Jams of the Roaring 20's

During the time of Prohibition, underground clubs, like speakeasies, helped transform music to what it is today. Many people sought out these underground clubs for their alcohol; later, they soon became the public's most popular party scenes. Therefore, these clubs started to hire feature musicians for their entertainment. This helped open doors to a new generation of artists, and they would soon be embraced by the public.

Dance Bands

Ben Bernie and His Orchestra

Dancing reflected the carefree atmosphere of the time. One genre of music that helped create this atmosphere were dance bands, orchestras that played background music for dancers. This genre is a developed form of jazz and ragtime, both created by African American musicians. Nearly every town in the 1920's had some sort of dance band. This genre laid the foundation for future classic pop standards and dance trends.


Louis Armstrong

Jazz music originates from the black community of New Orleans during the 1900's. It didn't start gaining traction until the 1920's when Southern African Americans began to move to Chicago for work. Also, new technology, such as radios, helped popularize this genre. In fact, the 1920's is often referred to The Jazz Age due to the booming success of jazz during this period.

Jazz had a significant influence on fashion, dances, moral standards, youth culture, and even race relations. Due to the mass popularity of jazz, it was one of the first genres of African-American based music to be culturally appropriated by white Americans. This cultural appropriation furthered segregation as radio hosts began to only play jazz from white musicians. Although the radio helped popularize this genre, it discredited the origins of jazz.

However, Louis Armstrong, one of the most famous jazz musician from New Orleans, broke these racial barriers. He played in many mixed clubs and even in white only clubs. In this way, he was one of the first to introduce integrated music. His music also revolutionized the way jazz was performed as he introduced the extended solo.


Bessie Smith: "Empress of Blues"

This genre of music began to appear in the 1900's from African American communities in the Deep South. What defines the Blues is its repeating chords and stories of racial struggle. The Blues was often either melancholy or satirical towards the racial injustice. Because of these themes, this genre was only popular within the black community. Successful blues artists, such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, established this genre as one that would stay popular even to this day.

One of the most influential artists in Blues was Ma Rainey, "Mother of Blues". She is considered of the professional blues artist known for her powerful voice. Her music was even the first to openly reference lesbian love in her song "Prove It On Me".

Another renowned Blues artist was Bessie Smith, "Empress of Blues". She was the highest paid African American Blues artist and even performed with Louis Armstrong.


George Gershwin

Although the film industry was making it's first steps into our society, broadway was making strides. New York City was the main place where performers, composers, writers, and musicians gathered and created new pieces for Broadway. Broadway was in its prime during the 1920s because it was an easy access to entertainment.

Performances in broadway reflected the period with the help of Prohibition. Prohibition forced the social scene to go underground where classes and races began to integrate. One show that reflected the mixing of worlds is "Showboat". Not only was it the first to integrate race, but it also was the first play to use music as a way to move the plot forward.

Jazz became was a big influence to Broadway. Jazz started attracting more audiences which helped with the success of Broadway. George Gershwin is considered a bridge from the old to the modern as he melded classical music to jazz in "Rhapsody in Blue".

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