Echoing through the corridors of American music history like a loud electric jam in a gym, the expression "jim jam" has been used as a name for bands and vaudeville revues as well as in song titles and lyrics. The passing of time has done little to diminish the appeal of Jim Jam or Jimjam, an indie rock band grabbing the former configuration in the '90s while an acid jazz specialist produced tracks suitable for a Groove Boutique volume under the jammed-together version of the name in 2004. Still the most exciting activity related to the expression has to be the frantic speculation musicologists and record collectors are engaged in regarding a group supposedly called Jim Jam that cut sides for the Gennett imprint at some point in the '20s.
The band could have come from Appalachia or from Texas, from New England or New Brunswick. Gennett's scouts wandered hither and yon and also staged mega-tracking events in hotels that attracted wandering minstrels from possibly as far away as Mongolia. Other researchers insist someone misread or mistyped a list somewhere along the line and there is no early Jim Jam combo, just another song utilizing the expression that someone else in the Gennett catalog recorded, perhaps Bat the Hummingbird, the Jolly Jug Band, Alura Mack, or the Harlem Wildcats. These are all among the names in an epic list of Gennett releases that remain largely unavailable in terms of reissues, the discographical equivalent of the Ark of the Covenant.
Producers who passed over much of this material while looking for something to reissue during the recording ban of the second World War have been roundly condemned by writers such as the well-informed Bill Bastin. Any special focus on the status of the Jim Jam band in particular in these debates may be due to the excitement of carrying out scholarly work regarding a slang expression for sperm, although in a somewhat sanitized slang lexicon "jim jams" are pajamas. Jim Jam Jems was a show that played for about four months at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in 1920, featuring the presumably ill Roscoe Ails as well as Joe E. Brown and the regal King Sisters. Sheet music from this show such as the title "Raggedy Ann" sometimes shows up on auctions, attracting record collectors who think there is some connection with the Gennett band that might have been. If just a song, the catalog entry might have something to do with any of the following: "Jim Jam Blues," "Jim Jam Jump," "Jim Jam Jumpin' Jive," "Jim Jam Stomp," or "Jim Jams." Perhaps Cab Calloway should have the last word: "The jim-jam-jump with the jumpin' jive, makes you hep! hep! hep! on the mellow side." ~ Eugene Chadbourne