Salt Peanuts

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"Salt Peanuts" is a bebop tune reportedly composed by Dizzy Gillespie in 1942, credited "with the collaboration of" drummer Kenny Clarke. It is also cited as Charlie Parker's.[1] The lyrics have no meaning. However, they are a skat/bebop vocal which matches the octave note interval played predominantly throughout the song.[2] As of 2018, "Salt Peanuts" is the only jazz tune to have been performed by a U.S. President during their term in office, having been sung by Jimmy Carter at a concert in 1978.[3]


While the verbal exhortation "Salt Peanuts, Salt Peanuts!" is closely identified with Dizzy Gillespie, the musical motif upon which it is based actually predates Gillespie/Clarke. Glenn Miller recorded sound-alike "WHAM (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam)", August 1, 1941, on the Bluebird label (later RCA LPM 2060), credited to Eddie Durham-Taps Miller, and prior to this it appeared as a repeated six-note instrumental phrase played on piano by Count Basie on his July 2, 1941 recording of "Basie Boogie" for the Columbia/OKeh label.[4] Basie also played it in a recorded live performance at Cafe Society later that year.

The refrain also appears in the song "Five Salted Peanuts" by Charlie Abbott and Bert Wheeler which was recorded by both Tony Pastor & His Orchestra and The Counts & The Countess in 1945.

"Salt Peanuts" was most famously recorded by Dizzy Gillespie and His All-Stars on May 11, 1945 in New York City for Guild Records. The lineup was Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto sax), Al Haig (piano), Curley Russell (bass), and Sid Catlett (drums).[5] The first known recording was by Georgie Auld, Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster as the Auld-Hawkins-Webster Saxtet, released on the Apollo label in 1944.[6]

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter sang the vocals from "Salt Peanuts" with Dizzy Gillespie in a concert on the South Lawn of the White House.[7] This concert, held on June 18th,[8] was the first White House Jazz Concert[9] and the first and only time that a president has performed a jazz song while in office.[3][8] According to Gillespie, President Carter requested the song, and Gillespie responded that he would "play it if he [President Carter] will come up here and sing it with us."[10]

Chord changes[edit]

"Salt Peanuts" is a contrafact of "I Got Rhythm." That is, its melody is different, but uses the same chord changes. Rhythm changes refers to the AABA 32-bar chord progression of "I Got Rhythm."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yaffe, David (2005). Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing, p.17. ISBN 0-691-12357-8. "Charlie Parker's 'Salt Peanuts'".
  2. ^ "Salt Peanuts": Sound and Sense in African/American Oral/Musical Creativity, Clyde Taylor Callaloo (Oct.1982)
  3. ^ a b Horowitz, Murray; Spellman, A.B. (August 1, 2001). "Charlie Parker: 'Jazz at Massey Hall'". NPR. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  4. ^ Jazz Forum: The Magazine of the International Jazz Federation. International Jazz Federation. 1974. p. 50.
  5. ^ Martin, Henry; Waters, Keith (1 January 2011). Jazz: The First 100 Years. Cengage Learning. p. 201. ISBN 1-4390-8333-9.
  6. ^ "Cover versions of Salt Peanuts by Auld-Hawkins-Webster Saxtet". SecondHandSongs.
  7. ^ "WASHINGTON TALK: BRIEFING; 'Salt Peanuts'". The New York Times. 1987-05-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  8. ^ a b Reich, Howard (March 28, 2016). "Before time runs out, how about a White House jazz summit?". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  9. ^ Trescott, Jacqueline; McLellan, Joseph (1978-06-19). "A Who's Who of Jazz on the South Lawn". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  10. ^ Franklin, Benjamin (2008). Jazz & Blues Musicians of South Carolina: Interviews with Jabbo, Dizzy, Drink, and Others. Univ of South Carolina Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 9781570037436.