Race Music
Billy Vera

How many times have you read books or articles, or seen documentaries that present Black music as little more than an influence on mainstream culture or as a prelude to Rock and Roll? How often is Rhythm & Blues portrayed as merely an engine of social change, as if it had no other reason for being than to incite 50s White teenagers to rebel against established authority? Legendary record producer Jerry Wexler, whose artists include Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and who in 1949 coined the phrase Rhythm & Blues, has said that, "Rhythm & Blues is music made for Black adults." In the highly segregated 1940s and 50s, Race Music existed, and even thrived, in a world all its own, and for its own. The men and women who made this music, and preformed it in all-black theaters and nightclubs, could care less what white teens thought about it. Songs like "Annie Had A Baby," "Big Long Slidin Thing" and "I Got Loaded" were not created to titillate white teens or undermine their morals or offend their parents, the intent was to entertain working class Blacks, not to foment a cultural revolution among White middle class Baby Boomers. Race Music will take the reader inside the insular world of this music and introduce us to the musicians, singers, songwriters and entrepreneurs who wrote it, performed it and sold it. This book will dispel many of the myths that have arisen over the years. For example, the condescending myth that Black musicians and entertainers were nothing more than ignorant victims and pawns in the hands of predatory White--often Jewish--businessmen. We will introduce the reader to proud, educated Black men like Henry Glover, whose great success as a record executive, producer, songwriter and publisher has rarely, if ever, been told. We will meet musicians who, contrary to prevailing opinion, were college educated members of the community, as opposed to the cultivated, and often contrived, thuggish image of today's gangsta' rappers. Drawing on the abundant music memorabilia archives of Rico Tee, this book will be richly illustrated with rare and unseen photos, record labels, and other memorabilia from his extensive collection. The story of Race Music takes us from its origins in the South and reveals how the music evolved. As black people emigrated north and west, the music offered them a taste of home, while evolving and changing to fit the times. The book will portray will how the many outside influences the music makers encountered along the way added fresh color to the blues and jazz already being performed. The influences from many diverse cultures provided a musical cross pollination, as Race Music stars like Wynonie Harris recorded hillbilly tunes like Hank Penny's "Bloodshot Eyes" or the Ravens performed the Ray Anthony pop hit, "Count Every Star." The stories will take the reader north, where southern jazz and the blues imbued big band music with its swing in dance halls like Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. It was here that new dances were born and competition fro the audience was stiff, both between the bands and among the dancers themselves. As the specter of World War II emerged, wartime shortages and travel restrictions, along with the draft decimated the big bands, and caused musicians to make do in smaller combos, like that of Louis Jordan, the main purveyor of the jump style. Workers from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana traveled west during the War in search of factory work, and music and entertainment followed with stars like T-Bone Walker and Lionel Hampton. In Los Angeles, a new type of combo, patterned after the King Cole Trio, came to prominence. In Chicago, a grittier style, reflecting the tastes of blacks from the Deep South, was provided by performers like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Elmore James. At the same time, the Windy City begat more sophisticated stars like Dinah Washington, one of the first to include a gospel feel into her presentation.