Show #32: Reefer Songs from the Jazz Underground

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Marijuana is very much a part of our culture now: medical marijuana dispensaries dot the urban landscape, Dr. Kush is always there on the Venice Boardwalk to give you a prescription, and legalization has been approved in many states. It is also a booming business for growers and suppliers, with high-grade crops made possible by science.

In the 1960s, when the counter-culture spread its wings, possession was a felony and people went to jail for it. If you had told somebody back then that there would be dispensaries that sold high-grade sinsemilla like candy stores sold candy, they’d have said you were out of your mind, or maybe just too high.

Where did the word “reefer” come from anyway? Some say that the hand-rolled marijuana cigarette is based on its resemblance to a rolled-up reef sail on a sailboat.

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During 1920’s prohibition and into the 1930s and 1940s, marijuana was very much a part of the jazz music underground. Vipers were people who smoked “tea”, which was slang for marijuana back then. Popular jazz icons like Louis Armstrong smoked every day. Satchmo once called marijuana his best friend. Click here to read a past post of Armstrong having the distinction of having Vice President Richard Nixon carry a Ghanaian ganja-laden trumpet case for him through customs at Dulles Airport in D.C.

In this week’s Rhythm Planet, I’ve focused more on the old tunes from the jazz underground. Many of these songs come from vinyl anthologies on the (what else?) Stash label. These LPs were released in the mid 1970s but weren’t reissued on CD. We’ll throw in a couple of tropical paeans to the bud from Curaçao and Cuba too. Hope you enjoy it.


Rhythm Planet Playlist: 11/29/13

  1. Harlen Littimore and His Connie’s Inn Orchestra / Reefer Man / Reefer Songs / Stash
  2. Bob Howard / If You’re A Viper / Reefer Songs / Stash
  3. Barney Bigard / Sweet Marijuana Brown / Reefer Songs / Stash
  4. Oswin Chin Behilia / Marie I Juana / Bendishon Disfrasa (Blessing In Disguise) / Otrabanda
  5. Sidney Bechet & Noble Sissle / Viper Mad / Reefer Songs / Stash
  6. Cab Calloway / The Man From Harlem / Reefer Blues / Gramercy
  7. Blue Lu Barker / Don’t You Make Me High / Pot, Spoon, Pipe And Jug / Stash
  8. Septeto 7 Conjunto Matamoros / Mari-Juana / Camaron Y Mamoncillo / Tumbao
  9. Unknown / Feelin’ High And Happy / Reefer Songs / Stash
  10. C.P. Johnson & Band / The G Man Got The T Man / Reefer Songs / Stash
  11. Cab Calloway / Minnie The Moocher / Reefer Blues / Gramercy
  12. Larry Adler / Smoking Reefers / Reefer Songs / Stash
  13. Lil Johnson / Mellow Stuff / Reefer Blues / Gramercy
  14. Buster Bailey’s Rhythm Busters / Light Up / Reefer Songs / Stash

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