The Treniers
March 28, 2012 2:53 AM   Subscribe

Do you know The Treniers? Back in the 40s and 50s, they straddled the lines between jump blues, swing, early rock'n'roll, jazz dance, hep jive and comedy. They were a whole hella fun, and they happened to be the backing band for what must be the best dance performance Jerry Lewis ever gave the world. That particular clip, BTW, from a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis "Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1954, is purported to be the first rock'n'roll performance on national television, and it may well have been.
posted by flapjax at midnite (14 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Milt Trenier, BTW, is still out there gigging!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:56 AM on March 28, 2012

As a middle-aged musician and music lover, I'm so rarely faced with something like this: totally new to me, and excellent in all ways. Thank you!

That dancing is still fresh.

Also, it's good to be reminded that Jerry Lewis is brilliant.
posted by e.e. coli at 3:03 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wonderful, thank you.
posted by timshel at 3:27 AM on March 28, 2012

Great way to start the day, thanks flapjax. Love the high-waisted sartorial splendor in the "fun" link.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:11 AM on March 28, 2012

They were baseball fans, too.
posted by jonmc at 4:49 AM on March 28, 2012

Morning maker!
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:06 AM on March 28, 2012

I'm always rockin' and boppin' on a Wednesday morning,

But when I am it's because I've been listening to the Treniers.
posted by tommasz at 5:10 AM on March 28, 2012

Maybe I have a hole in my head, but I always thought they were called The Trepaniers.

(Great post. :)
posted by Infinity_8 at 5:21 AM on March 28, 2012

Oh man, love the Treniers. Needs more sex and booze, though. Proper released a great comp of their late 40s/early 50s recordings, the liner notes of which include this gem:

It was whilst they were doing a show in Wildwood, New Jersey that the cowboy song-singing Bill Haley caught their show whilst performing across the road from the Treniers. Haley absorbed both their visual impact and dynamic musical approach and when he hung up his cowboy boots and renamed his group the Comets, there was more than an element of the Treniers' act in their performances.
posted by mediareport at 5:48 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

As the "fun" link demonstrates, The Treniers' performance of "Rockin' Is Our Business" in that clip from "The Colgate Comedy Hour" is, notwithstanding the presence of Jerry and Dino, more or less the same performance that they give in The Girl Can't Help It, right down to the crouch-jumps that they do at the end. (Which, incidentally, my personal trainer had me do the other day in the gym, and my thighs are still sore.)

The Treniers are featured in both Nick Tosches's Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll and in the more recent interview book Flying Saucers Rock 'n' Roll, edited by Jake Austen.

"The Colgate Comedy Hour" is well worth your time: there are all kinds of "firsts" and "OMG" moments in there, one of the most interesting, especially when viewed in the context of the television industry's brash, upstart attitude toward the film industry, is the famous "movie theater sketch," which I am trying like hell to find on YouTube, but failing...

Agreed that Big Jer is a hell of a dancer in that clip, but for my money his best terpsichorean moment comes in (the otherwise not-so-great) Cinderfella. Stick with it: it starts bizarrely, and gets bizarrer.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:53 AM on March 28, 2012

Love the Treniers.

I found them because for quite some time I've been (casually) trying to find the earliest recorded evidence of the electric bass guitar and a R&B buff friend recommended them.

The soundtrack for "The Day The Earth Stood Still" seems to be the first recording, but the Treniers' "Rag Mop" does seem to be the oldest evidence of the first version of the Fender P bass on film. If anyone can beat that, I'm all ears.
posted by quarterframer at 7:17 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Milt Trenier, BTW, is still out there gigging!

This Milt Trenier performance is one of my favorite moments from Chic-a-Go-Go (another Jake Austen production).
posted by hydrophonic at 7:32 AM on March 28, 2012

Thanks for that, I’ve never heard of them. Makes me think of Fishbone.
posted by bongo_x at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2012

Poon is the hug. Tang is the Kiss. I'm sure.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:06 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

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