Class of ‘26: The Soundtrack of the Jazz Age
Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, Wheatena was on the breakfast table, and for two cents you could send a first-class letter. The world’s first radio network—NBC—was born that year, and Paul Whiteman reigned as radio’s so-called “King of Jazz.” In literature, Ernest Hemingway, writing in a new American voice, produced his “lost-generation” novel, The Sun Also Rises.
On May 22, 1926 the song “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Anybody Seen My Gal)” recorded by Gene Austin hit #1 on the charts. But Jazz Age record companies weren’t limited to perky pop tunes with silly lyrics. The “race-record” industry churned out hits by female blues singers like Sippie Wallace, Alberta Hunter, and Bessie Smith—the “Empress of the Blues.” In March of 1926 Okeh released Sippie Wallace’s “Jack o Diamonds Blues” along with her “Special Delivery Blues” featuring Louis Armstrong on trumpet and her brother Hersal Thomas on piano.
It’s a Jazz Age “soundtrack” from the Class of ’26, this week on Riverwalk Jazz. Listen on WCVE Public Radio, Saturdays at noon.
Photo courtesy Red Hot Jazz Archive