Written by Dizzy Gillespie as an affectionate tribute to Kenny Clarke (Klook) on his return to New York from wartime army service.
As Clarke relates in "Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie", "I'd been away three years... Such a lot was happening in music in New York, when I got back I didn't think I was up to it. But Dizzy encouraged me. He said, 'I don't care how you play, man. You're joining the band. We want your spirit."' The nickname "Klook" originated with band leader Teddy Hill, who had described Clarke's unusual rhythmical figures at the turn of the forties as "klook-mop, klook-mop" (an off-beat rim shot on the snare followed by a bass drum "bomb"). Clarke's approach had prompted complaints from Hill's veteran trombonist, getting Clarke fired from Hill's orchestra in 1940. When Hill later rehired Clarke to form the house band at Minton's, he gave him free license to "play all the re-bopping, boom-bombs you want. You can do it here."
The first, somewhat laid-back, recording of "Oop Bop Sh'bam" is by Dizzy's Sextet on May 15, 1946 (for Musicraft, with Clarke, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, Al Haig and Ray Brown), along with first cuts of "One Bass Hit", "That's Earl, Brother" and a one-off blues, "A Hand Fulla Gimme", by a now-obscure vocalist, Alice Roberts. It was soon added to the repertoire of Dizzy's newly formed big band and captured on various live sessions during the summer of 1946 and into 1947. Kenny Clarke and his "52nd Street Boys" (Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Sonny Stitt, Ray Abramson, Eddie De Verteuil, Bud Powell, Johnny Collins, and Al Hall) recorded a punchier small group version at their studio date on September 5, 1946. Then a month later, on October 5, Billy Eckstine recorded it with his 1946 edition big band (including, among others, Miles Davis (trumpet), Sonny Stitt (alto sax) and Art Blakey (drums), and featuring a typically muscular tenor sax solo by Gene Ammons).
Oop Bop Sh'bam is in fact an extension and variation of the introductory riff pattern used by Gillespie (before any of the above sessions) on the February 7 (and first) recording of Parker's "Confirmation", performed by another sextet line-up comprising Lucky Thompson (tenor), Milt Jackson, Al Haig, Ray Brown and Stan Levey on drums. This introduction to Confirmation can also be heard on later versions of the tune by Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon and various others. Jazz historian Scott DeVeaux traces "riff-like fragments" of "Oop Bop Sh'bam" even further back, to Gillespie's February 28, 1945 recording (with Parker) of "Dizzy Atmosphere".