History of Music 1900-1950s


Early 1900's

1899 - 1909

In the late 1890's and early 1900's, the average worker earned 22 cents an hour. Sheet music back then was very expensive and may have been as much as two dollars. After 1900, cheaper ways were found to buy sheet music and along came the 25 cent song sheet. In 1899, Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" became the first Ragtime composition to become a sheet music best seller. This made Ragtime music a big noise in American music. Thanks to Edison, the phonograph started growing in popularity and Louis Glass installed the first coin operated one. Here is a video of some Scott Joplin called Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer.

In 1903, "Walker and William in Dahomey" becomes the first African American Broadway production. In 1905, Harvard University granted the first PhD in music which was a big step in history because this meant that most other universities would continue to do the same.

Jazz (1910's)

1910 - 1920

Jazz music began in the early 1900's. It was originated from the blues music and ragtime music from the late 1800's. This specific kind of genre is normally played by African Americans but, now in 2018, many different kinds of people play jazz music. Jazz spread to dance halls, marching bands and was even popular on the radio. Nowadays, many local bars have jazz bands/groups that perform. In 1915, Jelly Morton composed "Jelly Roll Blues," and became known as the first jazz composer. In 1917, the first jazz recordings in history were made. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band caused a huge sensation at the New York night club and Columbia invited the band to record two numbers but they decided not to release them. Here is one of their hits; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WojNaU4-kI

Broadway (1920's)

1920 - 1929

World War 1 was from 1914-1918 and once the war was over there was a big roar in music. There was a huge rise in the popularity of musical culture, broadway, and breaking old traditions. During this time Chicago also became known as the jazz capital. The 1920's were Broadways prime years. It really began to boom and became well known, and it even became to bring in a lot of money. People would pay $3.50 a seat. Broadway also changed the way for the film industry. Composers such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin had a lot of their work turned into musical films.


Folk and Swing (1930's)

1930 - 1939

Folk music can be about all sorts of subjects. During the 1930's most of the topics that were talked about or better yet sung about were, war, work, economy, human and civil rights, love songs etc... Folk music was listened all over the world and it is still is to this day. Songs were brought from people who were mainly immigrating from Europe, Africa, or Asia to American and Canada. I know that in my Serbian heritage folk music is still very popular to listen to. During the Great Depression, American experienced a folk revival. Pressure was placed onto the growing recording industry to generate profit, inspired artists began to replicate famous folk songs. Woody Guthrie was a very popular folk artist during this time.

Also during this time swing dance was being introduced. The Swing era lasted only about ten years. Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra were just a few of the very talented swing musicians back in the day.
Sing Sing Sing by Benny Goodman; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2S1I_ien6A
By 1939, 25000 jukeboxes in operation and were said to responsible for the sale of 13 million records a year.
Many of the artists mentioned above were swing-jazz artists. Swing music is a sub genre of jazz because it is much easier to dance to and that is why it gained a lot of popularity. When WW2 struck, swing music hit a huge decline because it was hard to have bands and venues during a war.

Pop (1940's)

1940 - 1949

In 1941, the first commercial FM radio station went on air in Nashville. The first gold record was an idea which would award performs a gold record for a big selling performance dates back in 1942. During a radio broadcast, band leader Glenn Miller was given the first gold record for his million selling hit "Chattanooga Choo Choo"
In 1958, Perry Como's single "Catch a Falling Star" also received a gold record.

In pop, the song is the key. The singer is the focal point in the song however, pop music differs much from jazz or folk. The singer is the leader in pop music as well as rock music. Frank Sinatra (one of my personal favourites) was one of the most popular pop artists of the 20th century, having sold over 150 million records worldwide. Some of his songs;

His daughter Nancy, also has some very well known songs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5Xl0Qry-hA (I listen to this one always)

R&B (1950's)

1950 - 1959

R&B is an abbreviation for rhythm and blues. It is a popular genre of African-American such that originated in the 1940's. The blues or R&B was growing in popularity during the 1950s-1970s. The band consist of piano, one or more guitars, bass, drums, saxophone, and backup vocalists. During this time, R&B music was about African-American experience of pain as well as the quest for freedom and joy. Many other themes were relationships, economics, aspirations, and sex. Many well known R&B artists are Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Ben E. King, and The Drifters.


Music in the 1930's. Accessed February 20, 2018. http://www.ecusd7.org/columbus/columbusstaff/rcanada/09kids/grant/musicinthe1930s.htm.
"1920s Music: Jazz Was America's Gift To the Musical World." 1920s Music: Jazz in the Roaring Twenties. Accessed February 20, 2018. http://www.1920s-fashion-and-music.com/1920s-music.html.
"Southern Music Network - Jazz, Blues, Country, Gospel, Rock n Roll, Rhythm & Blues Artist, Producers, Music Videos, Landmarks, Timeline, MP3s, Videos, History." Southern Music Network - Jazz, Blues, Country, Gospel, Rock n Roll, Rhythm & Blues Artist, Producers, Music Videos, Landmarks, Timeline, MP3s, Videos, History. Accessed February 20, 2018. http://www.southernmusic.net/.
The People History -- Steve Pearson. "Music Played in the 1950s Popular Music From the 50s." 1950s Music played in the 50s Bands groups singers from The People History. Accessed February 20, 2018. http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/50smusic.html.