Unit 2 Notes - Introduction Black people were clamoring for blues records blues with a sock dance beat Around 1949 that was their main means of

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“Black people were clamoring for blues records, blues with a sock dance beat. Around 1949, that was their main means of entertainment. Harlem folks couldn’t go downtown to the Broadway theatres and movie houses. Downtown clubs had their ropes up when they came to the door. They weren’t even welcome on Fifty-second Street where all the big performers were black. Black people had to find entertainment in their homes…and the record was it.” — Ahmet Ertegun Like “rock and roll,” the term “rhythm & blues” is less of a defined style and more of a generic term that came into use in the late 1940s to describe any music made by African Americans. In 1920, Ralph Peer at OKeh Records coined the term “race records” to describe recordings made by African American artists. In 1941, Decca launched a series of recordings under the only slightly less insensitive term “Sepia” to describe recordings made by black crossover artists like Louis Jordan and the Nat King Cole Trio. According to Decca’s marketing department, the recordings in the “Sepia Series” were a “cross between the race and pop listings,” Billboard magazine, which began charting the popularity of retail record sales in 1940, introduced the “Harlem Hit Parade” in 1942 to chart the popularity of black recordings in New York City’s Harlem, which was viewed as a bellwether for national trends in the black community. Remarkably, when the data sample for the popularity of African American recordings was changed in 1945 to national jukebox plays, the “Harlem Hit Parade” became “Juke Box Race Records” and returned to the “race records” descriptor to identify recordings made by African American artists. Billboard also introduced a second chart for African American recordings in 1948 that was called “Best Selling Retail Race Records.” However, the use of the term “race records” was thought by some at the magazine to be offensive, especially Jerry Wexler, the editor of the race charts at Billboard . At the time, RCA referred to records made by African American artists on the label as “blues and rhythm” recordings and Wexler reversed the words, coining the term “rhythm & blues,” when Billboard changed the “Race Records” rankings to “Best Selling Rhythm & Blues Records” in June 1949. Wexler’s term, “rhythm & blues,” became the accepted industry term for music created by African American artists from 1949 until 1969 when Billboard introduced the “Best Selling Soul Singles” chart. The influence of boogie-woogie and the jump blues was felt throughout the adult recordings made by African American artists and the growing emphasis on backbeat rhythm was becoming a universal trait. Rhythm & blues recordings in the late 1940s were also driven either by piano, which was typically played in the boogie-woogie style, or the newer sound of the electric guitar, introduced by T-Bone Walker only a few years earlier. Initially, the electric guitar in blues followed the style of jazz guitarists like Charlie Christian or the Chicago blues style of Muddy Waters, but by the late 1940s the
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This note was uploaded on 02/24/2009 for the course INART 116 taught by Professor Jeffvanfossan during the Spring '08 term at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

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Unit 2 Notes - Introduction Black people were clamoring for blues records blues with a sock dance beat Around 1949 that was their main means of

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