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1920s Jazz Women

Because the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act did not make it illegal to drink alcohol, only to manufacture and sell it, many people stockpiled liquor before the ban went into effect. Rumor had it that the Yale Club in New York City had a 14-year supply of booze in its basement.

Classic female blues was an early form of blues music , popular in the 1920s. An amalgam of traditional folk blues and urban theater music, the style is also known as vaudeville blues . Classic blues were performed by female singers accompanied by pianists or small jazz ensembles and were the first blues to be recorded. Ma Rainey , Bessie Smith , Ethel Waters , and the other singers in this genre were instrumental in spreading the popularity of the blues.

In this Night Lights show we’ll look at some jazz women of the 1940s, a decade when the cultural upheaval of World War II created more opportunities for female jazz artists, as the ranks of male musicians were depleted by the draft, and band leaders and nightclub owners were forced to expand their employment horizons. Featured artists include pianist and composer-arranger Mary Lou Williams , trumpeter Billie Rogers , vibraphonist Marjorie Hyams , the International Sweethearts of Rhythm big band, and pianists Hazel Scott and Beryl Booker .

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