“James Errington takes a trip back to 1936, with peak swing-era cuts from Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton, haunted delta blues from Robert Johnson and some truly transporting music from Django Reinhardt et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France, avec Stéphane Grappelli. It’s nobody’s favourite year for history, but it’s an incredible one for music.”
Time: 6pm BST, Sunday 28th August 2022 Place: Cambridge 105 Radio
You can listen to the show on 105fm in Cambridge, on DAB digital across South Cambridgeshire, on the Cambridge 105 website here, or on any good radio apps, or (as the show has already finished) you can play the whole extended version on this handy mixcloud player.
At Centuries of Sound I am making mixes for every year of recorded sound. The download here is only for the first half-hour of the mix. For the full 4.5-hour version please come to patreon.com/centuriesofsound for downloads and a host of other bonus materials for just $5 per month. This show would not be possible without my supporters on there, so please consider signing up or sharing this with someone who may be interested.
When The American Federation of Musicians was founded in 1896, the wax cylinder was a novelty item owned by a tiny minority of rich households, radio was still a potential technology for (morse code) communication between neighboring buildings, and sound film was little more than a dream. Musicians were paid for performances, songwriters were paid for (easily pirated) sheet music, and the entire concept of “royalties” for recorded music was un-thought-of, or at least unmentioned.
We have heard some of the changes that took place over the next 45 years, of course. First there was the invention of mechanical royalties, initially for piano rolls, but later for recordings – these were an improvement for songwriters, who from 1907 received a fee of 2 cents every time their composition was duplicated – a rate which would remain the same until 1978. For performers, however, there was only a fee for playing on the session, so even as the recording industry expanded exponentially with the birth of electrical recordings and much cheaper equipment to play them on, a working musician would see no direct financial benefit to a song they had performed on becoming a hit.
When the great depression hit, most of the record companies collapsed and, for those musicians who did not find other employment, live performances and radio became their sole source of income. For some non-songwriters this may have even represented a pay rise – a gig every night meant a reliable paycheck. For band leaders, musicians were now plentiful and affordable. Why not put together a 20-piece jazz orchestra for your radio show? The musicians would be glad to have a steady job, and the audience, who could not afford new records, would be glad to hear them.
But then, of course, things changed again. Slowly, the economy began to recover. Record companies started increasing production. Radio stations, cutting back due to increased costs, started playing more records. And still performers received no royalties.
On August 1st 1942 the AFM, then representing the majority of professional musicians, announced a strike. No music was to be recorded until the record companies would agree terms to pay performance royalties. The strike had been long-anticipated, and a stockpile of records had been built up, so at first there was no noticeable difference – all the best-known artists were still available in stores. Then, as these started to run out, different plans were put into action. Singers (who were generally not members of the AFM) were paired with vocal groups or non-union pianists – this is why 1943 is the first big year for Frank Sinatra. Old records were re-released – for example Sinatra’s pre-fame records with the Harry James Orchestra. The dam had to burst eventually, though, and one by one the record companies agreed terms with the AMA, and recordings gradually began again.
If this strike were the only factor at play in 1943, it would be hard enough to make a full-length music mix, but of course there are further complications. Even before the war began, the economics of running a big band were failing, as star performers were less and less likely to accept minimum wage with the depression over. We will hear plenty of smaller group jazz performances, and their new style (already given the name “be bop”) in future episodes, though sadly I only have sprinklings of this for you here. Many musicians were of age to be drafted into the armed forces, and though they may have had the chance to play music there, it was most likely not recorded. Plastics were needed for war industries, and limits were put on the number of records which could be pressed. Even worse hit was fuel, which was rationed to the point that multi-city musical tours were virtually impossible. It seems like the entire record business was put entirely on hold for the duration of the year.
So what do we have here, then? A four-and-a-half-hour mix without any records? Well, no. With much less to work with, I downloaded a huge radio archive, and spent a fair amount of time getting sounds from films. The songs that do appear are “v-discs” recorded for distribution to soldiers, recordings with minimal or acappella backing, movie soundtracks, a few radio performances, and of course a host of music from other countries, mainly ones which were not participating in the war (I believe that for this reason this may be the most South-American mix I’ve ever made.) More than any other mix so far, this leans heavily into the sound-collage aspect of the project, with large sections free of any music. It was difficult to put this together, but I think it works.
I’ll be putting this mix out in 12 parts on this main feed, but for now the single-mix version will be a Patreon-only exclusive. If you would be so kind as to support this project, you can hear the entire year (or rather the entire 4.5 hours) right now over there.
(Clip from Calvacade of America) (Clip from WAC Recruits Take Oath of Enlistment) (Clip from CBS World News Today) (Clip from Share The Meat) (Clip from Heaven Can Wait) (Clip from Lights Out – Kill) (Clip from Calvacade of America) (Clip from Fibber McGee & Molly) (Clip from It’s That Man Again) 0:01:08 Spike Jones – People Will Say We’re In Love 0:01:23 Lena Horne – Stormy Weather
(Clip from Review of The Year 1943) 0:05:59 Charlie Parker – My Heart Tells Me (Clips from CBS World News Today) (Clip from How To Behave In Britain) 0:09:17 Mildred Bailey – Rockin’ Chair (Clips from CBS World News Today) (Clip from Education for Death – The Making of The Nazi) 0:14:36 Efisio Melis – Fiuda Bagadia (Clips from Education for Death – The Making of The Nazi) (Clip from Shadow of a Doubt) 0:18:47 Oscar Aleman – Tico Tico No Fuba (Clip from Shadow of a Doubt) 0:21:33 Xavier Cugat – Tico Tico (Clip from Shadow of a Doubt) (Clip from Fibber McGee & Molly) (Clip from Screen Guild Players) (Clips from Shadow of a Doubt) (Clip from The More The Merrier) 0:24:13 Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra – The Moose (Clips from Screen Guild Players) 0:26:46 Django Reinhardt Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France – Cavalerie (Clip from Shadow of a Doubt) (Clip from Forever and a Day) (Clip from Lum & Abner) (Clip from Screen Guild Players) (Clip from VOA – Deutschsprachige Nachrichten der Stimme Amerikas) (Clip of Herman Goering) (Clip from CBS World News Today)