"Tiger Rag" is a jazz standard, originally recorded and copyrighted by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. It is one of the most recorded jazz compositions of all time. In 2003, the 1918 ODJB recording of "Tiger Rag" was placed on the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
The tune was first recorded on 17 August 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band for Aeolian-Vocalion Records (the band did not use the Jazz spelling until later in 1917) and released as B1206, "Tiger Rag One-Step Written and Played by Original Dixieland Jass Band", backed with "Ostrich Walk". The Aeolian Vocalion sides did not sell well, as they were recorded in a vertical format becoming obsolete at the time which could not be played successfully on most contemporary phonographs.
Their second recording of the tune on 25 March 1918 for Victor Records, 18472-B, backed with "Skeleton Jangle" as the A side, on the other hand, was a smash national hit and established the tune as a jazz standard. The song was copyrighted, published, and credited to bandmembers Nick LaRocca, Eddie Edwards, Henry Ragas, Tony Sbarbaro, and Larry Shields in 1917. Harry DaCosta later wrote lyrics to the instrumental when it became a million-seller and a No. 1 national hit for The Mills Brothers in 1931.
"But even before the first recording, several musicians had achieved prominence as leading jazz performers, and several numbers of what was to become the standard repertoire had already been developed. "Tiger Rag" and "Oh Didn't He Ramble" were played long before the first jazz recording, and the names of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Bunk Johnson, Papa Celestin, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver, Freddie Keppard, Kid Ory, and Papa Laine were already well known to the jazz community."
Other New Orleans musicians claimed, however, that the tune or at least portions of it had been a standard in the city even before. Some others even copyrighted the same melody or close variations on it under their own names, including Ray Lopez under the title "Weary Weasel" and Johnny DeDroit under the title "Number Two Blues". A number of veterans of Papa Jack Laine's band said the tune had been known in New Orleans as "Number Two" long before the Dixieland Jass Band copyrighted it. In one interview, Papa Jack Laine said that the actual composer of the number was Achille Baquet. Punch Miller claimed to have originated the cornet & trombone breaks with Jack Carey, and that from Carey's characteristic growl many locals called the tune "Play Jack Carey". Jelly Roll Morton also claimed to have written the tune, basing part of it on his jazzed up version of an old French quadrille.
Frank Tirro states in Jazz: A History, "Morton claims credit for transforming a French quadrille that was performed in different meters into "Tiger Rag". According to writer Samuel Charters, "Tiger Rag" was worked out by the Jack Carey Band, the group which developed many of the standard tunes that were recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The work was known as "Jack Carey" by the black musicians of the city and as "Nigger # 2" by the white. It was compiled when Jack's brother Thomas, 'Papa Mutt', pulled the first strain from a book of quadrilles. The band evolved the second and third strains in order to show off the clarinetist, George Boyd, and the final strain ('Hold that tiger' section) was worked out by Jack, a trombonist, and the cornet player, Punch Miller."
While the exact details are unclear, it seems that at least something similar to "Tiger Rag" or various strains of it were played in New Orleans before the Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded it. How close these were to the Band's recording is a matter of speculation. The Band's record seems to have helped solidify a standard version or head arrangement of the number, although one strain in the Band's recordings (just before the famous "hold that tiger" chorus) is almost invariably left out of later recordings and performances of the number.
After the success of the Original Dixieland Jass Band recordings, the tune gained national popularity. Dance band and march orchestrations were published for the benefit of bands that couldn't get the hang of the new "jazz" music.
With the coming of sound film, it often appeared on soundtracks of both live action movies and animated cartoons when something very energetic was wanted.
Famous later recordings
The Canadian Brass tuba player Chuck Daellenbach has become internationally associated with Luther Henderson's "Tuba Tiger Rag." He has performed this work hundreds of times, and recorded it most recently on the best-selling "Takes Flight" CD for the Opening Day label, a CanadianIndy label affiliated with Arkiv Music and NOXOS. This adaptation has taken a work associated with Dixieland and Sports onto the major concert halls around the globe.
The Tiger Rag became a standard, with over 136 cover versions by 1942 alone. Famous artists who covered the song included Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra (in a version with lyrics), Duke Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke, and Louis Armstrong, who released the song at least three times as a 78 single, twice for Okeh in 1930 and 1932, and for the French arm of Brunswick in 1934. A Japanese version was recorded in 1935 by Nakano Tadaharu & the Columbia Rhythm Boys.
The Mills Brothers became a national sensation with their hit vocal recording of the song in 1931, and in the same year, the Washboard Rhythm Kings released a version that was later cited as an influence on the subsequent rock & roll genre.
During the early 1930s "Tiger Rag" became a standard showoff piece for Big Band arrangers and soloists, especially in England, where Ambrose, Jack Hylton, Lew Stone, Billy Cotton, Jack Payne, and Ray Noble all made recordings of it. The tune fell from popularity during the Swing era, as it had become something of a cliché.
Nonetheless cover versions continued, including a hit version for Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1952 and a Be-Bop version by Charlie Parker. In 1954 it featured in the Tex Avery-directed MGM cartoon Dixieland Droopy, and it was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry in 2002 . Also in 2002, it appeared in the popular computer game Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, and in 2005 it featured in an advert for the Microsoft Xbox 360 games console.
Use as a fight song
"Tiger Rag" is often used as a fight song by several American high school and college teams with a tiger as their mascot.
Tiger Rag is LSU's pregame song which was first introduced in 1926. LSU is the first school to use the melody. The Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band performs it on the field before every home game and a section of the hit song is played right after the Tigers makes a touchdown. However, the full version of the song is reserved for very special occasions.
The Massillon Tiger Swing Band of Massillon, Ohio began playing Tiger Rag at Massillon Washington High School Tigers football games in 1938 during the period the Tigers were coached by Paul Brown. It has been a Tiger tradition in Massillon ever since.
The Mighty Sound of the South has played a version of the Tiger Rag at the University of Memphis Tigers games for many years, and one version (known as Tiger Rag 2) is a medley with the Tigers' primary fight song.
Tiger Rag – "The Song That Shakes the Southland" – is Clemson University's familiar fight song since 1942 and is performed at Tiger sporting events, pep rallies, and parades. A version has been arranged for the carillon on Clemson's campus, an instrument almost never used in a jazz setting.
The song was used with the recurring phrase "Save that tiger!" in the Disney film A Tiger Walks (1964).
The Cuyahoga Falls Marching Tiger Band of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio plays Tiger Rag as one of their main fight songs.
The University of Texas at Dallas adopted Tiger Rag as its first official fight song in 2008.
In the years after World War 2 the English Football team Hull City played this song over the loudspeaker system just before the players ran onto the field of play. The exact version is unknown.
There were 136 cover versions of ODJB's copyrighted jazz standard and classic "Tiger Rag" by 1942 alone. The number has greatly increased since. A very incomplete list of artists who have recorded this standard includes:
- Louis Armstrong, who released the ODJB classic as a 78 single, in 1930 on Okeh and in 1934 on Brunswick
- Benny Goodman and his Orchestra
- Frank Sinatra
- Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra on a two-part, double-sided 78 released on Brunswick in 1929
- Edward "Kid" Ory with his Creole Jazz Orchestra
- Bix Beiderbecke with the Wolverines or the Wolverine Orchestra
- Ethel Waters and the Jazz Masters in 1922
- Billie Holiday
- Sidney Bechet
- Bob Crosby and the Bobcats
- Fats Waller
- Gene Krupa
- Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra
- Phil Napoleon and his Orchestra in 1926 on Edison
- Abe Lyman and his Orchestra
- Harry Reser
- Whiteway Jazz Band
- The New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1922 on Gennett
- Fletcher Henderson
- Jelly Roll Morton in 1938
- Ray Miller's Orchestra in 1929 on Brunswick
- Red McKenzie
- Freddie Fisher
- Acker Bilk
- Harry Roy and his Orchestra
- The Maple City Four
- The Saint Jazz Band
- Isham Jones' Orchestra
- Eddie Condon
- Pete Fountain released "Tiger Rag" as a 45 single on Coral
- Tommy Dorsey
- Glenn Miller and his Orchestra
- Muggsy Spanier
- George Barnes
- Barney Kessel
- Bobby Short
- Teddy Wilson
- Alvino Rey
- The Mills Brothers in 1931, no. 1 for four weeks
- The Washboard Rhythm Kings
- Art Tatum in 1932
- Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra
- Jack Hylton
- Lew Stone
- Billy Cotton
- Jack Payne
- Ray Noble
- Joe Jackson
- Django Reinhardt with the Quintette of the Hot Club of France
- Roy Smeck
- "Tiger Rag" was covered on the 78 series entitled Studies in Swing No. 1, 1927, with Nat Gonella on solo trumpet
- The Paul Whiteman Orchestra
- Jimmy Dorsey with Spike Hughes
- Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1952
- The Beatles, Get Back/Let It Be sessions, 1969
- Imelda May ft. Jeff Beck
Use in films
Use on television
- The Goodies: "Goodies in the Nick" (1973)
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: "Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues" (1993)
- Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon: "Fire Dogs 2: Part 1" (2003)
- The Roosevelts: An Intimate History: "The Storm" (2014)
Use in video game
- Mafia (2002)
- Brunn, H.O. The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1960. Reprinted by Da Capo Press, 1977. ISBN 0-306-70892-2
- Stewart, Jack. "The Original Dixieland Jazz Band's Place in the Development of Jazz." New Orleans International Music Colloquium, 2005.
- Original Dixieland Jass Band. Red Hot Jazz.
- Tirro, Frank, "Jazz: A History", W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, New York, 1977, Library of Congress card number 77-22623, ISBN 0-393-09078-7, page 157.
- Blesh, Rudi, Shining Trumpets: A History of Jazz 2nd ed., Knopf, New York, 1958, page 191.
- Charters, Samuel B., Jazz: New Orleans, 1885–1963, Rev. ed., New York: Oak Publications, 1963, page 24.
- Tirro, Frank, Jazz: A History, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, New York, 1977, Library of Congress card number 77-22623, ISBN 0-393-09078-7, page 170.
- Tiger Rag (1917): JazzStandards.com.
- Joystiq.com, "Untelevised XBox 360 ad hits the web"
- "Something to Sing About: Comets Get First Fight Song". UT Dallas News Center. 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
- Tiger Rag: Second Hand Songs.
- The Beatles Bible.
- Imelda May and Jeff Beck "Tiger Rag" on YouTube
- Firehouse Five Plus Two "Tiger Rag" on YouTube
- Online version of the 1918 original landmark recording by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band on Victor, 18472-B, on the U.S. Library of Congress National Jukebox.
- Original Dixieland Jass Band. Red Hot Jazz.
- Tiger Rag: Second Hand Songs.