“Reefer Man” – Cab Calloway
Originally titled “Have You Ever Met That Funny Reefer Man,” this song was written in 1932 by J. Russel Robinson, with lyrics by Andy Razaf, and recorded by Cab Calloway. As the song was written five years before the Marihuana Tax Act—reefer was still legal in almost all of America at the time. It was first recorded by Calloway, with several popular covers, including one by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Calloway lived a long life—long enough to appear in the 1980 Saturday Night Live-inspired film The Blues Brothers.
“You’se A Viper” – Stuff Smith
In Harlem, New York, people started calling reefer smokers “vipers” in the 1920s and 1930s. “Viper culture” was centered on good jazz music and reefer. This classic B-side was first recorded by Stuff Smith and the Onyx Club Boys in 1936. It was released as the B-side to the song “After You’ve Gone.” The song was retitled again and again to correct the broken, casual English. Fats Waller’s 1943 cover version mentions “Mighty Mezz”—referring to Milton Mezzrow, a Jewish saxophone and clarinet player who also is synonymous with viper culture as a famed marijuana supplier.
“When I Get Low I Get High” – Ella Fitzgerald
This song was recorded in April 1936 by Chick Webb and his orchestra, with stunning vocals on the chorus performed by none other than Ella Fitzgerald. For the most part, Fitzgerald tried to cultivate a wholesome image, but she also was very street savvy in regards to the underground jazz community. In the 1930s, Fitzgerald sang about both reefer and cocaine, such as in Wacky Dust, also recorded with Webb. Fitzgerald went on to scoop up 13 Grammy Awards and an additional 20 nominations.
“Jack, I’m Mellow” – Trixie Smith
This song was used relatively recently as the series theme …
Author: Benjamin M. Adams / High Times