[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Rhythm and Blues

Related: 1950s - black music - American music - race music (precursor)

The term "Rhythm and Blues" was coined in 1947 by Jerry Wexler as a replacement for the terms "race music" "sepia music" and "Harlem Hits Parade" during a reorganization of the Billboard charts


Rhythm and blues (or R & B) is a musical marketing term introduced in the United States in the late 1940s by Billboard magazine. It replaced the term race music, which was deemed offensive. To some extent, the kind of music is attached to has changed to whatever form of contemporary music, which is popular with African-American pop musicians and audiences.

In its first manifestation, rhythm and blues was a black version of a predecessor to rock and roll. It was strongly influenced by jazz and jump music as well as black gospel music, and influenced jazz in return (hard bop was the product of the influence of rhythm and blues, blues, and gospel music on bebop).

The first rock and roll consisted of rhythm and blues songs like "Rocket 88" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll" making an appearance on the popular music charts as well as the R&B charts. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", the first hit by Jerry Lee Lewis was an R&B cover song that made number one on pop, R&B and country and western charts.

Musicians paid little attention to the distinction between jazz and rhythm and blues, and frequently recorded in both genres. Numerous swing bands (for example, Jay McShann's, Tiny Bradshaw's, and Johnny Otis's) also recorded rhythm and blues. Count Basie had a weekly live rhythm and blues broadcast from Harlem. Even a bebop icon like arranger Tadd Dameron also arranged for Bull Moose Jackson and spent two years as Jackson's pianist after establishing himself in bebop. Most of the studio musicians in R&B were jazz musicians. And it worked in the other direction as well. Many of the musicians on Charlie Mingus's breakthrough jazz recordings were R&B veterans. Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson was a one-man fusion, a bebop saxman and a blues shouter.

It was not in the US but through the thriving UK pop scene of the early 1960s that R&B reached the height of its popularity. Without the same kind of racial distinctions that refused it acceptance in the USA, white British performers and listeners adopted this novel style of music without question, and groups such as The Rolling Stones and Manfred Mann brought it to a wider audience.

The term fell into disfavor in the 1960s being replaced by soul music and Motown, but has re-emerged in recent years indicating black popular music encompassing pop heavily influenced by hip-hop, funk, and soul music. In this context only the abbreviation R&B is used, not the full expression. It is gaining popularity nowadays. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythm_and_blues [Dec 2004]



Race Music

1947: The term "Rhythm and Blues" was coined in 1947 by Jerry Wexler as a replacement for the terms "race music" "sepia music" and "Harlem Hits Parade" during a reorganization of the Billboard charts [...]

The History

Race records were born when recording companies realized there was money to be made marketing music by black artists to black consumers.

By 1920, even though the industry was already 20 years old, only a handful of black artists had ever been captured on cylinder or disk.

Mamie Smith

But then, on August 10, 1920, black cabaret singer Mamie Smith recorded a Perry Bradford tune, "Crazy Blues," and it was a huge success, eventually selling over two million copies.

Suddenly, the industry realized the 14 million-strong black population was a huge potential market. Race records were sold under separate labels and marketed exclusively in black neighborhoods and black clubs.

The Artists

The subtleties of musical style didn't matter. (In fact, early blues and white country music were very similar.) Any records of music performed by black musicians were called race records.

There were the all-black dance orchestras of Fletcher Henderson and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. The first discs by Louis Armstrong, the great trumpeter, were considered race records.

Race records included blues singers Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Blind Boy Fuller (who was from Winston-Salem, North Carolina). Then there were gospel groups, like the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet.

Blind Boy Fuller, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina And finally there were "Sermon with Singing" records by the likes of Rev. J.M. Gates, Rev. J.C. Burnett (assisted by Sisters Grainger and Jackson), and Rev. Dr. J. Gordan MacPherson ("The Black Billy Sunday").

In spite of the money they brought in, race records were thought inferior by the white recording industry. Blues, for instance, was considered to be primitive. Black gospel singing and the fiery sermons that went with them were seldom if ever heard outside of the black community and seemed rather provincial.

Still, until this time, most "black" records had been recorded by white vaudeville performers with black makeup, portraying black people in stereotypical racist fashion. So race records were a major milestone in the recording industry.

The Record Companies

Almost all record companies producing race records were white-owned.

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band

The Okeh label was the first to set up a special race records division, its "Original Race Records," in 1921. Okeh artists eventually included singer Mamie Smith and her "Jazz Hounds," jazzmen Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Clarence Williams; blues singers Lonnie Johnson, Sara Martin, Victoria Spivey, and Sippie Wallace; and preachers J.M. Gates and Elder Richard Bryant.

Others followed suit, including Columbia, featuring stars such as Bessie Smith (whose "Down Hearted Blues" sold two million copies), Ethel Waters, and Clara Smith; Bluebird; and Paramount, which billed itself as the "Premier Race Label." Decca Records in the 1930's had a race label that it called its "Sepia Series."

The only black owned and operated record labels were Black Patti and Black Swan, whose first big hit was a 1921 recording by Ethel Waters, "Down Home Blues" and "Oh, Daddy." Both labels originated in Chicago in the early 1920s and folded not long after. These records are considered quite rare and valuable today, as are most race records.

A Wider Audience

A young Louis Armstrong

Since race records were marketed directly to the black community, most white Americans rarely heard any of this music, unless it was recorded by white musicians. For instance, even though jazz music had its genesis in New Orleans with black musicians like Louis Armstrong, who then migrated to Chicago and New York, it was Paul Whiteman's white symphonic jazz records that sold in the millions.

Things started to change in the 40s and 50s. As radio became popular in the 40s, "race music" became available to everyone, and started catching on with white teens. Southerners and northerners mixed in the military during the war, and were exposed to each other's regional music. Although black music was not unknown in the nations's larger cities, after the war there was a great migration of southern blacks to the north, and they brought with them their rich musical traditions.

Eventually, the term "race music" itself was used less and less. In 1949, Jerry Wexler, a writer for Billboard, invented the term rhythm & blues, saying "race music" was "a little too close to "racist." Around the same time, disk jockey Alan Freed started using the phrase "rock 'n' roll."

In the 50s, white artists like Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins made the sounds of black music acceptable to white middle class listeners, paving the way for the popularity of black performers like Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Even Pat Boone's version of "Tutti Fruiti" played its part.

Today, of course, we can listen to any music we like, and popular artists freely find inspiration in music from all traditions. But whether your favorite music is rock 'n' roll, rhythm & blues, jazz, blues, shaggin' beach music, rap, bebop or hip hop, you can trace its roots straight back to African-American music, and those early, scratchy race records. -- source= http://features.aroundcarolina.com/racerecords/default.asp

Alan Freed, Rock and Roll

Going back to the new music style of the late forties, it is interesting to note that the new music style was in place but it had no official name. The name for the music came, when the noted disc jockey Alan Freed (Albert James Freed, 1921-1965) went on the air again on the 11th July, 1951, with his first Rock and Roll Party in which he actually programmed black music for a white audience. Alan Freed had been talked into returning to radio by Leo Mintz, a record store owner in Cleveland, after a position as disc jockey at a television station, and Leo Mintz even suggested that Alan Freed should try to play the rocking tunes known as 'race records', that were so popular and bought in large numbers by the jukebox operators in the Negro neighborhoods. Alan Freed is said to have coined the new phrase from the lyrics of the 1947 rhythm'n'blues hit "We're Gonna Rock (We're Gonna Roll)" released on Apollo label by Wild Bill Moore (William M. Moore, 1918-1983), but Wild Bill Moore also recorded the tune "Rock and Roll" on Modern label in 1949. The same tune had in fact been released on Manor label by Paul Bascomb in 1947 before the record ban, so it might have been that tune instead that gave Alan Freed the new phrase. After Alan Freed had used the new phrase in his radio shows other disc jockeys at big radio stations all over America followed suit. -- http://juke-box.dk/gert-rocknroll.htm

1951- Freed came on at 11:15 PM -2:30 AM Saturdays. WJW-AM in Cleveland. "Moondog House Rock and Roll Party" he called it. But the music was Rhythm and Blues. And the name referred to the show.

Freed's sponsor was a record store, Record Rendezvous, down the street from the studio. If they purchased a record, his job was to push it.

Called himself Moondog - a creature of the night. Pleaded with listeners to come in and pledge their loyalty to him - to be Moondoggers. And as reward for this loyalty, someday he was gonna throw them a huge party in Cleveland's Arena. He'd invite all the artists whose songs he played.

Which isn't exactly how it turned out. The Moondog Coronation Ball, held in Cleveland on March 21, 1952, was a riot. A madhouse of people and energy. Like Freed, a contrast. A raging success and a total failure. Click on link to read more about it!

Did he coin the term "rock and roll"? Probably. And if he didn't, he made it famous. http://www.fiftiesweb.com/freed.htm

The Death of Rhythm and Blues () - Nelson George

The Death of Rhythm and Blues () - Nelson George [Amazon.com]

At last in paperback: the first full-scale history of modern black music from "the best black artier writing about black music in America" --Newsweek

A heartfelt, knowledgeable indictment of the American system of compromise, particularly as it operates in the entertainment industry...[It] is mountain high and river, deep expressed with loving urgency. --The New York Times Book Review.

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications