Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942

By Troutman, John W. | ARSC Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942


Troutman, John W., ARSC Journal


Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942. By Christopher Wilkinson. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 197pp (hardcover). Illustrations. ISBN 978-1-61703-168-7. $55

In 1934, Irving Mills blackballed Jimmie Lunceford from the major New York theatres, radio audiences, and hotel ballrooms that his orchestra had consistently played over the years. Lunceford left after becoming fed up with Mills' exploitation, but the timing, deep in the throes of the Great Depression, was far from perfect. He knew that he had to find the steadiest work possible for his band, and fast, so he hit the road, like so many other jazz musicians did in the 1930s, towards ... the coal camps of West Virginia. Christopher Wilkinson's wonderfully researched Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942 yields a number of such revelatory anecdotes as he presents for us the vibrant dance culture of West Virginia during the long 1930s.

African-American miners indeed created a remarkable and unique space in the hills of West Virginia, unlike anything witnessed during that time in the Jim Crow South, from where most of them had arrived. Railroad construction and the operation of high-quality bituminous coal mines in West Virginia required highly concentrated labor. African-American sharecroppers from the South were among the first to take advantage of this opportunity, particularly as welcomed members of the United Mine Workers Association; the work was extremely dangerous, but the financial incentive was hard to ignore, particularly after the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 virtually guaranteed the union members well-paying work for the remainder of that tumultuous decade. With disposable cash in hand, they often turned to dance band music. Wilkinson in fact documents 356 public dances held for African-Americans between 1930 and 1942 in the state. African-American southerners indeed had much reason to celebrate in West Virginia: there they wielded a politically influential right to vote, they succeeded in banning racist films such as Birth of a Nation from the state's theaters, secured an anti-lynching law, and, as Wilkinson demonstrates through the vivid remembrance of Lionel Hampton's trumpeter, Joe Wilder, enjoyed the dignify of integrated seating in train cars.

One of Wilkinson's contributions lies in his ability to use a musical micro-history of West Virginia's coal camps in order to further disrupt the dichotomies that originally defined the work of many music scholars: those of rural versus urban entertainments, of " hot" versus "sweet" jazz adherents, and of the musical preferences of whites versus blacks and middle class versus working class audiences. From the days of medicine shows, West Virginians had become well versed in the cosmopolitan, commercial musics that emanated from New York and Chicago. Enhanced through the distribution of phonographs and the reach of radio deep into the hollers of the mountains, indeed the most well-known orchestras arrived behind a long line of local and "territory," or regional, jazz and dance bands that had long played their hit parade renditions both to white and black audiences. Despite the equity gained by African-Americans in some of West Virginia's social and political arenas, their dances remained segregated. Wilkinson demonstrates through his examination of local newspapers how African-American jazz and dance orchestras began to create interesting fissures in the divide: when Don Redman performed at the Fairmont armory in 1934, the West Virginian reported that in addition to the "biggest crowd of colored terpsichorean experts ever assembled at one time on the local floor . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.