American Music of the Twentieth Century

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American Music of the Twentieth Century

Through out this century in America, many kinds of music have been born, developed and lost. The style, purpose and effect of music has changed. Why do musical styles change? The evolution of music is at least partly shaped by the evolution of the trends and styles of the time. With the turn of each generation comes a turn of the style of music. Within each decade the music has been influenced by the artists of that time. Music of the 1900’s
Phonographs and gramaphones were making their way into the home, with cylinders and disks selling from fifty to seventy five cents. At first, all sound recordings were made by the acoustic process, without amplification or electricity. The musician had to play or sing directly into the recording horn. Electric recording with microphones and amplifiers replaced the acoustic process after 1925. In 1899 Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" became the first Ragtime composition to become a sheet music best-seller, detonating an explosion which made Ragtime the big noise in American music. Jazz flourished in Storyville, the red light district in New Orleans. Buddy Bolden is often credited for being the first of the great Jazz figures. He ushered in an era which saw a long succession of artists who helped make New Orleans the capitol of Jazz. Medicine shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided exposure for mountain music. The good doctor sold sure-fire cures for ailments to the sound of southern rural musicians turning Anglo-Irish ballads into a uniquely American music. The Hillbilly music heard at barn raisings, quilting parties, log rollings and fiddle conventions was soon to become, (with the help of radio in the 1920s) the multi-million dollar Country Music Industry.The ragtime music from New Orleans and St. Louis exploded at the end of the decade, influencing the likes of Irving Berlin who said "Syncopation is the soul of every true American. Ragtime is the best heart-raiser and worry-banisher I know."

Music of the 1910’s
In 1910 Tin Pan Alley sold two billion dollars worth of sheet music. Ragtime was so popular in Tin Pan Alley that it eventually replaced the ballad as its most marketable song product. The Blues invaded Tin Pan Alley in 1914, brought there by W.C. Handy,who composed the first commercial blues to be published. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" became not only an American classic, but one favored abroad.

Storyville was shut down during World War I, sending the Jazz musicians up the Mississippi river in search of employment and spreading Jazz to cities on the river and to Chicago and New York. In 1917 The Original Dixieland Jazz Band released the first Jazz record. It became one of the first records to sell a million copies. James Reese Europe is cited in books about ragtime and early jazz as the most respected black bandleader of the 'teens', but he should also be recognized among World War I historians because of his musical compositions inspired by wartime experiences, and the achievements of his band known as the 369th U.S. Infantry "Hell Fighters" Band. Recordings made by Europe's band in early 1919, within weeks of the men's return to the States, are finally being reissued on compact disc. Music of the 1920’s
As the decade began, the spring-wound talking machine with pre-electrical, no-fidelity sound was already established and probably the most popular of the home
entertainment devices; the best selling makes were the Victrola and the Graphanola. Radio stations were mushrooming across the United States in the 1920s. On September 9,1922,

Fiddlin' John Carson made his radio debut, one of the first country music performers to modulate the airwaves. The Grand Ole Opry, originally known as the WSM Barn Dance, made its first broadcast on November 28, 1925. In the 1920s Ma Rainey , "The Mother of the Blues", became a featured performer on the T.O.B.A (Theater Owners Booking Association) circuit. Before signing a recording contract with Paramount Records in 1923, Rainey had almost a quarter century's worth of stage work to her credit. Bessie Smith was the greatest and most influential classic blues singer of the 1920s. During her heyday she earned upwards of $2000 per week, a queenly sum in the 20s. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band was the first black Jazz combo to be heard on a label with national distribution in 1923. In the early 1920s Louis Armstrong joined King Oliver in Chicago - playing solos with Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York and making jazz history with the Hot Five. Sippie Wallace was born in Texas and carried with her a tradition of Texas-styled blues that emphasized risque` lyrics and rough-cut, rural vocal phrasing rather than the sophisticated accents of the era's more cosmopolitan blues singers. Although her recording career stretched throughout most of the '20s, her best work was done from 1923 to 1927 when the likes of Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, and Clarence Williams accompanied her in the recording studio.

Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded over eighty blues between 1925 and 1929 and was generally responsible for the surge of popularity in the country blues in this period. Ralph Peer recorded Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family in Bristol, Tennessee in 1927. Rodgers, known as "The Father of Country Music", reportedly sold over 20 million records in the six years of his career. Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers was the most prolific of the Georgia string bands of the 20s and 30s in terms of number of recordings. During the late twenties and thirties, Blind Willie McTell appeared before every recording scout who came to Atlanta with his guitar and a new persona. He recorded his first sides for the Victor company in 1927 in Atlanta. Charlie Patton and Son House defined early Delta blues in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Music of the 1930’s
Johnny Mercer had his first hit "Lazy Bones" in 1933. He published 701 songs, had 90 film credits, starred in 6 Broadway Musicals, received 4 Academy Awards from 15 nominations, had 37 Hit Parade songs of which 13 were #1 and he founded Capitol Records. Bluesman "Georgia Tom" Dorsey turned to religious music during the Great Depression. Dorsey became the first publisher of black gospel music with the establishment of the Dorsey House of Music. Nicknamed the "Singing Cowboy," Gene Autry wrote over 200 songs including the ever-popular "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." By the time he rode out of Hollywood, he was one of the most powerful men in show business. In terms of his musical skill, the sheer size of his repertoire, the length and variety of his career, and his influence on contemporaries and musicians who would follow, Big Bill Broonzy is among a select few of the most important figures in recorded blues history. Folklorist John Lomax discovered and recorded Leadbelly at the Angola Prison Farm in Louisiana in 1934. Mahalia Jackson made her first Gospel recordings in 1935. In 1935 T-Bone Walker began experimenting with a prototype electric guitar and was one of the first guitarists anywhere to to play the instrument in public. In 1938, Bill Monroe made his first appearance on WSM radio in Nashville and Roy Acuff joined the Grand Ole Opry. Charlie Christian's lively, inventive single-note playing helped popularize the electric guitar as a solo instrument and ushered in the era of bop. By 1939, two hundred and twenty-five thousand jukeboxes were in operation and were said to be responsible for the sale of thirteen million records a year.

Music of the 1940’s
Much of the music in the 1940’s was influenced by World War II.

Whether in Ella Fitzgerald’s big-band phase of the late '30s and early '40s, her bebop scat explorations that dominated the '40s and early '50s, or in her long, universalist reign that began with her landmark "Songbook" recordings of pop standards, Fitzgerald's voice flowed around rhythms with uncanny precision and subtlety. The 1940 recording of "San Antonio Rose" makes Bob Wills a national music figure. Dizzy Gillespie begins an innovative style of trumpet performance that would come to be called BeBop. Thelonious Monk was a member of the adventurous musicians who liked to gather at Mintons in Harlem and contributed to the birth of Bebop. Sonny Boy Williamson was one of the most influential harmonica players in blues history. He was the blues first radio star on "The King Biscuit Time" in Helena, Arkansas. Louis Jordan ,"Father of Rhythm and Blues", had his first million-seller in 1944 with "Is You Is or Is You Ain't Ma Baby?" Nashville was beginning to emerge as a center for country recording. Chet Atkins plays a major role in the development of the Nashville music industry. June 11, 1949, Hank Williams makes his debut on the Grand Ole Opry, one of the most memorable in the Opry's history. A prodigiously talented composer, pianist, conductor and teacher, Leonard Bernstein did more to validate America's position in the musical world than virtually any other musician in history. More importantly, he contributed a galaxy of superlative compositions and recorded performances to our culture, and redefined the boundaries between classical music and other recently-derived popular styles. He was the leading light of 20th century American music, and no contemporary musician of any instrument or specialty pursues his craft without first acknowledging a debt to Bernstein. As a charismatic ambassador of music, he remains without peer. Music of the 1950’s
Fats Domino began making the charts in the early 1950s, first in R & B then in Pop. Nat King Cole's records were topping the best-seller list. "Too young" held the top place on Your Hit Parade for four consecutive weeks in 1951. From 1951 to 1960 Muddy Waters assembled the greatest collection of electric blues recordings ever made. Composer, producer, arranger, bass player, recording artist, session musician, talent scout, and bandleader for Chess records in the 1950s and early 1960s, Willie Dixon did more to shape postwar Chicago blues than perhaps any other artist save Muddy Waters. In 1952 Sam Phillips began Sun Records. In his Sun Studios at 706 Union Ave. in Memphis, he recorded future blues greats B.B.King and Howlin' Wolf. He also discovered Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and, in the mid 1950s, Phillips and Elvis Presley changed the course of popular music forever.

One of the great pioneers of Rock 'n' Roll in the 1950s was Little Richard from Macon, Ga. Frank Sinatra dominated the charts of the 1950’s with hits such as „New York, New York“. Between 1955 and 1959, Chuck Berry produced such top 10 hits as "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Rock And Roll Music," and "Johnny B. Goode." Self described as the "world's oldest teenager," Rufus Thomas started out performing with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in the mid 30's. He released "Bear Cat" in the 50's on Sun Records and "Walking The Dog" in the 60's on Stax records. Jimmy Reed was one of the most influential bluesmen of the post-World War II period. Reed sold more records in the 1950s and early 1960s than any other blues artist save B.B. King Miles Davis grew up in a middle-class family in East St. Louis. Miles Davis said that the greatest musical experience of his life was hearing the Billy Eckstine Orchestra, (with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker), when it passed through St. Louis. John Coltrane's spirit inhabits his sound--a sound so astonishingly individual and powerful that it has endured mightily since those club dates in the '50s and '60s when it was reported to have hypnotized audience members who ranged from the uninitiated of jazz to the aficionados; a sound that continues to melt hearts, open minds, and unleash passions. Patsy Cline began recording for Four Star Records in 1955. Hank Cochran has had over a thousand songs recorded by such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley. Buddy Holly , a man destined for success, was killed in an aircraft crash in 1959. The news that Buddy, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, among others, were killed in a plane crash, stunned millions of fans all over the world. The void left in music history will never be filled. All three were at the peak of their popularity and had collectively, in 12 months, sold over 10 million records worldwide. Many musicians possess elements of genius, but only one -- the great Ray Charles -- so completely embodies the term that it's been bestowed upon him as a nickname. Charles displayed his genius by combining elements of gospel and blues into a fervid, exuberant style that would come to be known as soul music. While recording for Atlantic Records during the Fifties, the innovative singer, pianist and bandleader broke down the barriers between sacred and secular music. The gospel sound he'd heard growing up in the church found its way into the music he made as an adult.

In his own words, he fostered "a crossover between gospel music and the rhythm patterns of the blues." But he didn't stop there: over the decades, elements of country & western and big-band jazz have infused his music as well. He is as complete and well-rounded a musical talent as this century has produced.

Music of the 1960’s
Bob Dylan, without question, was the greatest artist of the decade. His music inspired bands such as the Beatles. He introduced a new, different style of music to the whole world. Brenda Lee sang her way out of an impoverished childhood and into the hearts of the world. Before turning twenty, Brenda had recorded a phenomenal 256 sides - a musical odyssey that even at this early stage included classic million sellers like "I'm Sorry,"

"Fool Number 1," "Emotions," "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree," and "That's All You Gotta Do." Having lent his harmonica skills to Bruce Channel's "Hey! Baby," which topped the pop charts in 1962, Delbert McClinton toured Europe with Channel. While in England, McClinton tutored the leader of a then- unknown band on mouth harp, the results of which subsequently were heard around the world on the Beatles hit "Love Me Do." In 1965 James Brown, "The Godfather of Soul," hit No. 1 on the R & B charts with "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." By the mid-sixties, Loretta Lynn was the most popular female country singer in America. In 1966 Otis Redding created the intense, Goespel-oriented Dictionary Of Soul. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Franklin, "Lady Soul," recorded her first Atlantic disk, "I Never Loved A Man," in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1967, at Fame Recording Studios. At the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, Janis Joplin, distinguished herself with her energetic performance, and quickly rose to stardom. In 1967 Dolly Parton began singing on the Porter Wagner Show. In 1969 Bill Lowery was Broadcast Music's number one publisher. Elvis’ best work appears in 1960, just after he got out of the army. Versions of songs like It's Now Or Never and Are You Lonesome Tonight? show the singer in top form, with some excellent session musicians backing him up. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Morrison first came to fame in 1965 with the group Them and their hits, "Here Comes the Night" and Morrison's "Gloria." Morrison left the group in 1967 to record in New York; the result was "Brown-Eyed Girl". After signing with Warner Bros., he recorded "Astral Weeks," a 1968 collection of mystical, impressionistic folk songs backed by jazz musicians.

In 1970, he began a series of classic albums with "Moondance" and "His Band and Street Choir," yielding the songs "Moondance," "Caravan," "Domino" and "Blue Money."

Music of the 1970’s
Gram Parsons develops a considerable cult following due to his efforts to blur the line between Rock & Roll and Country music during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Gram's influence is key in the development of such early 1970's bands as The Byrds, The Eagles and The Rolling Stones,
J.J. Cale has attained the status of a legend in spite of, or perhaps to a degree because of, his best efforts to remain outside of the spotlight. Cale crossed the threshold to self-sufficiency when Eric Clapton's version of his "After Midnight" was released and became a hit. In 1972, Al Kooper discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd at a favorite hangout. Forming his own label (Sounds of the South) to put out their records, he produces their first three albums, which include the massive hits "Sweet Home Alabama," "Saturday Night Special," and "Freebird." Formed in 1972 and signed to Capricorn Records, The Marshall Tucker Band hit Album Rock radio stations with gold and platinum LPs from 1973 to 1979. In 1973, Tom Petty leaves Gainesville, Florida and sets off for L.A. Allen Toussaint and featuring The Meters as a backing band, it yields two hits singles in "Right Place, Wrong Time" and "Such A Night."
In 1973, Marvin Hamlisch wins an Oscar for the adaptation of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" for the Motion Picture The Sting Down in Texas. The Staple Singers - Pops, with daughters Mavis, Yvonne and Cleo - scored top 40 hits in the 60's and 70's with such songs as "I'll Take You There," "Let's Do It Again," and "Respect Yourself." Whether as solo artists, or since 1977 as bandmates, The Neville Brothers, as Newsweek has observed, "poured out a stream of syncopated, funky riveting music that makes you dance and ache and cry inside." R.E.M. and The B-52s were mixing things up in Athens, Georgia. The Sex Pistols make their U.S. debut in Atlanta, Georgia, at The Great Southeast Music Hall.

Music of the 1980’s
Stevie Wonder touched the hearts of his listeners. This effect put him at the top of the charts. In 1980, Wynton Marsalis went on the road with Art Blakey and in 1981 with Herbie Hancock, who produced his debut album. His recording career took off (in fact his first album was nominated for a Grammy), and his albums quickly went to the top of the jazz charts.In 1981, Alabama was named Top Vocal Group of the Year by the Country Music Association, the first of over 150 major music awards they would receive in the next fifteen years. In 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughn released Texas Flood. March 7, 1983, The Nashville Network (TNN) went on the air at 8:00 PM EST with live remotes from New York, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

In 1985, Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Mechine release Primitive Love. Johny Cash dominated the world of country music, which was relatively popular in the time. In 1986, the midpoint of the Reagan-Bush era, Cameo reached the summit. Unleashing "Word Up," a brilliant synthesis of funk, rock, soul, sex and rap, the group roared into the Top Ten, went platinum and the song -- titled after an underground hip-hop catch-phrase -- was named the Village Voice's Single of the Year. Harry Connick Jr. first rose to fame through the "When Harry Met Sally" soundtrack in 1988, when he became a chic new king of swing. In the late `80's, the tandem of "L.A. Reid and Babyface" began their incredible ride in becoming the most successful production and songwriting duo of our of time. After producing and writing countless #1 R&B smash hits for the likes of Bobby Brown, Pebbles, Karyn White, and Paula Abdul, the team decided to venture out and create LaFace Records. Widespread Panic release Space Wrangler in 1988. In 1989, The Indigo Girl's self-titled debut won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Michal Jackson was undoubtedly the most influential artist of the 1980’s. His music not only entertained but touched the hearts of all who listened. Music of the 1990’s
The nineties brought about the widest range in music styles America has ever known. The Black Crowes release "Shake Your Money Maker." Country artists, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, and Alan Jackson, bring new fans to country music. Chris Whitley's debut album, "Living With The Law", acclaimed by both critics and the popular press. Entertainment Weekly names this as one of the "100 must-have rock albums. Collective Soul hits the big time in the Spring of 1994 with their hit single "Shine." In 1994 Hootie and the Blowfish releases Cracked Rear View. Fourteen-year-old LeAnn Rimes' debut record Blue entered Billboard's country chart at number 49, making Rimes the youngest country singer to debut that high. Many of the popular artists from earlier decades have once again regained fame, such as the Rolling Stones. Today’s musicians are influenced by the music of the decades past. Some of the most popular American artists in the nineties are Sheryl Crow, Allanis Morrisette, Garth Brooks, Jewel and Puff Daddy. Some of the most popular groups in the USA are Nirvana, Metalica, En Vougue, Bush and Green Day. here may be more to music of the 1990’s than what there is today. The decade is not yet through. Many talented minds have made their mark on the music history of America.

They have influenced the music of their time as well as the music of the future. What the future brings will be a combination of music past and new talents.

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