Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Woody Herman channels Steely Dan

Bizarre. But interesting: Big band leader Woody Herman’s take on Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne.” (The McCoy can be seen here. Check out that dude groovin’ in the audience at around 1:30.) Haven’t seen anything like this since The Puppini Sisters covered The Smiths’ “Panic.”

I saw Herman once playing at Disneyland one summer back in the 80s. Poor guy looked like he was going to have a coronary right there. (Nor did he last much longer – he died in 1987.) I saw Artie Shaw “play” at the same place during the same summer. I use the scare quotes because though Shaw had re-formed his band, he had famously quit playing clarinet decades before and refused to try to re-learn it. So he’d just introduce the tunes, stand back, and snap his fingers the whole time!

As it happens, I’ve got a post in the works about Steely Dan and Roger Scruton. I Kid you not.


  1. I saw Woody around the same time, in the early '80s - in Fort Wayne, Indiana of all places, on a small stage raised above an ice rink in a big shopping mall. I agree, he didn't look so hot. His (very young) band sounded great, though!

    I'd never heard that Artie Shaw gave up playing the licorice stick in later life. Well, he was no Woody anyway (although again, great band in its day).

    As a long-time Steely Dan fan, I can only await that Scruton post with bated breath. Any theories on the meaning of "Kid Charlemagne"? I've always assumed it was about Owsley (or someone like him), the messianic LSD dealer during the Haight-Ashbury days... although the reference to Charlemagne escapes me. But hey, it's Steely Dan - it's supposed to be cryptic! (Bonus points if you know where the group's name originated....)

  2. Something like that, Warren, though they've said they had no one specific individual in mind. Re: the name, I sure do, but this is a family blog... ;-)