white man's blues, was Re: White Stripes?

gtrmac gtrmac@prodigy.net
Sun Sep 5 13:46:09 EDT 2004

Sadily to say that was a era that nobody like to think about these days .
one thing you have to remember there was only two races of people at that
time and there was no inspiration for any other style of music people was
stiff mentally and interlecutarilly.
                          Guitar Mac.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Fred Dabney" <fdabney@nmsu.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 04, 2004 10:48 PM
Subject: Re: white man's blues, was Re: White Stripes?

> > I feel pretty bad for you. You managed to miss out
> > on some really cool stuff that a lot of us wished
> > we could've been around to see.
> >
> > I know you probably feel fulfilled, but a blind man
> > doesn't know what he's missing, sometimes.
> Like I said, I was there, I thought it stunk and turned to better
> music, better things to do with my time.  It was dumb, simplistic
> and ultimately boring.  I was deep into Bix, King Oliver, and for
> complexity Bach- at the age of fourteen I was working my way
> through the Landowska "Well Tempered Clavier".
> But as I said, something which hardly anyone appreciates is the
> context of those early r'n'r hits compared to the early jazz and
> blues records.
> In the time, there was not yet radio, sound movies and hardly
> any mass music market.  Records were thought to be platforms
> to sell sheet music, not as star vehicles for this band or that singer.
> Sure, there were names that sold records- Caruso, Sousa, and
> a group of vaudeville stars who had made the transition to records
> like Billy Murray and their ilk.
> The population was much smaller, of that number fewer had the
> money to buy phonographs- records wore out but if you had
> a piano you were set.  And almost everybody had a piano or
> had access to one- church or other public place.  And no one
> gave a damn about the kids and what they wanted.
> So, if a record sold several thousand it was regarded as a phenomenon.
> And we won't even get into the rural market- black or white.
> As we move into the twenties, electric sound becomes a factor as
> radio begins to penetrate the country.  But radio tended to be live
> with stations hiring orchestras, and even the smallest station had
> a piano player for interludes, etc.  Records were a desperation
> measure.  And what was played was about as staid as could be.
> Meanwhile, the national networks were beginning to make their
> inroads into entertainment.  Often there were links between the
> nets and a few of the big record companies.  And again it was
> all live, real-time and the entire country might be talking about
> something someone had said the night before.
> "Prime Time" radio usually ended by about nine pm more-or-less
> depending on time zone.  After that stations went local for their
> programming, and a big thing was the band remote.  This could
> be a pickup from a local hotel ballroom, roadhouse or other venue
> where a live band was playing.  There were always regional
> favorites- in the southwest it was probably a western swing
> outfit, or a cowboy group.  In the south, in the east, wherever
> people went to dance there were bands playing, and often a
> local radio station had a wire back to the studio.
> Big names would show up- the national circuit of one-nighters
> was already going and some small towns got some pretty
> remarkable music.  And names not yet famous got that way
> from those broadcasts.  John Hammond Jr. heard the young
> Basie band from Kansas City in his car radio, and got them
> to New York to record.
> The Depression hit, and damned near killed the record industry,
> as radio was free.  The came the war, and that damned near
> killed the entire music industry as all the bands were either
> drafted or enlisted as units.
> During this period we still don't have much interest shown  in
> the "youth market", although as the swing era took hold that
> was starting to change.  The crowds of teenagers who would
> mob the dance halls, vaudeville houses and theaters when a big
> name was in town was the stuff of national news, even on the
> movie newsreels.  The bands were making "soundies"- the film
> equivalent of today's videos- and there were black bands as well
> as white getting the action.  Still, the nation was not as it would
> be in the fifties.
> Bandleaders were as much the stuff of the big gossip features
> as were the Hollywood stars- Artie Shaw and his continuing
> parade of gorgeous wives was front page news for example.
> Most of the older kids went into the service as the war developed
> and as a result not only did the musicians go away but so did their
> audience.  At that time, males were still the center of the economy
> and their girlfriends either sat at home or got jobs in defense
> plants "for the duration".  Supplies like gas, tires were rationed
> and taxes were added to "home front" enterprises as well.
> Skip forward to the end of the war.  Ex-GI's came back, most
> to either go to school  (and we'll never know how much the
> country owes the "G I Bill") or at least to marry the girls who
> were still waiting, and a girl who married some other guy
> while her earlier boy friend was overseas was treated as little
> better than a traitor..
> So, instead of the depression which was anticipated after the
> spending of the war years, we entered into a period of economic
> growth and personal wealth the likes of which had never been
> seen before.  The new families, which included both babies
> born when the boys came home and those like me who were
> born in the depression years right before the war wanted for
> nothing.  There was a huge new middle class of private home
> owners and their kids had more money than many of their
> folks had during the worst of the depression.
> Enter the marketers.  Remembering how the big bands had
> brought the kid to the live shows to dance, and aware the
> kids now had serious money and no judgment (just like
> their parents at the same age, of course)  the music industry
> started to shift emphasis.  TV had come along, and while it
> took a while for it to penetrate, it did.  I can recall
> how the progress of  "The Cable" down the eastern coast
> toward New Orleans was front page news, complete with
> maps and analysis of what it would mean.
> The entertainment industry has never been noted for its
> morals, and the post war music business was as cynical
> as any group you can imagine.  What they wanted was
> stuff which could be cranked out by the ton to an audience
> which didn't know any better.  But "Tin Pan Alley" and
> the Brill Building pre-war had made it with a similar
> formula.  The name, "Tin Pan Alley" got named by someone
> who compared the noise of the music with someone banging
> pots and pans together, in case you don't already know.
> So, as the leading edge of that population bulge advanced
> to the point where they could be marketed to, the floodgates
> of hell opened.
> Parents still ruled the living room and they determined what
> the new TV set got tuned to, but the kids had their own
> radios and phonographs- a luxury their parents wouldn't
> have dreamed of in the thirties.
> So the kids bought the Bill Halley and Fats Domino records,
> and their parents detested it.  I was an anomaly since I loved
> my father's records- most of my contemporaries in high school
> thought I was weird, but I thought they had no taste, no sense
> and I didn't care what they liked.
> I was working in a music store part time my last year of
> high school, and I remember the utter contempt the route
> men for the record distributors held their ultimate customers-
> the kids who'd buy the records they were peddling.
> Grouchy old Fred D, who maintains they don't make
> them like they used to, but then they never did...
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