Friday, October 22, 2010

Bessie Smith & Breaking Music News from 1923!

It took years for a majority of Americans to adapt to the internet, mobile phones and electronic social networks. Imagine the tumultuous coming of 1920 in the USA: barely out of the Great War, Prohibition began, women achieved the right to vote throughout the entire country, and commercial radio broadcasts commenced! By 1922, scores of radio stations became operational, creating -- in tandem with gramophone records and live performances -- the modern music culture that was, except for the physical segregation of audiences, a paramount distinction, essentially as we know it in 2010.

What did people think at the time? I recently came across an article in The Chicago Defender (July 7, 1923 issue), a black-owned and operated newspaper with national correspondents and a long reach. Reporting from Atlanta, this article is simply called "RADIO HIT" with no byline.  Caution: it includes a racial epithet and term that would today get one fired if uttered carelessly on air.  Here it is clearly set within a historical context, and is significant for the details provided about the culture and society of its time, worthy of comparison and contrast to the culture and society of 2010.

Of all the excellent programs by Colored talent that have won high favor with WCB's [WSB Atlanta radio, formed in 1922 and owned at the time by The Atlanta Journal] audiences the entertainment by Bessie Smith, singer of "blue" songs for the Columbia records; Charles Anderson, novelty yodler, and Bob White's Syncopated orchestra stands unique in its welcome departure from orthodox broadcasting, says Atlanta Journal. . . [T]he audience lost no time and spared no adjectives in reporting approval.

The Bessie Smith revue, by the way, an attraction touring Colored theaters, is going to give a special performance for white people only, it is announced, on Friday night at 11:15 at 81 Decatur St.

"Blue" songs originated down in Memphis, where [W.C.] Handy's adaptations of the old-time levee melodies started a new trend in Tin-Pan Alley technique. Genuine "blues" and the Broadway version all base their tune and verses on what is supposed to be darky dialect, superstition and custom, wherefore Tuesday's entertainments were eminently qualified for their places.

Among the numbers recognized by phonograph owners are: "The Gulf Coast Blues," "Aggravatin' Papa," "Tain't Nobody's Business If I do" and "Oh Daddy Blues," all by Bessie Smith and all sung in a way that evidenced why the records are about the most popular of their kind before the public. . .

The all-Colored program Tuesday night drew a big audience at WSB's auditorium. It was a varied assembly, too, representing just about every element of the city's population.

Additional details are also given about members of the Bessie Smith troupe and other artists.

Cover of Radio News (June 1923), "The 100% Wireless Magazine."

Today's Rune: Harvest.


Jingles said...

Well your post contains a lot of information about music and musicians also your given old video are nice. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't believe I've ever had the pleasure of Bessie Smith before.

nunya said...

I like Bessie Smith. :)