The Pioneers

If you consider 1920 as roughly the beginning of the jazz style of American popular music, these early vocalists were strong influencers - mainly by changing the popular singing style into a more intimate, conversational delivery, helped by the invention of the microphone. Also this more relaxed delivery of lyrics fit with a new music style called swing which was based on 4/4 time.

The Jazz Age was a period in the 1920s and 1930s in which jazz music and dance styles became popular.  It’s often referred to as the Roaring Twenties and overlapped with the Prohibition Era (1920-1933) when the sale or consumption of alcohol was against the law.

Vaudeville, (a farce with music) is a form of light entertainment popular from the mid-1890s until the early 1930s. A show consisted of 10 to 15 individual unrelated acts, featuring magicians, acrobats, comedians, trained animals, jugglers, singers, and dancers. Today we’d call it a variety show.

Hollywood musicals were very popular from the B&W Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films of the ‘30s to the MGM color extravaganzas of the ‘40s and ‘50s. The “golden age” of Broadway musicals was in the 1940s-50s.

image of Bessie SmithBESSIE SMITH (1894-1937) was the original Queen of the Blues, a tremendously powerful vocalist who was the genre's first recording star and influenced all who followed.

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image of Ethel WatersETHEL WATERS (1896-1977) was an early jazz vocalist and accomplished actress who was a huge star of the 1920s and '30s. She is best known for bridging the gap between the black and white music worlds.

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Image of Louis Armstrong

LOUIS ARMSTRONG (1901-1971), nicknamed "Satchmo", "Satch", and "Pops".  A trumpeter and vocalist, he is probably the most influential figure in jazz, introducing an entirely new way to play and sing.

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image of Bing CrosbyBING CROSBY (1903-1977) was the first multimedia star and one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century, introducing a new relaxed conversational style that became the norm. He helped develop the microphone.

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Image of Mildred BaileyMILDRED BAILEY (1907-1951) was called Mrs. Swing, a blues and jazz singer of the 1930s & '40s, with a fragile, uncloying, sweet-toned voice belied her ample proportions.

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Firsts in Jazz

  • The First Phonograph Records for sale 1892
  • The First Movie with sound The Jazz Singer in 1927
  • The First Movie in Color The Wizard of Oz 1939

  • The First Radio Broadcast 1910
  • Bing Crosby made his first recording using a microphone in 1930.
  • Half of American homes had a B&W TV set in 1955


BESSIE SMITH DOWN IN THE DUMPS


ETHEL WATERS  Cabin in the Sky


LOUIS ARMSTRONG DINAH 1933


BING CROSBY SWINGING ON A STAR
Jimmy Van Heusen-Johnny Burke
Oscar WInner 1944


MILDRED BAILEY SMALL FRY