Friday, March 20, 2009

Take-off: American All-Girl Bands During WWII

Take-off: American All-Girl Bands During WWII by Tonya Bolden
The 1940's was a time when society thought it improper for women to make a sax wail or let loose hot licks on skins, but with the advent of World War II and many men away fighting the war, women finally got their chance to strut their stuff on the bandstand. These all-girl bands kept morale high on the homefront and on USO tours of miltary bases across the globe while also helping to establish America's legacy in jazz music.

1 comment:

Kirkus Reviews said...

...In the argot of the times, Bolden offers a fascinating study of the girl bands of the Swing era during WWII. So these gals are chicks and fems, the orchestra is "ork" and "the average weekly salary about fifty bucks." She focuses on three: Ada Leonard's, the Prairie View State College Co-eds and the Sweethearts of Rhythm. She opens with a nifty page of quotes from musicians trying to define "swing"-"free speech in music," said Benny Goodman. She continues with stories, as much as possible in their own words, of women touring under wartime conditions, playing for USO shows and dressing in those fluffy gowns in train-station restrooms. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a black band, even had some white members who wore darker makeup and endured the Jim Crow conditions of their bandmates. After the war, big bands fell out of fashion and very few of the gals were interviewed or recorded, but "chicks with a pen and a lens" began tracking their histories in the late 20th century. Fascinating stuff.