DJ Mineh Ishida

Historical West Coast Swing Music

, History of Swing

By New York World-Telegram & Sun staff photographer: Fisher, Alan

In light of Victor’s comments and suggestions to look up some of the history of west coast swing and the music we dance to, I took an evening and searched Youtube for some videos of routines and competitions from the last 30 years.  I’ve posted the ones I watched below, and I’ve listed all the names of the songs that they danced to.  I really enjoyed watching west coast swing in an earlier form and listening to the music they played.  I was hoping to find more of the blues roots of the dance, but i don’t think Youtube really goes back far enough for me to find that.


Claudia Barry – Boogie Woogie Dancin’ Shoes
Danced by Judy Ford Lafemina and Gary Long in 1979

 


Lou Rawls – You’re the One
Swingdiego 1983

 


Young MC – Bust a Move , Prince – Controversy
Danced by Mario Robau and Gary Long in 1990

 


The Gap Band – Shake a Leg
Ramero Gonzales & Deborah Szekely in 1990

 


Clarence Carter – Messin with my Mind
Danced by Mario Robau and Valerie LaFemina in 1992

 


Whitney Houston – I’m Your Baby Tonight
Danced by David H???? and Kellese Douglas in 1993

 


US Open 1995
Peaches & Herb – Shake your Groove Thing
Danced by Mario Robau & Carmen Scarsborough

2 Unlimited – Get Ready for This, 2 unlimited Twilight Zone & Black Box – Strike it Up
Danced by Robert Cordoba and Keldee B

Loggins & Messina – Your Mama Don’t Dance
Danced by Robert Royston & Laureen Baldovi

 


Lonnie Gordon – Gonna Catch You, The OJays – Livin for the Weekend
Danced by Barry Jones and Kellese Key in 1998

 


Lou Rawls – Natural Man
Beata Howe and Demetre Souliotes in 1998

 


This was a very educational process about the history of west coast swing for me.  I wish I could find videos dating back further, but even seeing back over the last 20-30 years, I was amazed at how much west coast swing dancing and music have changed. A few things I noticed are:

  • They danced to contemporary music of the time in the 80s and 90s. It seems the blues roots of the dance are a little further back than Youtube could provide. I did notice however that more of the contemporary music had a swing rhythm back then than it does now. The dance was also much faster than it is today.  Disco, Old Rock and Roll, even 80’s hip hop were played and enjoyed.
  • The girls were encouraged to wear high heels and short skirts. By contrast, today, you rarely see that. New girls are told that “It’s not what we wear!”
  • Kenny Wetzel was the MC EVERYWHERE. That guy’s trademark “OH YEAH” was in almost EVERY video!
  • The dance looked a lot more like Lindy hop then. The music tempos were more similar to Lindy hop as well.

I plan to continue to look at the history of the dance and try to find out more about the music they’ve been dancing west coast swing to over the last 20-30 years. I found these enlightening, and hope you do too. If you know of any other videos that are great historical examples of the roots of west coast swing, please post them in the comments section of this article!

About the Author:

DJ Mineh Ishida is a west coast swing DJ living in Tampa, FL. He founded WestCoastSwingMusic.com in 2012 and is passionate about contributing to the West Coast Swing community through DJing and his work with this website. You can Find more information about DJ Mineh on the About Page. For booking Inquiries, please use this Contact Form.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QEJ2MRAPGA47DM2CP6VI7F655I gregbo

    This topic was covered some time ago at http://www.dance-forums.com/showthread.php?t=13426.
    However, because WCS’ origins are numerous, so also are the types of music it was danced to.  There probably isn’t a definitive answer to the question.
    A woman I know named Maggie Zacca danced WCS in the 1960s with Bob Burgess, who is featured with Barbara Boylan on the Lawrence Welk show doing a Swing number at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oZ1cP1bxx0. She told me that she, he, and other WCS dancers would go to a club outside of LA and dance to a live band fronted by Lou Rawls.  He and his band would try out new tunes there before performing them at larger venues.  She couldn’t remember specific song titles, but said there was a mix of genres.

    • djmineh

      Wow.. What a great forum discussion you’ve linked!  It’s like watching dance historians argue about the roots of west coast swing.  I think i might summarize some of that material in a future post.  

      The video you posted was very cool!  Looked very lindy hop, but you can see the slotted nature of the dance.  Thank you so much for sharing these great resources!

      I wish I could dance to a live band fronted by Lou Rawls…

      Again, thank you for reading, and for sharing your knowledge of west coast swing history with us!

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.skinner Greg Skinner

    No problem … Also, check this out.  There are some elements of orbit and slot. The music is slower than the typical Swing tempo of that time.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gsADd8IgOk  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X2SLUVBKK7ZZG2KKTBNX4ZSFEQ Larry Waters

    See also the compilation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUNdQXP_pOA

    • djmineh

      Great find Larry!  Thank you for sharing!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X2SLUVBKK7ZZG2KKTBNX4ZSFEQ Larry Waters

    Remember that many of the YouTube videos are recordings of competition routines, which do not necessarily reflect the balance in the social music mix.

    Also, the key characteristic of WCSwing music is swing, as you’ve noted. You can also find swing performance styling in many other genres, not just Blues: Jazz, (traditional) R&B, Pop/Rock, Vocal Standards (Sinatra and his contemporaries), and even Country.

    • djmineh

      Thank you for clarifying Larry.  I agree that competition routines are not representative of the social mix of the time, but unfortunately, most of the time people don’t make recordings of general social dancing.  I do find that routine music leads the way for how the social music will change though.  Often the songs we dance socially become a part of our general consciousness from great competition routines.   Again, thank you for your insights!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=799389440 Victor Loveira

    Nice job Mineh!!!

    • djmineh

      Thank you Victor! You’re quite the mentor to us!

  • brendan smith

    I have a video of West Coast Swing from the late 50s somewhere. No THAT looked like Lindy Hop.