The Early Swing Era, 1930 to 1941

By Dave Oliphant | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The Name Black Bands

Of the important big-band leaders of the Swing Era, all were active musicians in 1930, and most were still performing and/or leading a group in 1941. However, only about half the leaders of big bands were such in 1930; the other half would form a band or take over one later in the decade. Two of the seminal leaders during this period—Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington—had directed their own bands as early as 1923 and 1924, respectively. Each of the swing-era leaders was a fascinating figure, and each made a contribution to the development of Swing in the 1930s, but few of the leaders would professionally survive the 1940s and go on to direct big bands in the succeeding decades. The outstanding exceptions were Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Harry James. Two leaders who died in the 1940s—Jimmie Lunceford and Glenn Miller—might have managed to continue their successes of the 1930s and ’40s, but to suggest as much would be mere speculation. Chick Webb died in 1939, and with his health problems would probably not have been able to continue as a drummer or leader even had he lived into the ’40s or ’50s. Other leaders—Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, the Dorsey brothers, Artie Shaw, and Cab Calloway—remained active as musicians and even directors of various groups, but none of these men achieved the same level of popularity that he had attained during the 1930s as the leader of a big band.

One test of a band leader and his band was whether they could make it in New York City. Some of the so-called Territory Bands, such as Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy out of Kansas City, did not appear regularly at the New York venues associated with the heyday of Swing, and others, such as the bands of Don Albert and Boots Douglas in Texas, did not tour much, if at all, beyond the state borders. Chicago’s Grand Terrace was home for the entire period to the Earl Hines band, and Andy Kirk also played there often between 1936 and 1939. Both the Henderson and Basie bands also played the Grand Terrace and did radio broadcasts from there. Although the Kirk band had a successful tour of the East Coast

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The Early Swing Era, 1930 to 1941
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Chapter 1 - Precursors to and the Birth of Big-Band Swing 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Name Black Bands 39
  • Chapter 3 - The Name White Bands 97
  • Chapter 4 - Other Black Bands 147
  • Chapter 5 - Other White Bands 263
  • Chapter 6 - The Small Swing Groups 325
  • A to Z 397
  • Selected Bibliography 429
  • Index 433
  • About the Author 465
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