Slim Gaillard was a jazz Renaissance man who doubled as its court jester. He played, to one degree or another, nearly all of the most common instruments of jazz, including guitar, piano, organ, drums, vibraphone, and various saxophones; he also composed music and tap- danced. It is for his humor that he is most widely remembered and loved. It is immortalized in masterpieces such as Flat Foot Floogie, Yproc Heresy, Chicken Rhythm, Serenade To A Poodle, and Laughin' in Rhythm, all of which are saturated with a dadaist sense of absurdity. Like early dada music, Gaillard sang and composed songs in his own private language: Vout.
This master musician, who early on worked as a professional cook and merchant seaman, turned to acting later in life, appearing in numerous television shows and movies.
Bulee Slim Gaillard was, according to most sources, born in Detroit, Michigan. He sometimes claimed to have been born in Cuba, during a stopover on the island by his merchant marine father. More certain is that Gaillard was raised in Detroit where he attended school and studied music for the first time. His first instrument was the vibraphone; piano and guitar eventually became his main instruments, although he was more or less accomplished on others, including congas, bongos, and different saxophones.
In fact, Gaillard got his start in music as a tap dancer who played guitar. He was a regular on the amateur shows that abounded on radio in the early 1930s, including one of the most popular and influential, the Major Bowes Amateur Hour.