Notes from Ken Burns' documentary on Jazz.read more
Minstrel shows, and the music in it, was the most popular American music for about 80 years in America. Starting in the 1840's or so. It was whites in black face, portraying black people as stupid, carefree, lazy, etc. Minstrel shows were the popularization of: * Why did the chicken cross the road (the people in blackface would tell each other the joke, and not understand it, to highlight stupidity) * Who was that women I saw you with last night * Stump speech (precursor to modern stand-up comedy) The stump speech, an entire act (1 of 3) of Minstrel shows, was really a monologue and would be in an exaggerated parody of black vernacular english. The stump speech often made fun of women's rights as well, The first big minstrel song hit was written by a white man, who said he heard it from a stable hand. He named it after the guy's name, "Jim Crow". For 12 years after the civil war, the reconstruction era took place. Federal troops occupied the south, enforcing civil rights. In 1877, in a corrupt backroom deal, the troops were withdrawn and white rule was reimposed. That was the start of segregation, which someone named after that hit song, "Jim Crow". The blues was a precursor to Jazz. It was born out of plantation work, and the call and response of the baptist church, but it was intended to make the singer and listener lose "the blues", it itself was not uncheerful. Basically after the civil war you had all these trumpets from the war, and so the people in new orleans used them but mimicked the sound of the blues, so they would kind of put a shaky end to the notes, rather than being defined. Then you had segregation laws being passed in 1890 in New Orleans, and then you had a guy test that by sitting in the whites only section of a train. Plecy v Ferguson, supreme court ruled separate but equal is constitutional. That decision dictated life in the South for the next 60 years. More laws were passed, mostly Jim Crow laws like literacy tests for voting and that sort of thing. But the concern was that uneducated whites wouldn't be able to pass, so they passed laws saying that your grandfather had to be voter eligible for you to be able to, which effectively made no blacks able to vote. The Creole people are important too. These are people who were in Louisiana and were descendants of black people and Spanish / French people, and previously they considered themselves white, and embraced classical music training etc., but they laws bade them black. This is where Jazz was born. The blues + the Creole people bringing classical music in resulted in Jazz. Buddy Bolding was the first celebrated Jazz musician. He played trumpet. He came up with the lilt at the end, the "big four". Only one dim photo of him survives today. He had a tragic end. He drank heavily, but then he started hearing voices, and became very anxious and paranoid. Eventually, his mother called the police afraid he would hurt her, and he spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum. Jelly Roll morton, was an early piano player who also merged blues an classical, etc. He was Creole. Basically all of the major early jazz musicians worked at various times in the red light district (prostitution area) for new orleans. As ragtime and couple dancing got more and more popular in the United States, the older people at the time didn't like it, mainly because the dances were sexy. People standing very close together, etc. And many in the white middle class saw it as "nig*erizing" American, because black people were seen and portrayed as hyper sexualized. The first Jazz performer who was offered to make a record turned it down, because he was afraid other musicians would use it to steal his stuff. He was rumored to even cover his hands with a hankerchief when he played because he didn't want people to steal his fingering on the trumpet. The first recorded Jazz was actually 5 white guys, led by the son of an Italian shoemaker. It sold more records than any record that came before it. He claimed that jazz was an exclusively white creation. and black people had nothing to do with it. Louis Armstrong comes on the scene in the 1920s or so.