The Phono Project

Exploring the history of the groove

“Kickin’ the Gong Around” by Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway was relatively unknown in the jazz world in the late 20’s, but by the early thirties, he was performing nightly at the Cotton Club in Harlem, the center of the jazz revolution. His electric dance moves and huge vocal range made him a fantastic performer, and in 1931 he hit the top charts with his song “Minnie The Moocher”, which sold over a million copies. What’s on the other side of that 78? This song, Kickin’ the Gong Around. In those days, Kicking the gong was slang for smoking opium. Now this might sound crazy, but in years past, New York Chinatown was littered with secret opium dens. People of all kinds came to try this addictive substance, including the songs main characters: Smokey Joe and Minnie The Moocher. Cab sings the tragic tale of Smokey finding Minnie in this opium den, kicking the gong around.

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