He came up maybe to their armpits, the dudecats accompanying him, this ten-ish-year-old mannishboy strutting up King Street in Charleston swinging a watch chain and tapping a cane.
Back then, 1968, I thought naively zoot suit, not pimp outfit. The hat was cocked, the smile triumphant, the cane tapping a tattoo, the chains cycling in time with the jaunt-step.
It was like the two other older taller teens accompanying him were underlings. It was like he was royalty, had some power conferred upon him, this princeling. For what and why I had and have no clue.
I’ve squandered today’s sunlight scouring the 1s and 0s of cyberspace searching for an equivalent, i.e., of a video of a prepubescent boy strutting on a sidewalk, but guess what? There ain’t none but this lighter-shade-than-pale approximation hardly worth plopping down:
I wouldn’t see locomotion quite like the King-Street-Strut until I saw Dr. John take the stage for the first time at Columbia’s 3 Rivers Festival in 2002 or 3.
Hat, cane, strut.
This snippet from the 2008 Newport Jazz Festival is a mere shadow of what I witnessed that evening when I first saw the Doctor making his way to his piano.
Of course, males have been swaggering and females jiggling since time immemorial. Even in the Age of Reason it appears homo sapiens succumbed to the jungle beats of their pulses in attempt to enhance their chance for romance, dominance, offspring. [See the Paul Standby illustration above]
But back to the 60s and that Mannishboy. Those moves didn’t come from nowhere:
John Jeremiah Sullivan has a fascinating piece in the Winter Swanee Review on the origin of the blues. Much of the essay deals with “cakewalking,” an African American tradition dating back to plantation days but that was all the rage in the early 20th Century. a staple of minstrel shows.
Did cakewalking in some ways influence what became known as jive-ass-walking/pimp-walking?
This snippet narrated by retired pimp Bishop Don Magic features watch-chain spinning, but it’s really, really lame compared to the vertical twirling of the mannishboy I saw on King Street that day.
So what’s the point of all this? Good question. I might have to get back to you on that except to say that if you’re lucky, you might see something amazing you’ll never forget, something that goes way back, has evolved, decayed, and all that jazz. Or maybe, given how all my memories seem to sport an enhanced version, maybe time burnishes memories?
Or maybe there’s no fool like an old fool: