ‘Right-orooni’ and ‘How ‘bout a little bourbon-arooni.’”

“Slim sits down at the piano and hits two notes, two Cs, then two more, then one, then two, and suddenly the big burly bass-player wakes up from a reverie and realizes Slim is playing C-Jam blues and he slugs in his big forefinger on the string and the big booming beat begins and everybody starts rocking and Slim looks just as sad as ever, and they blow jazz for half an hour, and then Slim goes mad and grabs the bongos and plays tremendous rapid Cubana beats and yells crazy things in Spanish, in Arabic, in Peruvian dialect, in Egyptian, in every language he knows, and he knows innumerable languages.”

“Dean stands in the back, saying, ‘God! Yes!’ and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating. ‘Sal, Slim knows time, he knows time.’”

“Finally the set is over…Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post, looking sadly over everybody’s head as people come to talk to him. A bourbon is slipped into his hand. ‘Bourbon-orooni—thank-you-ovauti.’”

Quoted in “Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is” (Literary kicks, 1994).

Today would have been Gaillard’s 100th birthday! Below, some rare early footage. Can anyone date this film for us?

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Filed under Jazz and blues, Literature, Performers

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