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Ann Pennington doing Black Bottom Black Bottom Dance History origin title

        The Black Bottom (aka Swanee Bottom) was originally from New Orleans, later worked its way to Georgia and finally New York. Some say the Black Bottom was introduced by blues singer "Alberta Hunter" (which is probably true as many songs/ dances were "stolen" and reproduced by someone else). However, it has been reported that the Black Bottom was derived from an earlier and similar dance called the "Echo."

     The dance was done all over the South before Bradford wrote his song in 1919. The dance is said to be a copy of a bossy cow's hind legs mirred in mud (12-14-1926 - Danville Bee Newspaper) other newspapers state that Mrs. Esther Gagnet from Texas states that the dance came from Sumaria (2/18/1927 Lancaster Daily Eagle Newspaper) and other newspapers say it is of the Mississippi Negroe trying to dance in the sticky mud (2/12/1927 - Davenport Democrat and Leader).

      Perry Bradford's sheet music had the music as well as the dance instructions printed on them. Bradford says that he first saw the Dance done in Jacksonville, (??) and decided to write a song about it in 1907 called the 'Jacksonville Rounders Dance' which used the term "Black Bottom" to describe the dance, but the song was not popular because "Rounder" meant "Pimp" (for the Pimp Walk) and no one wanted to dance to it, so he re-wrote the song and titled it the 'Original Black Bottom Dance' in 1919 which he introduced in Nashville Tennessee.

      The stage Play "Dinah" in 1924 introduced the Black Bottom to the public and almost overnight became as popular as the Charleston. Ann Pennington and Tom Patricola did a famous rendition of the black bottom in the George White Scandals of 1926 which he bought from the earlier show Dinah. White hired Desylva, Henderson and Brown to write the song for the show, however it was based on the Charleston dance rhythm and the songs lyrics were vague for the dance, however it did become popular but Bradford's song was the base for all to come and even Jelly Roll Morton wrote a song called  'Black Bottom Stomp.'  There was a town called 'Black Bottom' in Detroit, Michigan from 1900 to 1960 (it's supposed birth place, Marshall Stearns [1964] says Atlanta, but more has been found since 1964).

       The Black bottom was basically a solo challenge dance. Predominately danced on the "Off Beat" and was the prototype for the modern Tap dance phrasing. The Dance featured the slapping of the backside while hopping forward and backward, stamping the feet and gyrations of the torso and pelvis/Hips like the Grind, while occasionally making arm movements to music with an occasional 'Heel-Toe Scoop' which was very erotic in those days. The dance eventually got refined and entered the ballroom with ballroom couples doing the dance.

       In 1926 the "Black Bottom" became the rage and replaced the Charleston all together with the exception of it being done in the Breakaway, with the Lindy Hop eventually replacing the Black Bottom all together. The Black Bottom was also done at the Apollo theater in 1927 with the George White Scandals. The Roseland Ballroom (New York) hosted a Black Bottom endurance (marathon) contest in 1927. Some original pattern names for this dance are "The Flick, The Side Shuffle, The Walk." The Dance called the Five Step is said to be a variation of the Black Bottom Dance around 1928.

       In 1942 dancer and actress Ginger Rogers does a very good Black Bottom in the R.K.O. film Roxie Hart which was the original film version of the 2002 movie 'Chicago that featured Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere. The 2002 Chicago film has no Black Bottom but Roxie Hart does and it is not just a brief screenshot of her doing it but a full routine ... it is very good. If your interested in the Black Bottom dance it is a good film to get.

       The Five Step, Varsity Drag and the Lowdown tried to replace the Black Bottom, but only the Low Down (a sensuous shiver and a flutter of the hips) actually made a real attempt. The Lowdown and Five Step were actually just variations of the Black Bottom.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Detroit / New Orleans 1905? Echo Dance African-American

Black Bottom Sheet Music & Covers

Black Bottom Music Titles

1919 - Original Black Bottom Dance Birmingham Black Bottom [mp3] (Charlie Johnson)
1926 - Black Bottom Black and Blue Bottom [mp3] (1927) [Venuti]
1926 - Original Black Bottom Dance - a new dance sensation Black Bottom [mp3] (1926) ($Berigan) ($Layton) ($Melly)
1926 - Original Black Bottom of the Swanee River (UK) Black Bottom (Hamp)
1926 - Don't Take That Black Bottom Away Black Bottom Blues [mp3] (Heywood, Coleman)
1926 - George Whites Scandals Black Bottom Hop [mp3] (Trixie Smith)
1927 - Deep River Black Bottom Stomp [mp3] (1919) [Morton]
Irish Black Bottom Black Bottom Strut [mp3]
Blue Black Bottom [mp3] (1927 - Waller)
Blue Black Bottom Blues [mp3]
Dinah, Take your Black Bottom Outside

Black Bottom Music at Amazon

Do the Black bottom with me [mp3] (1927) Briggs
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom [CD] (CD) Don't Go Down in Black Bottom [mp3]
Black Bottom [CD] - Robert Ward (CD) Don't Take that Black Bottom Away [mp3] (7 aces, Bell Hops) Sam Coslow
Black Bottom Stomp [CD] Down in Black Bottom [mp3] (Blackwell)
Down in Black Bottom [CD] - Joe Evans (CD) Dusty Bottom ? (Possible)
Enigma Soundtrack [CD]
Everybody Stamp (1927)
Irish Black Bottom [CD] Georgia Black Bottom [mp3] (Crackers)
The History of Radio Box Set [CD] (1920-1951) I Like That Thing (Called Black Bottom) [mp3]
Irish Black Bottom [mp3 | Ellington, Ella, others]
'Ma' Rainey's Black Bottom [mp3]
Old Folks Shuffle ... Black Bottom Foxtrot (1926)
Original Black Bottom Dance [mp3] (1919)
Original Black Bottom of the Swanee River (1926)
Plantation Days
Shake It Black Bottom [mp3] (Clarence Williams)
Take Your Black Bottom Dance Outside [mp3] (Martin)
... See Larger BLACK BOTTOM Music Listings

Night Clubs / Ballrooms



Apollo Theater (1926) Apollo Theatre (1926) n/a
Cinderella Ballroom (Wisconsin 2/1927) Cort Theater (1985)
Gaiety (Wisconsin 2/1927 - Mr. H. Bond Exhibition) Kearse Theatre (2/18/1927 BB Contest)
Palais De Dance Lyric Theatre - Pensylania (Marty and Nancy)
Majestic Theatre (1926 - Dallas Girls)
Royale Theater (2003)
Savoy Theatre (1926)
Star Theatre (1926)
Winter Garden (1927)




1926 - Let's Do the Black Bottom n/a 1924 - Dinah
1926 - The Third Degree 1926 - Broadway Gaities
1927 - The Black Bottom (Sylvester) 1926 - Chatterbox Revue (Savoy Theatre)
1927 - Love 'em and Leave 'em (Matthews and Taylor) 1926 - George White Scandals (Pennington)
3/8/1927 - Pathe Newsreel: "Real Black Bottom Dance" 1926 - Peggy Ann (Seymor Felix)
1927 - Sin Cargo 1926 - Stepping Along (Johnny Hines)
1928 - Our Dancing Daughters [DVD] 1926 - Vaudeville Program ? (Will Ahern)
1929 - Coquette [DVD] 1927 - Africana (Taylor and Johnson)
1939 - The Roaring 20's [DVD] (era) 1927 - Junior League Follies
1942 - Roxie Hart [DVD] (Ginger Rogers) 1928 - Gossips of 1928 (Howard / Tobin)
Birmingham Black Bottom: [DVD](1st all Black soundies - No Dance) 1954 - A Star is Born
1960 - The Jazz Age [DVD] (documentary about the 1920s) 1985 - Ma' Rainey's Black Bottom
Order "Dances through time Video" [DVD]

Other Dances of the time...

Aeroplane Waltz Charleston Grizzly Glide LuLu Fado Shadow Dance
Apache Dance Chicken Flip Hesitation Waltz March Shimmy
Argentine Ardor Collegiate Hippohop Maurice Tango Shiver Shake
Arizona Anguish Collegiate Foxtrot Honey Bug Maxixe Skirt Dance
Bacchanalian waltz Collegiate Shag Hooche Cooche Mooch, the Slow Drag
Baltimore Buzz Dewey Dip Horsetrot Mooch and Sugar Syncopated Canter
Bambuca Dizzy Drag Hug-Me-Tight Mule Walk, the *** Tango
Bobby Jones, the Eagle Rock Innovation Necktie Waltz Terripan Toddle
Boll Weevil Wiggle Echo, The Jazzarimba One Step Texas Tommy
Boston Dip Fado Foxtrot Kangaroo Canter Ostrich Stretch Toddle
Break away Five Step Kangaroo Waltz Pavlova Gavotte Turkey Trot
Bunny Hug Foxtrot Kitchen Sink Peabody Two-Step
Buzzard Lope Funky Butt Lambeth Walk Pickaninny Dandle Valencia, the
Cabbage Clutch Fuzzy-Wuzzy Lame Duck Pollywog Wiggle Varsity Drag
Camel Walk Gaby Glide Lemon Squeeze Puppy Snuggle Walkin' The Dog
Cantor Waltz Georgia Grind Lindy Hop Quickstep Waltz
Cartel Waltz Gilda Glide Love Dance Salome dance Whirlwind Waltz
Castle Walk Grizzly Bear Low Down Dance Wiggle-de-Wiggle

Dancers, Choreographers etc.

Alberta Hunter (1926) Ethel Waters Mr H. Bond (1927 - Gaiety Exhb.)
Alfred Shepard (Capitol Theater 1927) Frances Williams (1925 Artists & Models) Mrs. Peter Ridenour (Her husband said no)
Ann Pennington Freddy Taylor Ned Wayburn
Babette (dancer: Parisian Red Heads Orchestra) George White Perry Bradford (c.1919)
Bee Jackson Ginger Rogers Russell Howard & Kitty Tobin (Gossips - 1928)
Betty Belle Anderson (Winter Garden 1926) Henry 'Rubberlegs' Williams Senia Gluck and Felicia Sorel
Billy Pierce (& Stella Doyle Broadway Gaieties 1926) Johnnie Taylor Seymor Felix (Choreo for Peggy Ann)
Black Dots, the (Johnson and Taylor) Johnny Hines and Mary Brian (Stepping Along) Tom Patricola
Buddy Bradley Jodie Edwards (Butterbeans & Susie) Victor Sylvester (Mr.& Mrs.)
Charles Berger (1930 - Vaudeville singer) Joan Crawford Will and Gladys Ahern (1926)
Chatterbox Girls (1926) Mildred Melrose (Pathe Newsreel) Zastro and White (Oshkosh, WI 1926)
Corrine Griffith (1926 Film) Ma Rainey (c.1927) Robbins Brothers Elephants (1 Elephant did the Black bottom , Circus 1930)
Dorothy Cole (1927) Marie Kelly Dancers (Lyons, Burns, Knkley 1926)
Dorothy Matthews and Webster Taylor (1927) Marty and Nancy (Lyric Theatre Exhibition) 1927
E. Scott Atkinson (Deep River)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





Modern Dancing Castle, Mr. & Mrs. Vernon 1911 Harper & Bro's.
Down Memory Lane Murray, Arthur 1954 Greenberg
$ Jazz Dance: The Story of American Stearns, Marshall 1964 DaCapo Press
Black Dance In America Haskins, James 1990 Harper & Collins
$ Dancing Till Dawn Malnig, Julie 1992 New Press

Fashion Books... (Great for Costume Ideas)

$ 1920s Fashions: from B. Altman & CO. Altman & CO. 1999 Dover Pub.
$ Sears - Everyday Fashions, 1909-1920 Altman & CO. 1995 Dover Pub.
$ French Fashion Illus.. of the 1920s: 634 cuts from La Vie Parisienne
Carol Belanger Grafton 1987 Dover Pub.
$ Designs by Erte: Fashion Drawings & Illus. from "Harpers Bazaar" Erte (Romain de Tirtoff) 1976 Dover Pub.

Musicians / Leaders


Arthur Briggs [mp3's] (1899-1991) $ Black Bottom Stomp (8 Masters Of Ragtime)
Charlie Johnson's Org. Paradise 10 [mp3's] $ Ma Rainey's Play (in 2 Acts)
Clarence Williams [mp3's] (1898-1965) $ Rainey's Black Bottom (August Wilson)
Cootie Williams (1908-1985) $ That American Rag (Story of Ragtime)
Clarence Jones (1889-1949) 9/6/1925 - St. Petersburg (FL) Times
Duke Ellington [mp3's] (1899-1974)
7/11/1926 - Dallas (TX) Morning News
Eddie Heywood [mp3's] (1915-1989) 8/17/1926 - Iowa City Press - Citizen (Black Bottom Origins unclear)
Fats Waller [mp3's] (1904-1943) 11/14/1926 - Fresno Bee (Black Bottom Instructions)
Georgia Crackers [mp3's] (c.1930s) 12/14/1926 - Danville Bee - (Black Bottom Banned in Cleavland)
Holy Modal Rounder's (c.1960s) 12/19/1926 - New York Times
Jack Newman [mp3's] (c.1940s) 2/12/1927 - Davenport Democrat and Leader - (Zastro-White)
Jelly Roll Morton [mp3's] (1890-1941) 2/18/1927 - Lancaster Daily Eagle Newspaper (Sumaria Origin)
Joe Venuti [mp3's] (1903-1978) 3/1927 - Dance Magazine
Johnny Dodd's Black Bottom Stompers 4/22/1927 - Warren Tribune (Juinor Follies - Hubby Says No to Blkbtm)
Johnny Hamp [mp3's] (c.1920s) 8/31/1927 - Glvaeston Daily News (No More Folies for...)
Kid Ory [mp3's] (1886-1973)
11/25/1927 - Cahrleston Gazette (Black Bottom from Sumaria)
King Coleman 1/16/1928 - Oakland Tribune - (Black Bottom Dancer Hurt)
Louis Armstrong [mp3's] (1901-1971)
Miller, Mitch & The Gang
Piccadilly Revels
Red Nichols & the Red Heads [mp3's] (1905-1965)
Richard M. Jones (1889-1945)
Scrapper Blackwell [mp3's] (1903-1962)
Warners Seven Aces [mp3's]



Alberta Hunter (1895-1984) Bud DeSylva* (1895-1950)
Annette Hanshaw (c.1926) Lew Brown* (1893-1958)
Aunt Jemima (Sigma Theatre, Ohio 7/24/1927) $ Perry Bradford (1893-1970)
$ Baby Bonnie (c.1921) $ Ray Henderson (1893-1970)
Bessie Smith (1895-1937)
Bob Crosby (8/25/1913-3/9/1993) [in Roxie hart]
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)
$ Ethel Waters (1896-1977)
$ Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
$ Katherine Henderson (b1909-) [w/ Williams]
$ Lizzie Miles (1895-1963)
$ Ma Rainey (1896-1937)
$ Sarah Martin (1884-1955)
$ Trixie Smith (1895-1943)

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searcheslack Bottom Recipes

Flappers New Orleans Scandals Black Bottom Recipes
Harlem Renaissance Palais Swannee Bottom (aka) Wiggle Dances
Ma Rainey Tough Dancing Wiggle Dance Suggestive Dance

Basic Step ...

  • Basic Step: (9/1927 Dance Magazine):
    This, as with all other dances, is a mixture of Jazz steps. The Basic step,
    however, is one dependent entirely on rhythm. This step is 2 long stamps,
    first right, then left, followed by 4 short ones; they are done off the regular
    beat of the music. Accompanying this, the index finger on both hands is
    pointing up, and the eyes are rolling. Any other steps may be done to
    lengthen the dance.

  • Black Bottom Lyric's: (George White Scandals - 1927):
    Hop Down front and then you doodle (Slide) back,
    Mooch to your left and then you mooch to your right,
    Hands on your hips and do the mess around,
    Break a Leg (Wobble) until you're near the ground,
    now that the old Black Bottom dance...
    (There is a little more, but copyrights ya-know...go buy it!).
    By the way , this sheet music song says it came from Georgia? Perry Braford's Lyrics:
    Hop down front and then you Doodle back,
    Mooch to your left and then you Mooch to the right
    Hands on your hips and do the Mess Around,
    Break a Leg until you're near the ground
    Now that's the Old Black Bottom Dance. Now listen folks, open your ears,
    This rhythm you will hear-
    Charleston was on the afterbeat-
    Old Black Bottom'll make you shake your feet,
    Believe me it's a wow.
    Now learn this dance somehow
    Started in Georgia and it went to France
    it's got everybody in a trance
    It's a wing, that Old Black Bottom Dance.