Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Jimmie Stanislaus (1910-1993): "The Singing Fireman"

Jimmie Stanislaus (Photo left: Stanford University archives)

Jimmie Stanislaus had four careers in life, starting as a lightweight boxer from 1926-1934. He had 86 fights in his boxing career, losing only a handful of matches. After he retired from boxing, he opened a shoeshine stand while making extra cash on the side as an attendant for Yellow Cab.

In 1943, he joined the Oakland Fire Department at Engine 31 at High & Porter Streets. He retired and in 1975, but not after having created a sensation singing with Turk Murphy's band in 1972. Even before his retirement as a fireman, he was traveling with Turk Murphy and performing in international clubs and aboard cruise ships. One of his popular songs, "Lock Goon Strut," would be considered culturally inappropriate today, as it referred to a Chinese restaurant at 8th & Webster Streets and the term "goon" was used to denote low intelligence, particularly in regards to Asians.

That led to a whole new career as a singer, with his voice often drawing comparisons to the great Louie Armstrong. He caught Turk Murphy's attention singing "Yama Yama Man" at the Earthquake McGoon jazz club in San Francisco, run by the famous trombonist and bandleader who played traditional and Dixieland jazz. He was quickly dubbed "The Singing Fireman."

Jimmie Stanislaus (Photo right: Stanford University archives)
"Yama Yama Man" was a bogeyman character named to rhyme with pajama, a reference to the costume. In 1918, cartoonist Max Fleischer created Koko the Clown, who wears a similar costume, and a popular children's novel called Yama Yama Land was also written. Stanislaus often dressed in a loose fitting clown costume when he performed the song [photo above]. 

He also recorded with Turk Murphy and appears on his Live at Inverness and Turk Murphy Jazz Band albums performing some of his biggest hits, including Yama Yama Man, Back O Town Blues, and You Rascal You (I'll be Glad When You're Dead).

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