Tozo And Bozo

Plagiarism is all over the headlines this minute yet there’s only one potential piece of piracy we need to close the books on.

Compare “Tozo,” recorded on January 21, 1927 by Fletcher Henderson’s band and composed by Henderson with lyricist M. Cowdery:

and “Bozo,” an Edward Hite tune recorded in November 1928 by Clarence Williams and His Orchestra:

Sing or hum the ballad of the Hottentot sheikh along with Ed Cuffee’s slow, slack opening trombone on the second title: don’t these two tunes sound alike? Don’t the chord changes, at the very least, sound very similar? Did Hite pilfer Henderson (or whoever)’s work? Was he teasing at it by rhyming his composition with the title of the purloined stomp? Or did Clarence Williams just think it would complement a tune christened “Bimbo” at the same record session?

This uncertainty isn’t going away anytime soon. Let’s get to the bottom of this, people.

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2 thoughts on “Tozo And Bozo

  1. skretvedt1958 says:

    What if the George Gershwin estate had wanted to sue over the many jazz tunes which pilfered the chord structure of his “I Got Rhythm”? Here’s a list of dozens of them…

    • Andrew J. Sammut says:

      If they do decide to open a suit, I’d like to now volunteer to help with the discovery stage: I’d just listen to Gershwin contrafacts all day!

      That is a terrific list. Thanks for sharing it here. I’d like to start one for “Tiger Rag.”

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