In the spring of 1940, the big swing band of drummer Will Bradley had its first hit, a two-sided 78 rpm disc called "Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar." Bradley soon followed with "Scrub Me, Mamma, with a Boogie Beat" (adapted from"The Irish Washerwoman"). And with World WarII mobilization came "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by the Andrews Sisters.
Through such amiable but hardly authentic ditties boogie-woogie entered the consciousness of millions. Such numbers helped keep the swing bands popular. And soon everyone was learning a slew-footed, hip-wriggling dance to go with boogie-woogie.
Boogie-woogie is basically a way of playing the twelve-bar blues on a piano. The Afro-American blues is a story in itself (see New World Records 80252-2, Roots of the Blues)—and a large one, since it is the only musical form created in the United States, accounts for so much of our music by now, and is international as well, readily understood by musicians in Tokyo and Liverpool, Paris and Johannesburg.
Boogie-woogie is a highly percussive style in which the left hand plays a sustained bass figure, usually of one or two measures, usually with eight beats to the bar. Over that continuous pattern the right hand improvises percussive figures that interplay in fascinating and varied polyrhythmic, polymetric patterns.The right hand basically "thinks" in 4/4, however, with all four beats usually given equal value, and a drummer accompanying a boogie pianist would ordinarily play in four, not eight.
One word of caution: Music like this, which works within very limited stylistic means, creates difficulties for LP programming.Three-minute performances, eight selections at a time, may make listening problems if the album is just put on the turntable and let go. Better perhaps to take the music in small doses at first, maybe one pianist at a time.Then the commendable variety that each of these players achieved within this limited form and style will become even more of a revelation and delight.