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Pearl Harbor Jazz

Pearl Harbor Jazz: Change in Popular Music in the Early 1940s

Peter Townsend
Copyright Date: 2007
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    Pearl Harbor Jazz
    Book Description:

    This book is a study of a crucial period in the life of American jazz and popular music.Pearl Harbor Jazzanalyses the changes in the world of the professional musician brought about both by the outbreak of World War II and by long-term changes in the music business, in popular taste and in American society itself. It describes how the infrastructure of American music, the interdependent fields of recording, touring, live engagements, radio and the movies, was experiencing change in the conditions of wartime, and how this impacted upon musical styles, and hence upon the later history of popular music. Successive chapters of the book examine the impact of these changed conditions upon the songwriting and music publishing industries, upon the world of the touring big bands, and upon changing conceptions of the role of jazz and popular music.

    Not only the economic conditions but also ideas were changing; the book traces a movement among writers and critics which created new definitions of 'jazz' and other terms that had a permanent influence on the way musical styles were thought of for the rest of the century. The book deals in some depth with the work of a number of important artists in these various fields, including, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Johnny Mercer and Frank Sinatra, looks at the growing presence of bebop, the rise of country music, and the contemporary musical scenes in such locations as New York and Los Angeles. The book combines detail of the day to day working lives of musicians with challenging views of the long-term development of musical style in jazz and popular music.

    Peter Townsend lectures at Manchester Metropolitan University and in the School of Music at the University of Huddersfield, England

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-147-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The sudden, if not completely unexpected, movement of the United States into war in December 1941 initiated a period of precipitate change in American society, culture, and music. A Department of Agriculture official told John Dos Passos, “Looks like the war has speeded up every kind of process, good or bad, in this country” (1945: 70). The war changed the social and economic conditions, and the music business and particular styles of music were quickly and materially affected.

    World War II provoked the largest demographic shift experienced by American society since the original settlement of the land. This migration produced...

  5. Chapter 1 Sunday Matinee in St. Louis
    (pp. 11-16)

    On the Sunday afternoon of December 7, 1941, many Americans were occupying themselves with music. The first radio announcement of an attack on Pearl Harbor, a little after two o’clock in the afternoon, cut into a WABC broadcast of Shostakovich’s “First Symphony,” being played by the New York Philharmonic. Another sector of the radio audience was at that moment listening to the Latin orchestra of Xavier Cugat broadcasting on WNEW. News bulletins for the rest of the day were heard among the music of Bunny Berigan, Judy Garland, the cowboy singer Gene Autry, Dinah Shore, and Phil Spitalny’s All-Girl Orchestra...

  6. Chapter 2 The War
    (pp. 17-41)

    The attack on Pearl Harbor unexpectedly changed the plans of many in the music business. The saxophonist Coleman Hawkins had a Chicago-based band on tour in late 1941, with the hope that the band might eventually make it to New York, the ultimate destination of all rising bands and performers. Pearl Harbor came upon Hawkins’s band in Indianapolis, and, in the words of one of Hawkins’s sidemen, “That ended the tour and all of Hawk’s plans; he told us all to go back home” (Chilton 1990: 193). In New York, the impresario Ernie Anderson had gambled on filling Carnegie Hall...

  7. Chapter 3 The Alley
    (pp. 42-70)

    Popular music composed or performed before rock and roll has usually been reckoned with only as it impinges on the narrative of jazz or some other codified canon. Other idioms also have their own narratives, which guarantee acceptance for the diverse musical forms that fall within their terms of reference.Country music, with a generally agreed historical narrative holding it together (Carr 1980; Malone 1987), is a term that lends a validity, a basis of respect to the works of performers such as Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Bob Wills. “Jazz” gives a conceptual focus to the discussion...

  8. Chapter 4 The Road
    (pp. 71-120)

    The Duke Ellington band began 1942 at the Mainstreet Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, where they were booked to play a week. Before the end of February, the band played dates in Junction City, Omaha, Madison, Waukegan, Elkhart, Chicago, Detroit, Canton, Pittsburgh, Uniontown, Boston, Lawrence, Portland, Worcester, Toronto, Buffalo, and Washington, D.C. The dates in Chicago, Detroit, and Boston were for one week, and all the others were one-night stands. Between Elkhart, Indiana, and Chicago, the band spent a day at the Victor studios in Chicago, and another recording session required a day at the studios in New York, between...

  9. Chapter 5 Disorder at the Border
    (pp. 121-156)

    One evening late in 1941, the music critics Robert Goffin and Leonard Feather attended a performance by Count Basie’s band and a screening of the filmBlues in the Night. During the evening, the two men decided to put into action Goffin’s idea of an “officially sponsored course on the history of jazz.” The course they devised, in Feather’s view the first ever study of the music in an academic curriculum, was held at the New School for Social Research in New York and began on February 4, 1942. As Richard Peterson noted, “One of the best ways to show...

  10. Chapter 6 The Avenue
    (pp. 157-190)

    The summer of 1942 saw a series of premiere performances that had a strong reference to the United States in wartime and secondarily to some iconic figures of American popular music. George M. Cohan, writer of the songs of the last war, was celebrated in June with the opening of the filmYankee Doodle Dandy, in which the part of Cohan was given an energetic performance by James Cagney. Cohan had died in May, having given his imprimatur to his film representation. Irving Berlin, whose career also went back to the early years of the century, appeared in person in...

  11. Chapter 7 The Street
    (pp. 191-228)

    In a study of the legendary blues artist Robert Johnson, Elijah Wald (2004) argued that the termblueshas such variable meanings that the question of its origins has no single or useful answer. Wald’s view should be seen against the idea that blues is actually one thing and that it has one point of origin. The blues, like jazz, has become a monoculture. It is a music played in a single form, with lyrics restricted to a limited range of subjects. Attempts by writers such as Albert Murray (1978) to show the historical diversity of style and mood in...

  12. Postscript: Black, Brown, and Beige
    (pp. 229-234)

    The band of Hal McIntyre, a former saxophonist with Glenn Miller, was booked to play a junior prom at Rhode Island State College on December 17, 1942. Shortly before the engagement, McIntyre’s agency called the chairman of the prom to say that travel restrictions, which were familiar a year into the war, meant that McIntyre would not be able to keep his commitment. The agency offered the chairman, a nineteen-year-old student named David Hedison, a substitute for the same price, Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Although Hedison knew there was “a special aura” about Ellington, he was concerned, both about...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-238)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 239-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-256)