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NOVEMBER 15, 1929

Music and Art


From Southern Plantations
to your Radio
Robert Buckless
November 15, 1929

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NOVEMBER 15, 1929

From humble beginnings down south, the Jazz and


Blues styles are rocking all of America. With big
names like Louis Armstrong and Edward “Duke”
Ellington, the two styles are enjoyed by the masses of
the 1920s. Current recording and broadcasting styles
help it spread.
Both blues and jazz are often interconnected. That
might be true because they both have similar origins.
Both of them were “founded” by Africans enslaved on
Southern plantations prior to the Civil War. The
differences originate based on
what they were founded on.
The sorrowful, soulful blues style is a descendent from their work songs. As
for the lively, frantic jazz style, its origins from the folk songs of slaves. Jazz began
in New Orleans where it was know as Dixieland jazz. It only went north with the
“migration” of African Americans moving up north. Black women brought the
blues north.
Bessie Smith is described as the Queen of Blues. With Charles Williams as
her pianist, she debuted in 1923. “They recorded ‘Gulf Coast Blues’ and ‘Down
Hearted Blues.’ The record sold more than 750,000 copies that same year, rivaling
the success of blues singer Mamie Smith (no relation.)” Everyone, regardless of
their skin color adored her music, but don’t think music was a women’s thing like
chores. Nothing said the men weren’t taking part in this.
Good old Edward Ellington swept people away with music like “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,”
“Black and Tan Fantasy,” and “Rainy Nights.” His start was in Washington, D.C. in 1917 as a Pianist.
He made his own name with his own bands 1923, starting with The Washingtonians. Of course, where
there’s a duke, there’s usually a king.
Arguably, Louis Armstrong is the king of Jazz. He is the man who founded it in the north as the
first jazz soloist. Also known as “Satchmo,” he began working with a different king, Joe “King” Oliver
to be exact. He was Joe’s musical student in 1922, but surpassed him by 1924. He went with the
Fletcher Henderson band to leave in 1925. His first record, “My Heart,” was recorded in November 12,
1925. And that is far from the end for good old Satchmo, but that would never have started if he
couldn’t record his songs.
It was thanks to people like Thomas Edison and Leon Scott that recording sound began to
change American culture. The most popular of the 1920s were the phonograph and radio. The first jazz
songs recorded in 1917. It was on tube to save the technique. Originally meant to work by a cylinder,
they worked with an interchangeable disk in the 1920s, which out competed the cylinder. The new disk
form was called a gramophone. While the radio was cheaper and more diverse because you didn’t
have to buy records, the phonograph granted more control over what you heard.
Of course that wasn’t all radios had. Radios could tell the news and serve as a telephone as
well. That’s because Guglielmo Marconi created the first radios to be communication devices in the
1890s. The RCA began to make the radio a musical object in 1919, under the control of Manager
David Sarnoff. They couldn’t have done it with out the help of Satchmo.

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