The 1920’s is best knowns as the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age”. The era where there was an emphasis of focus on social, artistic, and culture. Patriotism began to arise. We had more accessibility to automobiles, telephones, and electricity. We had airplanes and a growth in the industrial side. Women had been given the right to vote. People who were artistic were not afraid to express themselves with their meaning and emotional experiences. Motion pictures were growing with productivity. They had sound effects and they were coming in color.
We were starting to see stars arise from these movies. Fashion was hanging, hair and dresses were shorter. All this was happening in the 1920’s, but one of the greatest things to come out of the 20’s was jazz music. There was a period of time that alcohol was banned, known as the prohibition era. This prohibition helped bring about clubs. These clubs were known as speakeasies, and these places sold alcohol illegally. However, these facilities provided jobs for jazz players, such as Duke Ellington.. How did we find some of the great jazz artist in history?
One might say that in the 1920’s it started with the prohibition era. Back in 1919 thirty states were “dry” the others ere “wet”. The wet states were the states that allowed alcohol, but the dry states did not. So in some states alcohol was already banned. In 1913 the Anti-Saloon League thought that the prohibition should be nationwide. In 1917 when we went into World War 1 some alcohol was banned from being made to conserve the grain. The following year if there was more than 2. 75% in the drink than that was to be banned as well. On December 18, 1917 the 18th amendment was passed by congress.
This amendment stated in section one: After a year from the ratification of this article the manufacture sale or ransportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. This amendment was to ban the making and selling or transferring of alcohol. In section 2 of the amendment it was stated that congress and states had the right to enforce this new law. It was then ratified two years later on January 16, 1919. This amendment was to solve the over consumption of alcohol.
With this amendment passed it stopped the making of and selling of alcohol. This was in hopes of reducing crime rates and eaths from alcohol. It was also to decrease the welfare and prisons. Another benefit from this was to improve health. According to the Prohibition of Liquor by the Annenberg Classroom, it was mentioned that “alcohol consumption and alcohol related deaths declined dramatically. ” However in section 1 of the amendment it was said that after it being ratified that it would be a year for it to go into effect. With that time, some bought a lot of alcohol and stocked up.
Not that they really had to worry. Coolidge and Harding did not really enforce this new law. It was not until Hoover that it was really put into ction, but even then it was hard. There was not enough law enforcement. This caused a large black market in Chicago and New York with selling of alcohol. Police and public officials participating in the purchasing of the illegal alcohol. There was some crime in regards to the illegal sell of alcohol in the bigger cities. With alcohol being banned, it did not stop it being sold. Though the saloons went out of business, clubs known as speakeasies came about.
One was known as the Savory Ballroom which was opened in 1926. This place was 250 by 50 feet. The building had two band stands and a “Cat’s Corner”. The Cat’s Corner is a place where one might find the best dancers in town. Even some scouts would go to these clubs to look for potential dancers for productions. Here at the Savory Ballroom it was integrated. Anyone and everyone could attend and learn the latest swing dance moves and listen to the latest swing music. One might even attend the dance clubs to watch or be a judge for the dance competitions.
Dancing was so big, that many enjoyed it. With all who attended, the club had to replace the floors every three years. Another place that was great for music was Connie’s Inn. This was located on 13th and 7th avenue. This place served alcohol illegally. In the text book it was stated; “this is the birthplace of Fats Walleis Hot Chocolates show that brought Louis Armstrong, and a number of memorable songs to the attention of a wider public. ” Like Connie’s Inn, many other of the speakeasies brought about the jazz music played by outstanding African Americans.
Without speakeasies it would have taken a lot longer before the white population would have heard their music. One of the top speakeasies around was the Cotton Club. If one could not get into Carnegie Hall, then this was second best back in the day. This was thee place to go uring the prohibition era. Owney Madden opened this club up in 1923. Owney was the owner, who previoiusly was in jail for 8 years. He was found guilty of murder. He being a gangster, he sold alcohol, he provided music, and of course there was dancing. One of the bands that had played at the Cotton Club was Duke Ellington’s band.
Duke Ellington name was actually Eddie Kennedy Ellington. He was born in Washington DC on April 29, 1899. His parents were Daisy and J. E. and they enrolled him in piano classes. As a young kid though, the piano did not catch his interest. It was not until his late teen years that he had eard the piano being played in ragtime style that it caught his interest. Soon after hearing the piano being played with a beat he began to practice. Duke had gotten a band together and they played in Washington DC and they were known as the Washingtonians.
They had moved from DC to New York, where they played in clubs such as; Barron’s Exclusive, the Plantation, Ciro’s and the Kentucky Club. They were beginning to build a name for themselves. They were being recognized. In 1927 Duke and his band started playing at the Cotton Club which lasted for 5 years. Dukes band grew and was 12 musicians. Thus the name was changed from the Washingtonians to Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. Not only were those who attended the Cotton Club treated by this bands music, but others who tuned into the radio got to enjoy and feel the nightlife as if they were there.
Ellington had only ever fired someone once. He had a guy in his band named James Bobber Miley, he was a trumpeter. He would show up late and would be intoxicated. If that wasn’t what happened another thing he would do is just miss a whole show completely. Some people would come to hear Miley and he was not their or was not up to par. In 1930 Ellington made it to the screens in Hollywood. He also got to meet the president Hoover 1931. This was an honor for a black jazz player. In 1939 Duke teamed up with Billy Strayhorn to write music.
They wrote a song called Take the “A” Train which was a hit in 1941. This song remained on the charts for 7 weeks. His songs were becoming complex, yet still enjoyable for the listeners to listen to. He also wrote Sophisticated Lady which was on the charts for 16 weeks and reached number 3. Another song was Got It Bad, which was popular. One of his greatest success was the opportunity he had to play at Carnage Hall. This appened on January 23, 1943. Here he played a song he had prepared for this occasion, the song Black, Brown, and Beige.
This song talked about slavery up to the civil rights in regards to African Americans. This night was all about this song. Though Duke died May 24, 1974, his contribution to jazz lives on. He syncretized his music. He started by hearing the piano being played in ragtime, then he took that and made it his own. By doing so, he came up with his own music and shared it with those in the clubs he played at. Which in turn others recognized his music and loved it. Because of him, we have been able to do he same and continue to syncretize jazz music nowadays.
One event lead to another. The recognition of alcohol not being good, so the ASL banned it, where most did not accept this new law and later it was appealed. However, because of this we had taken the saloons underground and turned them into exciting clubs where people wanted to be. Their was music, drinking and dancing, these were the places to be in the night life. From these clubs many got to enjoy music, some who heard the music would take it and make it something of their own where others could enjoy and later keep evolving it into what we have nowadays.