March 8, 2016

Blues and Rhythm Show 220 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, March 8th (1:00 to 2:30pm)

This year, March 8th falls on a Tuesday. We try to devote a show to International Women’s Day each year. Up to this year, we’ve surveyed blues, R&B, gospel and soul on each of our IWD programs. This year, we thought to devote the entire show to women in R&B but we were diverted into starting the show with a survey of the late thirties, when there was a revival of the record companies’ interest in female performers and a bit of a surge in recording. These pre-war recordings are often treated as a footnote to the real history of the blues and we thought we’d present a sort of counter-argument by surveying these 1930s recordings before getting into the early figures in women’s R&B. As a result, straddling two eras, with World War II and the first American Federation of Musicians recording ban of 1942-1944 serving as dividers, our survey of women’s blues and R&B takes us only from 1935 to 1947.  As with male performers, not many of the singers in the pre-war group of recording artists made records in the R&B era but R&B wasn’t a completely different music. There were many continuities.  We see blues and classic R&B as one tradition and we treat them that way on the program week to week.

Dinah Washington - Salty Papa Blues / I Know How to Do It - album cover                                 Savoy-565-miss-rhapsody-before-judgement-day-sisters-under-the-skin-e-e_4105585                             ,Complete Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Vol. 1: 1938-1943

As to the content of the songs, we mostly let them speak for themselves. Is there a feminist thread to women’s blues and R&B? Sometimes there is.  Often there isn’t. Is the full range of women’s experience reflected in blues and R&B by female singers? Since the great majority of songs are about relationships, love and the absence of love, we’d have to say no, but other concerns aren’t absent altogether. In any case, IWD, gives us the opportunity to present the story within the story and correct for the imbalance in men’s and women’s recordings after the classic or vaudeville era of blues, if only one time a year.  The vast majority of records in blues and R&B after the classic era were made by men. The record industry was run by men and it was almost always men who decided who got to record and what songs they recorded. In addition, it was men who wrote most of the songs women recorded, even in the classic era.

On the Show:

Christine Chatman – Georgia White – The Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) – Rosetta Crawford – Ida Cox – Dinah Washington – Miss Rhapsody – The Blues Woman – Ella Johnson – Gladys Bentley – Betty Hall Jones – and others

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until April 4th.

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Contact Us:

To reach us with comments or queries, write us at sweartotellthetruth@gmail.com.

You can also follow the program at sweartotellthetruth@nosignifying on Twitter.

Next week (March 15th)



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