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Terminology

The American Federation of Musicians (AMF)

(As it relates to the timeline)

           

The American Federation of Musicians was established in 1896, it is the largest labor union representing musicians. When it was first established the AMF was segregated. In 1910 after the Clef Club created by James Reese Europe generated enough competition to lead the AMF to desegregate. This was a huge victory for Black entertainers in being able to book certain shows and obtain better pay.

           

In 1942 James Petrillo led a dispute with record companies over the amount of money that was made by musicians with music recordings. This gridlocked recording by larger companies leading to very few records being produced between 1942-1944. A positive outcome of this was that a number of small record companies including some of the first owned by African-Americans opened during the strike. These small record companies were more open to some of the emerging music of the current times.

Electric Guitar

The first electric guitar that was to be sold commercially was created by George Beauchamp, and Adolph Rickenbacker. George Beauchamp created the first electromagnetic pickups the would be used on the electric guitar while Rickenbacker was responsible for the instrument design. At the time the guitars were created with Hawaiian steel guitar players in mind. By the time the Rickenbacker “Frying Pan” was ready to go to market in 1937 other guitar makers had developed their own concepts.

Electrical Recording Technology

Sound recording technology was first made possible by Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph 1877. As the recording devices improved so it was easier to create records more focused was placed on recording technology, and the invention of sound amplification devices in 1924 opened the door for electrical recording in 1925 it allowed for microphones to be added to the recording process highlighting, and increasing the amount of voices and instruments that could be recorded. As the technology become more affordable over time it also vastly increased the quality of playback for consumer record players.

The invention of plastic recording tape in the 1940s opened the door for the ability to edit, and modify recordings. This began to open the door for studio producers to remaster recorded tracks. It also first introduced the concept of sampling. Sampling which shape the music industry through genres like hip-hop in the 1980s when digital technology made it possible to easily edit, and sample music for both professionals, and consumers. This process in the 1940s started a process of emphasis shifting from musicians to producers using already created samples as new music.

Field Holler

Originating with African slaves (roots stem to West Africa), mostly improvised musical shouts/hollers conveying a message/musical note. Some did not contain words but were simply musical. Field hollers were generally sung solo at least initially, but others may join, add a verse or other content.  This tradition continued, and evolved post slavery and was seen later by other Black blue-collar laborers, and sharecroppers. They contrasted with work songs because they were personal in content. It is possible that the field holler was a precursor to the blues, however because of the lack of recordings, they may have been developed concurrently, and influenced each other. Work songs on the other hand depended on the call and response format. The call and response format evolved into spiritual/ gospel songs.

The Great Migration

Sometimes split into the first great migration 1910s-1940s, and the second migration 1940s-1970s. Following the Civil War 90% of Black Americans lived in the rural South. Starting around 1910 a sharp increase in racism, political repression, violence, and potential job opportunity led to much of the Black population to move to the northern, and western parts of the United States. There was a resurgence of violence prior to 1910 by the KKK, and other groups inciting Black violence including those enforcing the Jim Crow laws which followed the Civil War, and more densely impacted southern states. Another factor was the collapse of the cotton economy, and the rising industrial economy in urban areas offered better economic opportunity. This cause a historic and dramatic change from rural living to urban life, by 1970 50% of the Black population now lived in northern states, and the West Coast with 80% urban areas. Following the Great Depression era movement began to pick-up again, 1940-1970 included a continued move towards northern states but also saw the greatest increase in Black people moving to the West Coast. This began to have a major impact on politics with the black vote having an influence on local, and national elections in a way they had not in the past when Black people were concentrated in the South with very limited voting rights. The Civil Rights Movement eventually was what led to the migration ending because it created opportunities in the South, and began to unravel many of the racist policies that had been specifically designed to oppress, and prevent Black opportunity, and community participation.

Minstrel Shows

First purely American theatrical art form, minstrel shows are well known because of the portrayal of black people by white Americans performing in “blackface”.  Whether it was true or false information, for many white Americans minstrel Shows provided a first glimpse of black culture. Thomas D Rice known as “Jim Crow” was known as the first popular minstrel performer. This was often the first exposure to forms of black entertainment. Minstrel shows also included some Black performers who also would perform in “blackface”, it was the only form of performance Black performers could economically support themselves at that time. Over time actual elements of Black culture were absorbed in the absurd mimicry, and caricaturizing of Black people. Maybe Black stereotypes still discussed today were popularized and spread across the country during this era. Minstrel shows eventually included portrayals of spirituals, and later exposure to blues music by professional musicians who were recruited to play. At its height in the 1840s it was the center of the American music industry, and influenced the presence of instruments like the banjo and country music. Frederick Douglass famously spoke out against minstrel shows in his “North Star” journal expressing disgust, and that is was wrongful to profit from such acts. Black performers were eventually able to gain commercial, and economic success and pushed to create Black art forms that aligned with actual Black culture and move from the racist mimicry of minstrelsy. Vaudeville which was a much broader later form of variety show sometimes included minstrel show elements, or comedic skits. By the early 20th century minstrel shows began to disappear from American entertainment. Until recently in certain areas minstrel shows were only considered to be stain on American entertainment but still an important part of theatrical history and minstrel shows could be seen on occasion up to the late 1900s.

Race Record

A recording intended for a Black audience, first emerging in 1920s. At the time it includes blues, gospel, sermons, R&B, and comic dialogs. At one point “blues”, and “race” record were used interchangeably. It should be noted many jazz recordings were not included in this category. In the 1942 the category was deemed offensive and changed to “rhythm and blues”. In the modern era actual “race records”, 78rpm phonograph records that were originally categorized as such are highly prized because of increasing rarity.

Songster

Many early blues musicians were first known as songsters, who were traveling musical performers who appeared during the reconstruction era following slavery (both white, and black musicians).  These performers played ballads, ragtime, blues, and other song structures stemming from rural areas. The later songsters who favored the guitar instead the fiddle, or banjo are those most closely linked to what evolved into the blues. Blues musicians such as Charley Patton started out as a touring songster.

Tin Pan Alley

In the 1880s-1930s, a well-known area(s) of New York where large groups of music publishers would buy the rights to music from songwriters, including songs that resembled pop songs because of the weaker copyright laws at the time.  The publishers would then print and sell the sheet music. This process contributed to the change from instrumental to vocal focused music. When people reference Tin Pan Alley they often are referring to songwriters more interested in making money off songs, and not the quality of the music. Eventually the rise of electrical recording, and commercial songwriting led to the demise as sheet music was no longer a primary tool in obtaining music for consumers or producers.

Urban Theater Circuit (Chitlin' Circuit)

In the 1880s-1930s, a well-known area(s) of New York where large groups of music publishers would buy the rights to music from songwriters, including songs that resembled pop songs because of the weaker copyright laws at the time.  The publishers would then print and sell the sheet music. This process contributed to the change from instrumental to vocal focused music. When people reference Tin Pan Alley they often are referring to songwriters more interested in making money off songs, and not the quality of the music. Eventually the rise of electrical recording, and commercial songwriting led to the demise as sheet music was no longer a primary tool in obtaining music for consumers or producers.