When Brad Edwardson, the Flat Foot Floozies' guitarist and double bassist, found out that they had won Jazz Band of the Year, he sent his fellow old-time players an e-mail with the subject line, "You'll never believe this one."
The rest of his bandmates were just as surprised. Kevin Hackler (trumpet) responded with "You have to be fucking kidding." Mackie Boles (guitar and slide) was a little classier, with, "Haha!! That's hilarious." Bandi Tomaschek (bass) thought the news was nuts. And tap dancer Jessy Vandevort — yes, instead of drums or traditional percussion, the Floozies employ a tap dancer — didn't even respond. She thought it was a joke.
In a town with a renowned jazz school, a jazz orchestra, a jazz club, and jazz shows somewhere seemingly every night, it's a high honor to be bestowed upon an act that began playing casually at the Tin Roof's Sunday brunch. Edwardson and Tim Edgar (ukulele and harmonica), old friends and bandmates from Milwaukee, got the gig not too long after they relocated to Charleston from the Midwest. They admit a brunch slot is not necessarily the best opportunity for people in their mid-twenties, since Sunday mornings can be rough. The project wasn't taken too seriously until the pair started accumulating members like Boles and Hackler (who stopped in the Tin Roof one time after playing his own fancy downtown brunch performance) and booking real shows.
In those early days, the group used a different name every time they played: Hambourine, the Good Time Old Time Fun Time Anytime Jug Band, Mackie Mack and the Drunkie Brunch, Bloody Mary Bicycle Delivery, Tim and the Edgars, Brad and the Edwardsons. They eventually settled for Flat Foot Floozies, a take on Slim Gaillard's 1938 song "Flat Foot Floogie (With a Floy Floy)." (Actually, according to Hackler, the tune was originally called "Flat Foot Floozies," but floozie was a dirty word at the time.) Only Edgar can say the band's name five times fast.
For their setlists, the Floozies stick to standards, inspired by the likes of the Memphis Jug Band, Leon Redbone, and Fats Waller, but sometimes they'll add their own lyrics or make their own arrangements for the songs. "It's fun, and we try to have fun and the songs we try to pick are fun to play," Edwardson says. "That's kind of the main idea is that we're just trying to have a good time and play and try to recreate the sounds we all like."
Old-time music was actually the first kind of music Edgar learned how to play, and Edwardson did some gypsy-swing stuff before they met, but Boles came up from bluegrass and had a hard time with the genre at first. Meanwhile, Hackler, a long-time member of the local jazz scene, has always been drawn to older music; the phrasing might be different, he says, but it all comes from the same place.
And then there's the tap dancer. That's not something you see every day. Vandevort is from the same hometown as Edgar, and one day while hanging out in Charleston, her childhood tap-dancing past came up. "This kind of music, back in the day there was a lot of tap dancing. That was the big thing," Edgar explains. "The whole band would stop and Bojangles Robinson would be up there doing something or Fred Astaire doing all the crazy antics."
Visually, the tapping is fun — you see a woman, feet flying, sweat perspiring. It adds something special to the shows, and it's won the Floozies some swing-dancing groupies (especially after playing dance nights at Spirit Moves). Vandevort definitely considers the tapping more of a routine than, let's say, writing music. "There's certain steps that kind of carry on throughout all of the songs, just because they're easy to be able to keep a rhythm ... but it's not the same every time," she says. And she has to provide her own equipment: Vandevort brings a wooden board with her to all of the Floozies' shows. They never know when a stage won't be suitable for tapping or when a venue is skeptical — a performance can be pretty rough on the floors, after all.
Though they may be Charleston's favorite jazz band this year, the Floozies don't necessarily consider this project their top priority, especially since almost all of them have other acts to focus on: Boles, Edwardson, and Edgar all play with the Royal Tinfoil, Edwardson is also in the Local Honeys, and Hackler has lots of jazz gigs. They don't have a set weekly practice, so when they get together, it's usually out on Boles' porch before an upcoming show.
For now, the band is content to keep it casual and to play plenty of shows at the Tin Roof, their home base. Edgar, for one, says he'd like to record one day, even if it's in someone's bedroom. And he has one major goal for this band.
"If you print yacht parties in the paper, will people start calling us to play their yachts?" he asks. "Because that's what I want to do."