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Jazz Riverboat Shuffles


Ken Fletcher sent us these pictures from a leaflet advertising a Riverboat Shuffle in 1958. Just looking at the line up of bands shows how popular these events were. Organised by Jazzshows Limited, they said: 'Following the tremendous success of our Riverboat Shuffle leafletsecond Floating Festival of Jazz, we have pleasure in announcing that we have again chartered both the 'Royal Daffodil' and the 'Royal Sovereign' for this year's event, which will be held on Sunday, 15th June. As last year, we shall be sailing from Tower Pier to Margate and back. To ensure that there will be plenty of room we are restricting the number of passengers so that everyone will be comfortable. Each boat is designed to give the maximum protection and you can be sure of a Riverboat Shuffle leafletwonderful outing whatever the weather.'

'The artistes who travel down on the 'Royal Daffodil' will return on the 'Royal Sovereign' and vice versa so that you will be able to see and hear all the bands and artistes at some time during the day.'

'Throughout the cruise the ships' bars will be open and drinks and food can be obtained all day. Luncheons, dinners and high teas will be served in the dining saloons but if you prefer to bring your own food you are quite at liberty to do so.'

The ships were scheduled to leave Tower Pier around 9.30 am, returning twelve hours later, allowing two hours ashore at Margate. '... the actual time of arrival back cannot be guaranteed owing to the tidal conditions in the Estuary.'

The price of tickets was £2 each and it was possible to pay by instalments. Under that plan, people could send 10/- deposit with the balance paid 'when you like, provided that all the money is in our hands by 1st June.'

Ken said: 'Having mis-spent my youth in the North London Jazz clubs of the 1950s, I always enjoy people's recollections of those times.'


Riverboat shuffle photograph


The other Riverboat Shuffle photograph above comes from clarinettist Alex Revell who says: 'Thought you might like to include this one in your next Bix Beiderbeckeissue. Taken on a riverboat shuffle. Don’t remember the date, but sometime in the late forties, or very early fifties, certainly before 1953.  Left to right: it’s Owen Maddox (I think), Chris Barber, me, Humph, unknown (I think a trombonist), Owen Bryce. Just to the right of Owen B  is his wife.'

Pete Ward said: 'In Alex Revell's photo, the un-named riverboat musician appears to me to be Bernie Newland. He was certainly in the London area at that time. I came across him again in the Taunton area in the '60s, and again in the Bristol area in the '70s.  I understand that he went to live in Germany sometime later, but I'm told that he is no longer alive.'


Riverboat Shuffles are still organised although I doubt that they are the same as they were in the 1950s (click here).


The term 'Riverboat Shuffle' was presumably based on the bands that played for people on the Mississippi riverboats, but was probably coined by Hoagy Carmichael when he gave one of his compositions the name. Apparently, in the spring of 1924, Bix Beiderbecke came to Indiana University where Hoagy booked him to play a series of ten fraternity dances, and the two became fast friends. It was for Beiderbecke that Carmichael wrote his first piece, calling it Free Wheeling. Beiderbecke took it with him to Richmond, Indiana (100 miles to the East), home of the early record company, Gennett Records, waxed it with his seven-piece band, “The Wolverines” and changed the name to Riverboat Shuffle.


Here's Bix playing Riverboat Shuffle.




Hoagy's lyrics for the song said:

Good people, you're invited tonight
To the riverboat shuffle
Good people, we got rhythm tonight
At the riverboat shuffle
They tell me that slide-pipe tooter is grand
Best in Louisiana
So bring your freighter, come and alligator that band
Mister Hawkins on the tenor
Good people, you'll hear Millenberg Joys
In a special orchestration
Even mama Dinah will be there to strut for the boys
In a room full of noise
She'll teach you to shuffle it right
So, bring your baby
I'll be seeing you at the riverboat shuffle tonight



Were You On The 1955 Riverboat Shuffle?

Riverboat Shuffle


Chris Watford clarinettist and bandleader sent us this photograph of the Sandy Brown Band playing a Riverboat Shuffle and wonders if anyone recognises themselves or can remember the event?

Chris says that the event was back in the 1950s. 'It was from Westminster that we started, travelling up river, possibly as far as Maidenhead. I believe this was a 2-band session shared with the Dave Carey jazz band. If a piano solo was in progress when the boat passed under a bridge, the band would grab their instruments and join in, with a wonderful ensemble sound bouncing off the underneath of the bridge arches!

I recognise Sandy on clarinet and Al Fairweather on trumpet, despite being stripped to the waist - it was a sweltering hot day! The stern of the boat was crammed with beer-guzzling youngsters - happy days! I think this was the summer of 1955, but it could have been the previous summer'.

Were you there?


There is footage of the Dutch Swing College band playing on a riverboat shuffle in 1962. Unfortunately the video still has the time counter going which is a little distracting, nevertheless:





If you have memories of a Riverboat Shuffle - please let us know.


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Other pages you might find of interest :

Alternative Jazz Musical Definitions
One Good Turn short story
Photographic Memories
Milneburg Joys

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