History Of The Big Band Era

CULTURE | August 19, 2019

King And Carter Jazzing Orchestra. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

Big Band music has been well loved by many even before the Big Band Era (1933-1947) began. This little known Jazz band, “King and Carter Jazzing Orchestra” was obviously a small group but even though they were small, there were those who loved Jazz music even in the 1920s. This picture was taken in 1921 somewhere in Texas, possibly Brownsville, Texas.  

Dizzy Gillespie. Source: (pinterest.com)

“Dizzy” John Birks Gillespie was a bandleader as well as one of the best trumpet players in history. Gillespie was a gifted child as far as musical talent was concerned. He was able to teach himself how to play trombone and trumpet at age 12 after having learned to play the piano at age four. His dream of becoming a jazz player came true for him, and despite hitting a few bumps along the way, he managed to become quite a successful bandleader as well. Once, in 1953, someone accidentally sat on his trumpet and bent the bell part, but he actually liked the way it sounded after that so he would purposely bend his trumpet bells after that. His fame became so worldwide that he even became the leader of the United Nations Orchestra in the 1980s. He died in 1993 at age 75.

Count Basie Theatre. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

This building started out as a vaudeville theater in 1926. Then, in 1973, an art center took it over and eventually renamed it Count Basie Theatre in 1984 to honor Count Basie (William Basie) in the year of his death. Many legendary performers appeared here like James Brown, Tony Bennett, and Al Green, just to mention a few.

Count Basie’s Orchestra was one of the most popular bands in the Big Band Era. He first started his own band in 1935 and expanded his band to a 13 piece band in 1936. The popularity and success of Count Basie’s band continued beyond his death and continues to play even today. 

The Glen Miller Band. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

Glen Miller and his band became popular as a swing dance band. He started out in New York City in the late 1920s. His first orchestra band that he started in 1937 did not accomplish the goals that he anticipated; so, by end of that year, he had disbanded them and later starting forming a new band. With this new band, he became the number one band in America until World War II struck and he was forced to disband once again by September of 1942.  

Benny Goodman. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

Benny Goodman played the clarinet as well as becoming a bandleader. His nickname became the “King of Swing.” Leading one of the first integrated jazz bands, he quickly rose in popularity with his performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1938. This sold-out concert was considered one of the most significant concerts in jazz history. By the late 1940s, swing music was on its way out, so Goodman moved over to bebop music for a short time but then returned to his swing music as well as classical music. He played right up until his death in 1986 at the age of 77.

Family Listens to Radio During World War II Days. Source: (commons.wikimedia.org)

Ban on Recordings During 1942-1944

In August of 1942, the president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), a union for musicians, started a strike against the big recording companies regarding royalty payments. Because of this strike, no musician that was part of the union was allowed to make any kind of commercial recordings using instrumental music, and instrumentalists could not record at all, which left out the Big Bands totally. As the date of the beginning of the ban drew closer, some artists like the Dorsey brothers, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller, among others, starting recording new material to have on hand to release during the ban. For this reason, it took months before people even noticed there was a strike going on, but because the strike lasted two years, the record companies soon ran out of options and were forced to settle with AFM.

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