Sheet music for "Tiger Rag" as recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1918)
|Song by The Original Dixieland Jazz Band|
|Composer(s)||Eddie Edwards, Nick LaRocca, Henry Ragas, Tony Sbarbaro|
"Tiger Rag" is a jazz standard that was recorded and copyrighted by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. It is one of the most recorded jazz compositions. In 2003, the 1918 recording of "Tiger Rag" was entered into the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
The song was first recorded on August 17, 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band for Aeolian-Vocalion Records. The band did not use the "Jazz" spelling in its name until 1917. The Aeolian-Vocalion sides did not sell well because they were recorded in a vertical format which could not be played successfully on most contemporary phonographs.
But the second recording on March 25, 1918 for Victor was a hit and established it as a jazz standard. The song was copyrighted, published, and credited to band members Eddie Edwards, Nick LaRocca, Henry Ragas, Tony Sbarbaro, and Larry Shields in 1917.
"But even before the first recording, several musicians had achieved prominence as leading jazz performers, and several numbers of what was to become the standard repertoire had already been developed. "Tiger Rag" and "Oh Didn't He Ramble" were played long before the first jazz recording, and the names of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Bunk Johnson, Papa Celestin, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver, Freddie Keppard, Kid Ory, and Papa Laine were already well known to the jazz community."
Other New Orleans musicians claimed that the song, or at least portions of it, had been a standard in the city before it was recorded. Others copyrighted the melody or close variations of it, including Ray Lopez under the title "Weary Weasel" and Johnny De Droit under the title "Number Two Blues". Members of Papa Jack Laine's band said song was known in New Orleans as "Number Two" before the Dixieland Jass Band copyrighted it. In one interview, Laine said that the composer was Achille Baquet.
In his book Jazz: A History, Frank Tirro states, "Morton claims credit for transforming a French quadrille that was performed in different meters into "Tiger Rag".
According to writer Samuel Charters, "Tiger Rag" was worked out by the Jack Carey Band, the group which developed many of the standard tunes that were recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.
The song was known as "Jack Carey" by the black musicians of the city. It was compiled when Jack's brother Thomas, 'Papa Mutt', pulled the first strain from a book of quadrilles. The band evolved the second and third strains in order to show off the clarinetist, George Boyd, and the final strain ('Hold that tiger' section) was worked out by Jack, a trombonist, and the cornet player, Punch Miller.":170
After the success of the Original Dixieland Jass Band recordings, the song gained national popularity. Dance band and march orchestrations were published. Hundreds of recordings appeared in the late 1910s and through the 1920s. These include the New Orleans Rhythm Kings version with a clarinet solo by Leon Roppolo. Archaeologist Sylvanus Morley played it repeatedly on his wind up phonograph while exploring the ruins of Chichen Itza in the 1920s. With the arrival of sound films, it appeared on soundtracks to movies and cartoons when energetic music was needed.
"Tiger Rag" had over 136 versions by 1942. Musicians who played it included Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra (in a version with lyrics), Duke Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke, and Louis Armstrong, who released the song at least three times as a 78 single, twice for Okeh in 1930  and 1932, and for the French arm of Brunswick in 1934. A Japanese version was recorded in 1935 by Nakano Tadaharu and the Columbia Rhythm Boys.
The Mills Brothers became a national sensation with their million-selling version in 1931. In the same year the Washboard Rhythm Kings released a version that was cited as an influence on rock and roll. During the early 1930s "Tiger Rag" became a standard showoff piece for big band arrangers and soloists in England, where Bert Ambrose, Jack Hylton, Lew Stone, Billy Cotton, Jack Payne, and Ray Noble recorded it. But the song declined in popularity during the swing era, as it had become something of a cliché. Les Paul and Mary Ford had a hit version in 1952. Charlie Parker recorded a bebop version in 1954, the same year it appeared in the MGM cartoon Dixieland Droopy. In 2002 it was entered into the National Recording Registry at the U.S. Library of Congress.
It is the 32nd most recorded song from 1890 to 1954 based on Joel Whitburn's research for Billboard.
A fight song in sports
"Tiger Rag" is often used as a fight song by American high school and college teams which have a tiger for a mascot. "Tiger Rag" is LSU's pregame song, which was first introduced in 1926. The Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band performs it on the field before every home game and after the Tigers score a touchdown.
The Auburn University Marching Band also plays "Tiger Rag" as part of its pre-game performance before all home football games. The smaller pep band that plays for basketball games plays it just before the start of each half, timed so that the final note of the song is played as the horn sounds when the "game clock" counts down to triple-zeroes before each half.
The Massillon Tiger Swing Band of Massillon, Ohio began playing "Tiger Rag" at Massillon Washington High School Tigers football games in 1938 when the team was coached by Paul Brown. It has been a Tiger tradition in Massillon ever since.
"Tiger Rag – The Song That Shakes the Southland" is Clemson University's familiar fight song since 1942 and is performed at Tiger sporting events, pep rallies, and parades. A version has been arranged for the carillon on Clemson's campus.
- The ODJB's 1917 composition "Tiger Rag" became a jazz standard that was covered by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Ted Lewis, Joe Jackson, and the Mills Brothers.
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