WUMB November Program Guide

The “Big Bang” of Western Swing

So much of the music we know and love dates back to the 1920’s.  Why?  That was the dawn of radio and recorded music!  Not that there wasn’t great music before that but it really went national at that time.  (Aside: I think that YouTube has had a similar impact on music in the 2000’s, but that’s a theme for another DJ.)  So there were all these great musicians making all this great new music, jazz!  Swing!  And the advent of the microphone and amplifier allowed the transition from the Vaudeville hoofers and belters to the smoother dancers and crooners.  The depression was another huge wild card as these great musicians looked for work, and often played great hillbilly music, or at least what was to become known as hillbilly music.  I think a lot of the players still would have self-identified as jazz musicians, and they were.

So what made it “Western” swing?  Well, the fiddle was king, that’s a biggie.  The steel guitar was inimical to the western sound, that’s a guitar that lays in your lap and is played with a steel bar.  Even the tenor banjo bridged the gap; it was a remnant of the days when the instruments had to be loud to be heard, and it phased out as the electric guitar phased in in the 1930’s and 40’s.   So we’ll play with this theme on July 7th… and all this same stuff will (as always) be smattered about the other Saturday night programs through the month.  Vintage blues, bluegrass, old-time country, Country & Western, Western Swing, Honky Tonk, Rockabilly, Truck Driving, and Drinking songs.  More or less.

This month I’ve been working hard to come up with interesting playlists, slicing and dicing my collection in ever different ways.  So there’ll be clumps of old-time country, but long stretches of 30’s and 40’s western swing and C&W, too.  Not as much bluegrass, for no particular reason, we’ll get back to that come August, I promise! I’ve slid in a few from “Finest Kind”, semi-defunct Canadian vocal trio that has really tickled me ever since I saw them at the Mystic Seaport “Music of the Sea” festival some years back.  I’m including some extra Doc Watson, even one he did with Michelle Shocked (shocking!) that you are sure to enjoy!  I’ve also included some from Gal Holiday, a modern-day New Orleans chanteuse with a serious honky-tonk sensibility.   She gives fresh life to some Webb Pierce stuff for sure.  Lots of women singers this month, too, including Wanda Jackson, Texas Ruby, Maybelle Carter, Ginny Hawker, Yvette Landry, Norma Jean (the pre-cursor to Dolly in Porter Waggoner’s band… and she can still sing!)

Fun stuff!  I guarantee it.  Got comments?  Requests?  Write to me!  jon.gersh@umb.edu.

See you?

~ Jon


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