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JazzTimes 10: Intoxicating Tracks About Alcohol

Songs to choose when breaking out the booze

  1. Paul Whiteman Orchestra: “Just a Little Drink” (available on the compilation Jazz Age Chronicles, Volume 6: The Song Hits of 1926; originally recorded for Victor in 1925)

One of the biggest hits of 1925, “Just a Little Drink” underwent at least five recordings before the misnomered “King of Jazz” succeeded with his in early 1926. Today we recognize Whiteman as unfairly credited (by virtue of whiteness) for music on which he rode the bandwagon (at best)—but in his heyday, Whiteman was the most popular bandleader in America, and truly was a gateway to the genuine jazz article. “Just a Little Drink” is rendered in his trademark sweet style, but with the orchestral tricks Whiteman had learned from his hero Fletcher Henderson, and a not inconsiderable helping of humor. You can hear it in the baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, as well as the call-and-response vocal: a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that Prohibition not only hadn’t made “a little drink” hard to come by, but had made drinking a national pastime.

Check the price of Jazz Age Chronicles, Volume 6: The Song Hits of 1926 on Amazon!

Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.