The Swing Era

The swing era was the period of time (1935–1946) when big band swing music was the most popular music in the United States. Though the music had been around since the late 1920s and early 1930s, being played by black bands led by such artists as Duke EllingtonJimmie LuncefordBenny MotenElla FitzgeraldCab CallowayLouis Armstrong andFletcher Henderson, most historians believe that the Swing Era started with Benny Goodman‘s performance at the Palomar Ballroom on August 21, 1935, bringing the music to the rest of the country.

Benny Goodman

The Swing Era was precipitated by spicing up familiar commercial, popular material with a Harlem oriented flavour and selling it via a white band for a white musical/commercial audience.

Glenn Miller

Other musicians who rose during this time include Jimmy Dorsey, his brother Tommy DorseyBillie HolidayGlenn MillerCount Basie and Goodman’s future rival Artie Shaw. Several factors led to the demise of the Swing Era: the recording ban from August 1942 to November 1944 (The union that most jazz musicians belong to told its members not to record until the record companies agreed to pay them each time their music was played on the radio), the earlier ban of ASCAP songs from radio stations, World War II which made it harder for bands to travel around as well as the “cabaret tax”, which was as high as 20%, the change in music taste and the rise of bebop. Though Ellington and Basie were able to keep their bands together (the latter did briefly downsize his band; from 1950-1952), by the end of 1946, most of their competitors were forced to disband, bringing the Swing Era to a close.

Count Basie

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