Rye, Howard, Black Music Research Journal
The present issue of Black Music Research Journal amplifies the story of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra begun in the Fall 2009 issue by adding important supplementary material which fills out the story of this extraordinary aggregation of musicians and singers which perambulated Europe at the beginning of the roaring twenties.
The roster of SSO members included in this volume gives a clear impression of how varied the backgrounds of the eventual members of the orchestra were and how ubiquitous its alumni became in the jazz and entertainment worlds of inter-war Europe. Only an arbitrary selection of activities can be made from careers which obviously included many more associations. The basis for selection is explained in the introduction to the roster itself.
Inevitably, new information emerges almost daily from the plethora of sources now available. Sadie Hopkins, whose origin was believed to be unconfirmed ("Southern Syncopated Orchestra: The Roster," this volume), is now known to have been born in Liverpool, England, and was said to be aged seventeen in April 1911 when she was enumerated in the English census in a boarding house in Hull while touring with The Georgia Coons. This dance troupe, also known as The Georgia Piccaninnies, had made a rather special mark on history in January 1908 by making a sound film in Berlin whose soundtrack has survived. Their original personnel had come from the United States in 1903, but in Hull in 1911 the troupe included three Britons of African ancestry (presumed in the case of Sadie Hopkins, whose birth has still not been located) and a German teenager about whom nothing is yet known. The parallel between this replacement of the original African-American personnel, not publicly acknowledged, and the later practice of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra's management will be apparent to readers.
The ubiquity of SSO alumni is further emphasized by the account of The Jazz Kings and a selection of other groups made up of former members active in London in the early 1920s, and by consideration of the careers of two extraordinary musicians: the trumpeter Arthur Briggs, and Edmund Jenkins, who as far as we know was never actually a member of the orchestra but was very much part of their milieu.
It is a common experience that publication itself leads to the emergence of new information and connections. …