R is for Recordings (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)

ROARING TWENTIES - Recordings - Advanced in recording thechniques and the propagation of radio made music readily available in the 1920s. That was a factor is the great popularity of jazz

R“The first sensational music novelty of 1917. The jazz band is the latest craze that’s sweeping the nation like a musical thunderstorm and is giving modern dance new life and new thrill.”
This is how the New York Time saluted the first jazz record.

Music had been recorded since the late 1800s, mostly on cylinders, but in the Twenties a great revolution happened: the acoustic recording process was replaced by the electric process, which allowed a much better recording of sound and a much larger production, since stamping up discs was easier than stamping up cylinders.
This happened at the same time jazz music became popular, so it should be no surprise the two came together and produced fantastic results.
And the band who recorded the first record in history labelled as jazz?
It was the Original Dixieland Jass Band, five white kids originally from New Orleans, where they play jazz in Papa Jack Laine’s integrated marching band – though they didn’t play together at that time. As so may others, they came north during the Great Migration and ended up in New York.
ODJBcardOn February 26, 1917 they reached a building on West 38th St. between Firfth and Sixth Avenue, boarded the freight elevator and rode to the 12th floor, where the Victor Talking Machine Company had just leased a space for their new recording studio.
They recorder two tracks, Livery Stable Blues and Dixie Jass Bland One-Step on the flip side. They sold one million copies of that first recording.

So the first kind of jazz that became widely popular was the tamed kind played by white jazz musicians. For a long time, white jazz and black jazz remained two different and distinct things on records as well as in nightclubs. Many independent recording companies, that flourished in the Twenties, produced jazz record for the wide audience and what were called ‘race records’ just for the African American communities, where these records were crazily popular.

The ODJB’s recording is the first one ever labelled specifically ‘jazz’, but other songs were recorded around the same time that, although recognizably jazz, weren’t labelled as such. And apparently black New Orleans band leader Freddie Keppard turned down a recording offer from Victor in 1916 on the base that he wouldn’t “put off stuff on records for everybody to steal.”

The first important collection of jazz recordings was put on disc by King Oliver’s Original Creole Band in 1923.



Jazz Standards – Jazz History in Standard Time (1920s)
Music Record Industry – 1900s-1920sJazzWax – Jazz First Record Turned 95Riverwalk Jazz – A Tribute to the Original Dixieland Jass Band
Red Hot Jazz – The first jazz records
The Guardian – The first jazz recording
CW Hawes – The Wonderful Machine’s Age – His Master’s VoiceThe Old Shelter – Race Records (AtoZ Chalelnge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)

Ogren, Kathy J., The Jazz Revolution. Twenties America and the Meaning of Jazz. Oxford University Press, New York, 1989

Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002

FREE EBOOK - The Roaring Twenties A to Z

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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

22 Comments on "R is for Recordings (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)"

  1. Amazing how far we’ve come so quickly! And it’s incomprehensible what this new phenomenon must have been to that generation!

    –Mee (The Chinese Quest)
    Mee Magnum recently posted…“Q” is for Questie #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  2. Fascinating! I imagine elderly ladies clutching their pearls in horror over this new development. 😉
    Sara C. Snider recently posted…Quiver TreeMy Profile

  3. Sounds like not everyone was pleased with the new medium. Many records today wish they could sell a million copies 🙂
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)
    Tasha recently posted…Wish me luck, it’s personal trainer day 🙂My Profile

  4. The guy that wouldn’t put his music on record – change is always hard! Still happens – look how long it took record companies to come to terms with downloads. If they have yet. Great track, by the way.
    Anabel Marsh recently posted…Gallus Glasgow R: Religious buildingsMy Profile

  5. Catching up on your posts and grinning as I listen and read.
    Roland Clarke recently posted…R is for RottenburgMy Profile

  6. Interesting! I didn’t know this. We learned some about recording history because there was a strong movement in Hungary of folklorists recording folk music…

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
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  7. I love that Jazzy, 20’s sound!

    Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy
    S. L. Hennessy recently posted…R is for Robin WilliamsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m enjoying the challange a lot… in spite of all the work it requires. I’m having great fun and meeting a lot of great people. Who can ask for more? 🙂

  8. Fascinating! I did not know that. Thanks! 🙂

    Elizabeth Mueller
    AtoZ 2015
    My Little Pony

    • I find the history of recordings quite fascinating. But then, I often find social history fascinating. I like learing of people’s everyday life 🙂

  9. When you think of the one recording and a million “views” back then…my mind is breaking. I wouldn’t have guessed that the infrastructure for such massive distribution would have existed back then.
    Jeri Burns recently posted…Daily Ghost Post – R is for Rolling CalfMy Profile

    • I was very surprised of those figures as well. But you also have to think these were the first commercial recordings ever done to an affordable price. There wasn’t much competition back then.
      And as I understand it, recordings were extremely popular even among less affluent classes. It was indeed a revolution.

  10. Listening to ODJB vs. black jazz is such an interesting contrast. It’s got a completely different feel.
    Sabina recently posted…Shower StrugglesMy Profile

  11. I love anything with a syncopated rhythm. I find it so wonderful that today we can listen to music that was recorded a long time ago – we have so much to choose from!
    Sue Archer recently posted…Rogue Words from A to Z: The Vicious Viscous VillainMy Profile

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