I have met a wonderful friend when I interviewed Stan Blitz author of American Bandstand the Untold Story. Stan, much like me is a music connoisseur. Not only do we love music of the past, we understand and realize that much of the very roots of today’s rock music came from the 30s, and 40s. Stan recently told me he was doing a radio show of the music of the 40s and it got me thinking…
Oh how we forget such an important part of our past. Of course when I think of music of the 40s the first thing that comes to my mind is the sounds of jazz and the echo of big bands. This clearly sounded much better than the sounds of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan. The 40s was a very dramatic time and the music was also dramatic.
People such as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, were band leaders of some of America’s biggest bands and had people dancing and swinging on the dance floors. Soon singers who sang with these big bands became solo artists. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney, even Doris Day became the star attractions of the big band era.
As the big band era was blasting dance floors, Be-Bop and Rhythm and Blues and Jazz was sweeping the country. Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Billy Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald filled the airwaves and The Andrew Sisters, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and the Mills Brothers were introducing us to what we now call pop music.
The music of the 40s was upbeat—and why not? TV dinners, Tupperware and aluminum foil was making life easier for women and they could enjoy songs like Rum and Coca-Cola by The Andrew Sisters, In the Mood by Glenn Miller, Don’t Fence Me where the Andrews Sisters teamed up with Bing Crosby, Sentimental Journey with Les Brown and Doris Day, and Some Enchanted Evening by Perry Como.
The 40s music scene might be best known for jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald who’s first hit was A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Sarah Vaughan who recorded her first song Lover Man with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday who not only sang but co-wrote God Bless the Child, Don’t Explain, and Lady Sings the Blues.
Let’s not forget to mention country music. By 1939 the Grand Ole Opry had become the most popular music show on the radio and the 40s heard from Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Tex Ritter.
Just a little trivia I found fascinating was that almost 1/4 of the music that people listened to in 1940 was Glenn Miller. Well that was until Artie Shaw hired a singer named Frank Sinatra but he was making only 75 bucks a week so he ditched that band and found his fame with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra where in one year, they recorded 40 songs. He soon became a crooning success.
The bottom line is I think we tend to ignore how much the 40s music shaped music history. We say the 50s was the beginning of rock and roll, but in my mind, some of these fine singers, were the core so much of the music we listen to today.