NEO Swing.. What is it? – A bit of our history…

What is Neo Swing? Here’s some of our history….

You have heard Ray Neo Swing tunes more than once on our social dancefloor and being the old skool kids that we are here at Swing On In, we are probably about the only place left that that play it regularly.  You see, it may not be the flavor of the more traditionalist of Lindy Hoppers today BUT we were there when the Swing Revival went nuts and if it wasn’t for these Neo Swing Bands.   I’m pretty sure the revival would not have been as big nor would it have attracted the youth masses like it did.  It really was,  (at it’s height) a Swingmania similar to that of beatlemania or any other youthquake uprising.

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE authentic, traditional and original music and its roots but we also love the originals or the Neo Swing Movements as well..  Today though, virtually anything goes with new and modern artist putting their own spin on the classics, but today I just wanted to give you a little bit on the ole Neo Swing vibe.

Neo Swing, although having strong influences and roots from traditional big band or jump Blues music, really did bring with it a whole new sound and did err on the side of some harder rock, rockabilly and Jump Blues influences and sounds.  This was great for our fledgling scene back in the late 90’s where there were a whole lot of Ska, Rockabilly, Punk and Skater Youth Culture kids drawn to and wanting to dance Lindy Hop to these tunes…They kick started our first dance school “Katz Korner”.

The Revival:

The swing revival, also called retro swing and neo-swing, was a renewed interest in swing music, beginning in the 1990s. The music was rooted in the big bands of the swing era of the 1930 and ’40s, but it was also influenced by rockabilly, boogie-woogie piano, the jump blues of Louis Prima, and the theatrics of Cab Calloway.

In 1989, three swing revival bands formed: Royal Crown Revue, the George Gee Orchestra, and Lavay Smith‘s Red Hot Skillet Lickers. After two years of performing in their home of Los Angeles, Royal Crown Revue toured the U.S. and attracted attention. They were followed by the formation of more swing bands: Big Bad Voodoo DaddyCherry Poppin’ Daddies, and the Erik Ekstrand Ensemble. When the Derby nightclub opened in 1993, it offered free dance lessons and hosted many retro swing bands.

The Derby was the first club in Los Angeles where there was dancing and swing music every night.   It followed the lead of Club Deluxe, which opened in San Francisco in 1989.

Retro swing appeared in pop culture when the movie Swing Kids (1993) was released. One year later, Royal Crown Revue performed in The Mask. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performed in Swingers (1996), with scenes filmed at The Derby and other clubs in Los Angeles, and at the Super Bowl halftime show in 1999.

Brian Setzer helped revive rockabilly during the 1980s as the leader of the Stray Cats. In 1990s he helped revive swing by drawing large audiences as the leader of The Brian Setzer Orchestra, a big band that was formed in 1992 and influenced by rock, rockabilly, and the jump blues of Louis Prima. The band had a hit with “Jump, Jive an’ Wail“, which was a hit for Prima in the 1950s.  Setzer’s version won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. His album The Dirty Boogie was nominated for Best Pop Album. Hot by the Squirrel Nut Zippers was certified platinum by the RIAA for selling one millions albums.    In 1998 three retro swing bands were in the Top 50 at Billboard magazine: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Fun Fact 1:  Ray and I attended the Derby in LA in the late 90’s and we saw Indigo Swing Live, got to dance in the BACK room and realized then that the Shim Sham was the favored dance worldwide and doing it right there at that place on that night with 500 other dancers from around the world was the best feeling in the world and it was cemented into our Swing Lives forever.

Fun Fact 2:  Our good Friends Bobby & Carma were part of the Brian Setzers Personal Team, and as such, Brian knew all about some crazy Swing Dancers from the Gold Coast called Chrissy & Ray and Katz Korner (Our first dance school).  He sent over CD’s & Promo stuff quite regularly and at one of our social nights at the Oasis, we had a live telephone hook up with Brian which was a real treat for the dancers there that night.  Pretty Cool.

Fun Fact 3:  Ray and I have seen and danced live to most of the above Neo Swing Bands listed..

The You tube Video of Jump Jive and Wail is below for you to check it out…  (Yes they used mini trampolines to achieve those heights in their aerials.)

A bit more of the commercialisation of Lindy Hop which really threw swing dance into popularity….  you wouldn’t guess it but:

The Day Khakis Changed Swing Dancing Forever ..  

It was over 20 years ago, and Gap took a calculated risk that went viral in a semi-connected world. You didn’t need to describe it any further.  Khakis became synonymous with Swing dancing, and that’s how a 30 second television commercial changed dancing forever.  This hit commercial aired in 1998, but it’s true origin dated back to August, 1996 (This is when Ray and I met!).    


To close.. I recommend you all watch the following movies for a a feel of the resurgence of Swing in the late 80’s and 90’s:





Til next time,

Catch on the Flipside…


Chrissy & Ray
Swing On In

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