Hep cats dance the Lindy Hop & do the Jitterbug jive (1938-1943)

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Eastern “Hep Cats” foremost among fighting jive experts

Brooklyn and New York service men are the most original jitterbugs. And Hollywood’s jive experts in the Army and Navy rank at the bottom of the list. That’s according “to Eleanor Counts, Hollywood actress and youthful rug cutter, who does a featured jitterbug dance with Glenn Ford In Columbia’s “Destroyer.”

Eleanor should know. She devotes three of her evenings each week to the Hollywood canteen and has danced with thousands of marines, sailors and soldiers from every section of the country.

The hep cats of the eastern seaboard lead the field, Eleanor says, with Brooklyn ahead in the jitterbug technique. Here’s the way she rates the country’s fighting “jits”:

1. Brooklyn, New York and the East.

2. Texas.

S. Chicago and the Midwest.

4. The old South.

5. California and the Pacific Northwest.

“Those Brooklyn and New York boys come up with more new and tricky steps,” Miss Counts said. “They feature the Lindy with their own individual trick interpolations. Sometimes it’s pretty hard to follow them.

“Texas boys are partial to the 1-2-1-2-3 step and are nearly on & par with the Brooklyn and New York men, but they stick pretty much to a uniform routine.

“You can tell a Chicago and Midwest jitterbug after the first eight bars of music. He goes into the hop routine and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and the old South seem to have retained their characteristic conservatism even in jitterbugging. Theirs is a smooth, easy jitter, and it comes as s welcome relief at times. Virginians combine their jitterbug with a college step.

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“The jitterbug originated in the east, so it is natural that the far west should be the last to take up the craze and be the least proficient. California and the northwest have their own ideas about what a jive should be, and it crops out as a combination of them all. Much as I hate to, I’ve got to put Callfornians at the bottom of the jitterbug heap.”

Ninety-five per cent of the service boys Miss Counts has danced with some sort of a jitter. She rarely runs into a smooth dancer at the canteen. “But when I do, it’s a welcome experience,” she added. “After all, it’s pretty nice to have a strong shoulder to lean on.”

Story from the Salt Lake Tribune – January 2, 1943


Virginia jitterbugs (1943)

Jitterbugs at the bi-weekly Saturday night “open house” dance at Idaho Hall, Arlington Farms, Virginia — a residence for women who work in the government for the duration of the war. (Photograph by Esther Bubley)

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Jitterbugging in Detroit (1942)

Jitterbug dancing as part of the entertainment at a scrap salvage rally sponsored by the Work Projects Administration (WPA) at the state fairgrounds in Detroit, Michigan (Fall 1942)

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Jitterbugging at an Elk’s Club

Jitterbugs at an Elk’s Club dance in Washington DC, the “cleanest dance in town” – April 1943

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Watching the dancers (1938)

Large group, mostly men, surrounds couples jitterbug dancing on a dance floor, with a photographer in the foreground and the audience in raised seating on the left — probably in New York. (Photo by Alan Fisher)

New York City views (1917)

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Jitterbugging, Texas-style (1942)

Jitterbugs at the Charro Days Fiesta at El Rancho Grande in Brownsville, Texas

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Jitterbugs in Memphis (1939)

Jitterbugging in juke joint in Memphis, Tennessee – November 1939

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Jitterbugs at the community center party (1942)

Red Hook housing development in Brooklyn, New York

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A sailor and his girl dance

A sailor and his girlfriend do a bit of jitterbugging at the Hurricane in New York City (1943)

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Sailor dancing at the Senior Prom (1942)

A sailor jitterbugging at the senior prom in Greenbelt, Maryland

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All photos courtesy the US Library of Congress

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