Zoot Suits and Poppin’ Daddies – The 1990s Swing Revival


90s Swing Revival - Let's Jump, Jive an' Wail!var addthis_pub=”deswebs”;Pop culture is a cyclical beast, and the more cynical scenesters out there are definitely familiar with the feeling of everything old being new again. Such was the case in the 1990s with the resurgence of swing music, that goodtime jazz style that dominated the American popular conscious between 1935 and the end of World War II.

After the grunge and alternative rock assault of the early part of the decade, no one could have predicted that for a very short time retro-influenced swing bands would steal chart thunder and ignite their own tiny subculture all across the country.


Swing Kids (1993)Slick cats in zoot suits and fedoras would take to the stage with stand-up basses and slicked back hair and get dance floors jumping. Not only that, but movies like "Swing Kids" would glamorize the original swing era to the point where even that 90’s icon "Clueless" featured a character with a heavy dollop of swing-influenced personal style.

The new, 90s-style swing music borrowed liberally from a number of other genres, helping to give it a crossover appeal that quickly swelled listener ranks. The rapid rhythms of ska were often mined to help give swing the quick tempo that dancers were looking for, while rockabilly provided the rough-The Brian Setzer Orchestraedged guitar that allowed certain swing bands to enjoy a rebellious edge. Of the latter, the most prominent were the Brian Setzer Orchestra, who dominated the scene with successes "Jump Jive an’ Wail" and "Sleepwalk" (oddly enough, a surf tune). Swing, Jive, & Lindy Hop dancing saw a resurgence with the 90s Swing Revival."Jump Jive an’ Wail" (the original Louis Prima version) and swing dancing even made it into one of the most memorable Gap commercials of the mid-90s.

Of the bands who stayed pure to swing’s musical ethos, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, the Royal Crown Revue and the Squirrel Nut Zippers emerged as front runners. These four groups bought into the genre’s entire image, portraying themselves as transplanted 40’s survivors who played infectious tracks that awkwardly shared chart space with the harder edged sounds of the day. Interestingly, each of these bands had been formed in the late 80’s or early 90’s and had struggled for almost a decade before finding a major audience. Their songs, such as "Zoot Suit Riot" (Cherry Poppin’ Daddies) "Hell" (Squirrel Nut Zippers), "You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)" (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) and "Hey Pachuco" (Royal Crown Revue) stand out as some of the defining recordings of swing’s brief revival in the 90s.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy   Cherry Poppin' Daddies   Royal Crown Revue   Squirrel Nut Zippers
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy   Cherry Poppin’ Daddies   Royal Crown Revue   Squirrel Nut Zippers

Want to learn how to swing dance? Try these "Let’s Dance Swing" lessons by John Hill. You’ll be swingin’ in no time!


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