In Memoriam: Doctor Jazz

#262 / Video Extra

It was a week ago tonight when our old partner Chuck Romine died, meaning that Thursday night was the first time the band gathered since receiving the sad news.

The agenda for the evening’s session was set as soon as harmonicat Sam St. Clair arrived. “I’m expecting,” Sam said as he walked into the Bowen House, “that tonight we do ‘Hello, Central, Gimme Doctor Jazz.’”

As we have said, that great old jazz standard was one of the first tunes Chuck brought to us on a January night 22 years ago when he first jammed with us. And when Romine joined the band a short time later, it was only natural that Chuck — with his rich history with local dixieland bands — would himself become “Doctor Jazz” to his new Flood family.

So, last Thursday, following Sam’s directive, we took a ride on the same old number.

The video that Pamela Bowen shot begins with Chuck himself playing the song as recorded on our 2002 “The 1937 Flood Plays Up a Storm” album, then the video segues to today’s Flood.

As you’ll hear and see, as we pass around the choruses for solos — first by Danny Cox, then by Jack Nuckols, finally by Sam St. Clair — we use the video to also share classic pictures of Chuck from over the decades.

About the Song

“Doctor Jazz” was written by Joe “King” Oliver in April 1926, the same year that it also was recorded by Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers (leading some to think the song was a Morton composition).

However, it is Oliver’s name on the copyright (along with that of publisher Walter Melrose, who got himself listed as co-composer, as was often his practice). “Doctor Jazz” is a joyful, infectious song that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of New Orleans jazz.

Oliver’s group, The Creole Jazz Band, combined the sounds of Joe’s cornet, syncopated rhythms and a playful call-and-response dynamic.

“Doctor Jazz” enjoyed its initial popularity in the 1920s and has continued to be played by dixieland groups ever since. Chuck’s own Huntington-based Lucky Jazz Band played the song, with him handling the vocals, as he later would do with The Flood’s rendition.

One More Time, Chuck!

Speaking of which, how about an encore?

By 2011, Chuck had been retired from his regular Floodishness for five years or so, but he still often sat in with us, especially at our favorite annual gig, the “jug band breakfasts” that we used to play at the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks Reunion of trad jazz fans in Huntington.

In this video, which Pamela shot at the May 2011 CS reunion, Charlie Bowen tells a little of the history of Chuck’s time with the band, then turns it over to him and his tenor guitar for his signature tune.

The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch
Charles Bowen