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Jason Corley
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Jason Corley

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History: Jimmie Lunceford and his Dance Orchestra

Jimmie Lunceford and his Dance Orchestra are the stars of this ten minute Vitaphone short. Lunceford, one of the highest profile black bandleaders of the 1930s, had formed his first band when he was an athletic instructor in Memphis Tennessee, called the Chickasaw Syncopators. He was the first public high school band director of any ethnicity in Tennessee. They did a lot of joshing and joking around and had a loose, jokey presentation, though behind the scenes it was a disciplined organization that held together when plenty of other big jazz outfits did not. The orchestra ended up playing the famed Cotton Club in Harlem in 1934, and appeared on the radio, raising Lunceford's profile to national status.

However, bad luck plagued the group. After a European tour crashed and burned in 1939 For Obvious Reasons, the band fell on hard times and was dumped by their label a year later. You can see a reunion on film in 1941's Blues In The Night.

In 1947, Lunceford was (along with many other performers in the orchestra) poisoned by a restaurant owner angry that he had to serve the black members of the band. Lunceford died and the authorities wrote it off to heart problems. He was 45.

In this short you can also hear the novelty song "Nagasaki", which portrayed the Japanese port city as a wild party town: "Hot ginger and dynamite / there's nothing but that at night / back in Nagasaki / where the fellas chew tabacky / and the women wicky wacky woo". Let's just be generous and say that it was written without a deep understanding of the night life of Nagasaki. However, the song was a well-known slam-dunk method of getting people onto the dance floor (the preferred dance for "Nagasaki" was the Charleston) at least until 1945, when the song became passe For Obvious Reasons.
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Jason Corley

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Hubert Humphrey's 1948 civil rights speech to the Democratic National Convention marks the start of a civil war within the Democratic party over civil rights that wasn't ended until Nixon embraced the Southern Strategy in his 1968 and 1972 campaigns and anti-civil-rights Democrats finally abandoned the party en masse.

Before 1948, support for civil rights within the Democratic Party was always subordinated to other goals or tacked-on as a halfhearted after-thought. Throughout the 19-teens and 1920s the Republican party was still seen as a "Negro party" in the South, and the GOP despaired of ever being able to win the white man's vote in segregated states. The New Deal programs which were the cornerstone of Democratic achievements in the era were particularly egregious versions of this, specifically constructed to exclude black Americans from obtaining any benefits from them, then slowly being forced to expand to encompass them over time. Given that by the time 1948 rolled around the national government had been dominated by the Democratic Party for 16 years, it's a credit to black organizers that any advances at all were made. President Truman had approved some civil rights measures under pressure, including desegregation of the military.

Nevertheless, Humphrey's speech was part of a growing constituency within the Democratic party that embraced Truman's pro-civil-rights actions and saw expanding them as a key to contesting black votes in the cities, especially the cities of the Midwest and Northeast which had benefited enormously from the great Reconstruction-era migration of American blacks northward. Humphrey believed (because black organizers had said for years) a strong pro civil rights platform would entice black voters to vote Democrat. Opposing Humphrey (and Paul Douglas of Illinois, the other chief organizer of the push) were the Southern Democratic delegates and those that felt their support was important to maintaining the party's dominance.

Humphrey's speech is magnificent. It must rank in the greatest speeches of the 20th century. Humphrey, who was mayor of Minneapolis at the time, was risking his whole future political career on this move. The civil rights plank barely passed, and the Southern delegates walked out, forming the Dixiecrat party that ran Strom Thurmond for president, attempting to act as a spoiler, prevent Truman's re-election, and force themselves back into control of the Democratic party. In fact, the civil rights platform proved an asset to the Democratic party in 1948 and Truman won, in a major upset, over Republican Thomas E. Dewey.

Humphrey went to the Senate, where he was initially despised by Democratic southern Senators, but eventually won them over - it helped that he became the protege of Lyndon Johnson. The two together were instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act and many other civil rights measures during their time in Congress.

I ran a historical White Wolf game set in 1960, and another in 1963. Reviewing the papers of the time to see what people were talking and thinking about, it is remarkable how completely the question dominated the media and political thinking at the time. This speech is a milestone in that process.

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Jason Corley

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A while back I posted a link to the Negro Year Book, edited and assembled by top black sociologist Monroe Work in the 19-teens and 20s. This is great, but it's also very voluminous and academic. So here is a link to an educational book aimed at black schoolchildren, by William Henry Harrison, Jr., emphasizing educating black children about the achievement of American blacks in every field imaginable, and bringing their concerns and stories to the forefront in a way that white-written history books didn't at the time. It's a resource that you and your players can consult much more easily and readily, even if it doesn't go into great detail.

Again, the book is free and very, very readable. One might even say it makes "the saddest person laugh, the jolliest person cry and the most thoughtful person think". No wonder it sold itself "like buckwheat cakes and sausage steaming some frosty morn or cool refreshing ice cream when the sun is very warm."

A quick note about the author: he certainly is not of the right age to actually be President William Henry Harrison's son, and though there is a family of black Americans that trace their lineage back to the 9th President, I'm not sure if this particular Harrison is one of them.

Interestingly, a contemporary of this William Henry Harrison was Walter Francis White, who would become NAACP Executive Secretary in the early 1930s. White's mother was Madeline Harrison, alleged to be the granddaughter of the President. At the time of the writing of this book, White, who could pass for white in many circumstances, was undercover investigating lynchings in the South. He was so good at it that at one point he was invited to join the KKK.

https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YbcTAAAAYAAJ

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Jason Corley

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Music: Frank Hutchison - K.C. Blues

By the time 1920 rolled around, the initial consolidation of record companies had reversed course; the technology to make records had gotten too widespread, too cheap and too standardized for any one entity to control. By 1940, the radio would hammer the revenue stream into place, but before that time wildcat local labels and record companies would bring formerly regional and racially segregated music to a new audience. Overlap between white country music and the blues was already occurring "in the wild", but the technological and financial changes of the 1920s accelerated this process.

Here's Frank Hutchison, advertised as "the first white bluesman" (this is not true, though he certainly was the first to achieve major commercial success in white country blues recording) in a 1929 recording of "K.C. Blues". He was advertised this way because increasing pressure from radio stations made record labels much more aware of attracting the white audience it perceived as having the ability to buy radio sets. It was more acceptable for white audiences in 1929 to buy a "white bluesman"'s record (usually by mail order) than just a bluesman's.

Hutchison, a West Virginia coal miner, recorded 44 "sides", as they were called at the time, but his career never achieved success the radio or live performance fields; he ended up keeping a general store in Lake, West Virginia, until it burned down and he took to drink. After he worked the Ohio riverboat circuit for a while, he died of liver disease in 1945 at the age of 54. In addition to white country music, his style of blues picking would find a new home in folk music in the 1950s and 60s.

Hutchison's extremely unusual rhythmic signature sets him apart - just try to track how many parts this slide guitar plays - only one guitar, played by only one man, recorded in only one take...and then laugh your ass off when you get to the minute-thirty breakdown. (And 1929 was during Prohibition no less!) This is a recording made at a time just before the venue for these weird recordings begins to fade beneath the bright light of radio.
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Jason Corley

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Music: American Primitive recordrings, 19-teens-1920s

As recording shifted from cylinders to more standardized formats in the 19-teens and 20s and as electrification and amplification made home sets more advanced in the late 20s and early 30s, many record companies took advantage of the newer, cheaper technology and the market was flooded with new records on obscure regional labels, sold by mail order. However, even the simplest production practices had not yet been developed, resulting in a wide variety of different recording methods and sounds.

In addition, as companies chased the next "Negro" breakout phenomenon (okay, SOME things never change) to rival the smash success of the Shuffle Along songbook ("In Honeysuckle Time", "Gypsy Blues", "Shuffle Along", "I'm Just Wild About Harry", "Oriental Blues") they inadvertently preserved everything from a capella dirges to echoey banjo quartets.

By the 1940s, radio and music production had standardized dramatically, so the early explosion of weird innovation was over.

The "American Primitive" series of collections aims to pull these recording anomalies forward. They're...incredibly creepy and good, because they are unique and from a branch of recording that didn't survive. You can buy the full collection for $9 on Amazon mp3 at: http://a.co/73YS3vC .

You're gonna want these for the new historical World of Darkness thing. You're gonna want them real bad. Here, for example, is a soda advertisement recorded in 1926.
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Jason Corley

Discussion  - 
 
Hey everyone - I've been posting historical music to my normal gaming feed with descriptions of the context of the music and musicians. Would that be something this community would be interested in? Normally it's 19th and 20th century music because those are my primarily areas of historical RPG interests. Didn't just want to start spamming it here without asking if people wanted to see it.
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Ahhh...I should have waited...This is good feedback.
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Jason Corley

General Discussion  - 
 
Hey everyone - I've been posting a lot of historical music, with explanations, to my normal gaming feed, a friend suggested I start posting them here too. What do you think? Most of them are about a particular song and the historical context for the musician and the music. Since I do a whole ton of historical RPGs this is very much My Thing, but most of the posts here are more soundtrack-style instead of Music From And Inspired By style, if that makes sense. What do you think?
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Would love to have some audio input for my gaming groups. By all means bring it on, please.
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Jason Corley

Resources  - 
 
Music: Jimmie Lunceford and his Dance Orchestra

Jimmie Lunceford and his Dance Orchestra are the stars of this ten minute Vitaphone short. Lunceford, one of the highest profile black bandleaders of the 1930s, had formed his first band when he was an athletic instructor in Memphis Tennessee, called the Chickasaw Syncopators. He was the first public high school band director of any ethnicity in Tennessee. They did a lot of joshing and joking around and had a loose, jokey presentation, though behind the scenes it was a disciplined organization that held together when plenty of other big jazz outfits did not. The orchestra ended up playing the famed Cotton Club in Harlem in 1934, and appeared on the radio, raising Lunceford's profile to national status.

However, bad luck plagued the group. After a European tour crashed and burned in 1939 For Obvious Reasons, the band fell on hard times and was dumped by their label a year later. You can see a reunion on film in 1941's Blues In The Night.

In 1947, Lunceford was (along with many other performers in the orchestra) poisoned by a restaurant owner angry that he had to serve the black members of the band. Lunceford died and the authorities wrote it off to heart problems. He was 45.

In this short you can also hear the novelty song "Nagasaki", which portrayed the Japanese port city as a wild party town: "Hot ginger and dynamite / there's nothing but that at night / back in Nagasaki / where the fellas chew tabacky / and the women wicky wacky woo". Let's just be generous and say that it was written without a deep understanding of the night life of Nagasaki. However, the song was a well-known slam-dunk method of getting people onto the dance floor (the preferred dance for "Nagasaki" was the Charleston) at least until 1945, when the song became passe For Obvious Reasons.
1
Add a comment...

Jason Corley

Music Suggestions  - 
 
History: Frank Hutchison - K.C. Blues

By the time 1920 rolled around, the initial consolidation of record companies had reversed course; the technology to make records had gotten too widespread, too cheap and too standardized for any one entity to control. By 1940, the radio would hammer the revenue stream into place, but before that time wildcat local labels and record companies would bring formerly regional and racially segregated music to a new audience. Overlap between white country music and the blues was already occurring "in the wild", but the technological and financial changes of the 1920s accelerated this process.

Here's Frank Hutchison, advertised as "the first white bluesman" (this is not true, though he certainly was the first to achieve major commercial success in white country blues recording) in a 1929 recording of "K.C. Blues". He was advertised this way because increasing pressure from radio stations made record labels much more aware of attracting the white audience it perceived as having the ability to buy radio sets. It was more acceptable for white audiences in 1929 to buy a "white bluesman"'s record (usually by mail order) than just a bluesman's.

Hutchison, a West Virginia coal miner, recorded 44 "sides", as they were called at the time, but his career never achieved success the radio or live performance fields; he ended up keeping a general store in Lake, West Virginia, until it burned down and he took to drink. After he worked the Ohio riverboat circuit for a while, he died of liver disease in 1945 at the age of 54. In addition to white country music, his style of blues picking would find a new home in folk music in the 1950s and 60s.

Hutchison's extremely unusual rhythmic signature sets him apart - just try to track how many parts this slide guitar plays - only one guitar, played by only one man, recorded in only one take...and then laugh your ass off when you get to the minute-thirty breakdown. (And 1929 was during Prohibition no less!) This is a recording made at a time just before the venue for these weird recordings begins to fade beneath the bright light of radio.

1
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Jason Corley

Resources  - 
 
Sometimes when you're exploring a historical culture you come across something that makes you go "what the fuck?" Welcome to the catchphrase "free, white and 21", which I, watching 1920s and 1930s film, more or less read as sarcastic or ironic (like, we're supposed to either see the character saying it as a boor or understand that they're saying it as a joke) for a long time until I kept seeing it. Here's an article explaining what exactly it was about. - and what happened to it.
She was a young society woman. He was an enigmatic stranger. They’d just met at a speakeasy and as dusk set in were parked lakeside in his roadster to get better acquainted.
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Jason Corley

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Here's a film advertisement for the 1937 Plymouth. These ads were show in movie theaters, with a newsreel, a cartoon, and a feature presentation.

Interesting new features of vehicles around this time period that you can see demonstrated in this ad:

The gas tank is no longer accessed through the trunk. Before this time the trunk (or the hood depending on the car) had to be opened to put gas in.

Double-acting hydraulic brakes. Before this time, "single" brakes were much more susceptible to burnout and failure.

"Up to" 24 miles per gallon. Welp.

Thing still not understood in 1937:

An incredibly rigid/"strong" steel frame is actually less safe than a frame that will crumple and compress at pre-planned points in a collision.

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Jason Corley

Music Suggestions  - 
 
History: American Primitive recordrings, 19-teens-1920s

As recording shifted from cylinders to more standardized formats in the 19-teens and 20s and as electrification and amplification made home sets more advanced in the late 20s and early 30s, many record companies took advantage of the newer, cheaper technology and the market was flooded with new records on obscure regional labels, sold by mail order. However, even the simplest production practices had not yet been developed, resulting in a wide variety of different recording methods and sounds.

In addition, as companies chased the next "Negro" breakout phenomenon (okay, SOME things never change) to rival the smash success of the Shuffle Along songbook ("In Honeysuckle Time", "Gypsy Blues", "Shuffle Along", "I'm Just Wild About Harry", "Oriental Blues") they inadvertently preserved everything from a capella dirges to echoey banjo quartets.

By the 1940s, radio and music production had standardized dramatically, so the early explosion of weird innovation was over.

The "American Primitive" series of collections aims to pull these recording anomalies forward. They're...incredibly creepy and good, because they are unique and from a branch of recording that didn't survive. You can buy the full collection for $9 on Amazon mp3 at: http://a.co/73YS3vC .

You're gonna want these for the new historical World of Darkness thing. You're gonna want them real bad. Here, for example, is a soda advertisement that has some very weird religious overtones, recorded in 1926.
1
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