Hover For Menu

Welcome to Music of the Big Band Era—page 3

hep, hip,  and the zoot suit

In the '30s, hep and zoot were large. Why?

Today, the word hip means familiar with or informed about the latest ideas, styles, or developments, as in My parents aren't exactly hip, you know.

Exactly what or who is hip? Guys or gals who are hip are into what's expected, have a casual or knowing air; they're cool. keenly aware of, knowledgeable about, or interested in the latest trends or developments they're cognizant, wise, into what's going on, very fashionable or stylish.

But in the Big Band era, no one was hip; the word didn't exist, even though the feeling did. To be hip then was to be hep—hep, as in hep cat. If you were a hepcat, you were a performer or admirer of jazz, especially swing; and anyone who was into swing had to be hep.

Where did hep originate? One theory is that hep is derived from the word hipi, a word in the Wolof language of Senegal. The word hipi, means to open one's eyes, to be aware.

No one really knows for sure why or how hep originated. But what difference does it make? Then as now, it was hep to be hip.

Hep is a word from a from a largely superannuated form of slang called jive talk. In the days of the Big Bands, jive talk was in and the music was on. If you were cool—hep—you spoke jive talk; you dug the right music and jitterbugged. If you liked the right music and jitterbugged you were in the groove.

Click here for the zoot suit story
Explore more about zoot suits and zoot suiters: click this guy.

Hepcats came in different flavors and from different sectors of society. If they were young, they went to high school hops, drank milkshakes, and heard swing bands on the radio; if they were of age, they went to Harlem night clubs like the Cotton Club, drank hooch, heard Duke Ellington live on stage, and partied all night. All were cool cats, but one particular brand of cat was cooler than most. He was called the Zoot Suiter. Zoot suiters were exceedingly in.

Zoot suiters were called that because many of them wore so-called zoot suits, a particularly garish form of clothing that was fashionable among African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Italian Americans, and Filipino Americans and their emulators during the late 1930s and the 1940s.

a zoot suit for my sunday gal

Are you in the groove? Can you "dig a zoot suit with a reet pleat and a drape shape, and a stuff cuff to look sharp enough to see your Sunday gal?" Are you in the groove? Can you "dig a zoot suit with a reet pleat and a drape shape and a stuff cuff to look sharp enough to see your Sunday gal?" Want to hear more of this once cool but now quaint jive talk?

If your answer is yes, hear the song and dig the lyrics from a popular 1942 song called A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal) by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Bob O'Brien.

Transport yourself to wartime America in 1943 when the zoot suit was all the rage and Swing was the thing. Music is by one of the one of the most popular of all the big bands, Kay Kyser and his Orchestra. It makes a great way to groove.

  • Explore the 1941 song called A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal): click here.

Much more about WWII era Big Band music and zoot suits

Explore the zoot suit men and women, the suit, and the history, including the Zoot Suit Riots, the French Zoot Suiters, and the Zazous: click here.

more Music of the big band era features

Now journey back in time, when names like Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey were all over the air waves. Return to the era when the Big Band was all the rage and Swing was King. Visit one of the features in Music Of the Big Band Era:

  • Coming soon.

To visit one of the features of the Big Band Era, click the name of the feature in the list above.


  • Features about the Big Bands Era are on the way. Check here from time to time to see what's new.

ETAF Recommends

  • The Big Bands, by George Thomas Simon. An overview of the Big Band era. Simon introduces almost all the bands and band leaders popular from 1935 to 1946 and explains Big Band music in the context of the time in which it occurred.
  • The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945, by Gunther Schuller. Schuller is a master musician, musicologist, critic, and historian. This monumental study of swing runs to 900 pages and yet is incredibly inexpensive.
  • When the Music Stopped: The Big Band Era Remembered, by Bernie Woods. As music editor at Variety at the height of the Big Band era, Woods got to know many of the most important names in the business. Not a music historian or musician himself, he presents a collection of personal music and business reminiscences and anecdotes about subjects ranging from the big bands of Benny Goodman, the Dorsey brothers, and Ralph Flanagan to crooners like Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. He also discusses the evolution of the music and its structure.
  • The Zoot Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation, by Mauricio Mazón. Mazón analyzes the psychodynamics of these riots using previously undisclosed FBI and military records with the aim of providing an understanding of their underlying causes.

—Page 1, 2, 3



Contact Us
Print This Page
Add This Page To Your Favorites (type <Ctrl> D)

This web site and its contents are copyrighted by Decision Consulting Incorporated (DCI). All rights reserved.
You may reproduce this page for your personal use or for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.
Additional copyright and trademark notices

Exploring the Arts Foundation
Today's Special Feature
To Do
Feature Pages

Welcome To Music Of The Big Band Era—Page 1, 2, 3

Related Pages
See Also
Our Blogs
Visit Electricka's Blog


Visit Urania's Speculative Fiction Blog


Our Forums
Click here to visit Electricka's Forums.

About The Forums