Jazz Research Journal, Vol 7, No 1 (2013)

‘We’ve got a gig in Poland!’: Britain and jazz in World War II

Will Studdert
Issued Date: 7 Oct 2014

Abstract


This article explores the role of jazz music in Britain in World War II, and examines the demand for jazz in the forces and among the civilian population. It considers the fractious Melody Maker–BBC relationship, the hedonistic underworld of so-called ‘Harlem in London’, and the creation of an entertainment-oriented BBC Forces’ Programme, which provided an outlet for Charles Chilton’s pioneering ‘Radio Rhythm Club’. It argues that the British public was in fact far more receptive to Nazi propaganda themes than is commonly considered to be the case, and that the success (and potential for success) of William Joyce’s ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ broadcasts gave added impetus to the need to provide acceptable entertainment on the BBC. In questioning the ‘People’s War’ discourse regarding national unity, issues of race and alleged British exceptionalism through the prism of jazz culture, the article intends to advance understanding of the complex wartime conditions which accelerated the progress of authentic jazz into mainstream British culture and broadcasting.

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DOI: 10.1558/jazz.v7i1.79

References


Primary Texts
BBC WAC (1942) R27/73/1. File I (of 2), General Dance Music Policy 1941–42. Draft document dated 6 March.
BBC WAC (1943a) R44/342. Publicity—Newspapers: Melody Maker. Dance Music Supervisor to Director of Publicity, re: ‘Publicity for Ivy Benson’, 6 February.
BBC WAC (1943b) R27/73/2. File 2 (of 2), General Dance Music Policy 1943–44. Listener Research Report, May 1943, p. 3.
BBC WAC (1943c) R44/342. Publicity—Newspapers: Melody Maker. Charles Chilton to Spike Hughes, cc. Gramophone Director, 12 May.
BBC WAC (undated) R44/342. Publicity—Newspapers: Melody Maker . Typed copy of Melody Maker article, ‘“Detector” Interviews the B.B.C. on Its Anti-Slush Campaign’.
Bundesarchiv, Berlin (1941) R55/695 (Microfiche 2). Protokoll der Arbeitstagung—Abteilungsleiter Musik des Großdeutschen Rundfunks [Protocol of the Meeting of the Directors of Greater German Radio], 2/3 October.
DownBeat, 1 August 1940. ‘British Truck While Nazis Drop Bombs’.
DownBeat, 1 March 1942, p. 2, ‘Parry Changes Men in Rhythm Sextet’.
Hansard (1940a) House of Commons debate, 18 March, re: ‘Bottle Parties’. Hansard. Web (accessed 6 January 2014).
Hansard (1940b) House of Commons debate, 4 April, re: ‘Bottle Parties’. Hansard. Web (accessed 3 September 2013).
Hansard (1940c) House of Commons debate, 2 May, re: ‘Bottle Parties’. Hansard. Web (accessed 6 January 2014).
Hansard (1940d) House of Commons debate, 27 June, re: ‘Bottle Parties’. Hansard. Web (accessed 6 January 2014).
Listener, The (1940) ‘On Programmes and Patriotism’, 4 July, p. 10.
Mass Observation (1939a). D 5010. Diary for October 1939 (includes undated cuttings from The Times and Radio Times), pp. 33–5. Mass Observation Online.
Mass Observation (1939b) Mass Observation Online. ‘File Report 11 A—Jazz and Dancing’, November 1939. Mass Observation Online.
Mass Observation (1940) Mass Observation Online. Diarist No. 5296, 16 January. Mass Observation Online.
Melody Maker, 2 September 1939, p. 1, ‘Crisis Consequences, A Jazz Accompaniment to the March of Time’.
Melody Maker, 9 September 1939, p. 1, ‘Your Job Now: Musicians in Civilian Defence Worth Their Weight in Gold’, by Dan S. Ingman.
Melody Maker, 9 September 1939, p. 1, ‘Our Job Now! “M.M.” And “Rhythm” Merge into One War-time Monthly’, by Mathison Brooks.
Melody Maker, 9 September 1939, p. 1, ‘Billy Plonkit and His Band’, Bernard Greenbaum after the style of Dick Empsom.
Melody Maker, 9 September 1939, p. 2, ‘Wartime Broadcasting: Commercial Programmes Off; BBC Rises to Occasion’, by ‘Detector’.
Melody Maker, 9 September 1939, p. 3, ‘Television Orchestra Breaks Up’.
Melody Maker, 9 September 1939, p. 3, ‘War Wit’.
Melody Maker, October 1939, p. 6, ‘B.B.C. Defends Its Great Wartime Flop: “M.M” Special Investigator on the Spot’, by ‘Special Investigator’.
Melody Maker, October 1939, p. 6, ‘“Detector” Reviews Our Wartime Radio To-Date’, by ‘Detector’.
Melody Maker, October 1939, p. 6, ‘The “M.M.” Asks the B.B.C. …’.
Melody Maker, October 1939, p. 13, ‘Keep the Swing Flag Flying: Because Men Get into Khaki, It Doesn’t Mean That They Forget That They Are Rhythm Fans’, by B. M. Lytton-Edwards.
Melody Maker, October 1939, p. 13, ‘Rhythm Club Carries On’.
Melody Maker, 29 January 1940, p. 1, ‘Lew Stone Leaves El Morocco’.
Melody Maker, 3 February 1940, p. 1, ‘Sydney Kyte for El Morocco: Jack Harris Leaves’.
Melody Maker, 24 February 1940, p. 3. ‘What I Saw in France’, by Joe Loss,
Melody Maker, 2 March 1940, ‘“Trumps” Doyle Takes Over at El Morocco’.
Melody Maker, May 1940, ‘B.B.C. Launching Radio Rhythm Club’.
Melody Maker, 3 August 1940, p. 1, ‘Closed Bottle Parties Will Appeal’.
Melody Maker, 19 October 1940, p. 7, ‘Radio Rhythm Club Gets Own Band’.
Melody Maker, 16 November 1940, p. 4, ‘Grass Skirt Swing: Is British Dance Music Trend’, by Felix Mendelssohn.
Melody Maker, 21 December 1940, p. 15, ‘A Musician Braves the Blitz’, by Harry Parry.
Melody Maker, 28 December 1940, p. 2, ‘This Year of Swing Blitz—1940’, by Bill Elliott.
Melody Maker, 5 April 1941, pp. 6–7, ‘Harlemese as She Is Spoke’.
Melody Maker, 31 January 1942, p. 2, ‘Watford’s Jive Night’.
Melody Maker, 23 January 1943, p. 5, ‘No Orchids for Miss Benson’, by ‘Detector’.
Melody Maker, 6 March 1943, ‘Radio Rhythm Ration Slashed’.
Melody Maker, 3 April 1943, ‘Geraldo Swing Club Invitation’.
Melody Maker, 19 May 1945, p. 3, ‘Dance Band History of the War’, by Rex Pardoe.
Metropolitan Police (1937) NA MEPOL 2/4501. El Morocco Bottle Party Execution of a Warrant, 15 November.
Metropolitan Police (1939a) NA MEPOL 2/4501 Advertising for Christmas Holiday Festivities 1939.
Metropolitan Police (1939b) NA MEPOL 2/4501 El Morocco Advertising Card.
Metropolitan Police (1939c) NA MEPOL 2/4501 El Morocco Bottle Party (handwritten note ‘4A’). Undated report on visits to the El Morocco on 18 and 19 December.
Metropolitan Police (1940a) NA MEPOL 2/4501. [London] Evening Standard, ‘Harlem London’ by Ian Coster, 2 January (cutting).
Metropolitan Police (1940b) NA MEPOL 2/4501. Metropolitan Police Statement of Witness, Vine Street Police Station, ‘C’ Division, 13 January, PC 509 John Lynch.
Metropolitan Police (1940c) NA MEPOL 2/4501. Unsigned note to Norman Brook, Home Office, 8 April.
Metropolitan Police (1940d) NA MEPOL 2/4501. Handwritten, unsigned, undated note re: El Morocco bottle party (‘received’ date: 19 April 1940).
NARA (1942) RG 306, Box 235. General Records of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), Office of War Information. Comment and Criticism, 1942–45. Elmer Davis, 1942–45. ‘Davis Says Petrillo Harms War Program’. United Press newspaper cutting, 17 September.
NARA (1943) RG208, Box 6. Records of the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of the Director and Predecessor Agencies, File: Programs—10. Radio 1943, Lieutenant Sherwood M. Snyder to FCC (c/o AACS Radio Station, New York), 29 May.
Perowne, Leslie. 1941a. BBC WAC R44/342. Publicity—Newspapers: Melody Maker. Internal Circulating Memo. Perowne to D.P.A., 15 August.
Perowne, Leslie. 1941b. BBC WAC R44/342. Publicity—Newspapers: Melody Maker. Internal Circulating Memo. Perowne to D.P.A, 11 September.
Steavenson, W. H. (1939) ‘All the Better for the Blackout’. The Listener, 19 October.
The Times (1939a) ‘In Germany Today: War by Wireless’, 28 December. The Times Online (accessed 5 January 2014).
The Times (1939b) ‘B.B.C. Programmes for the Forces: Light Entertainment Every Evening’, 28 December. The Times Online (accessed 5 January 2014).
The Times (1940) ‘Programmes for the Forces: B.B.C. Entertainment 63 Hours Weekly’, 15 February. The Times Digital Archive. Web (accessed 19 August 2013).
The Times (1942a) ‘Stoll Theatre’, 11 March. The Times Digital Archive. Web (accessed 20 August 2013).
The Times (1942b) ‘Stoll Theatre’, 24 June. The Times Digital Archive. Web (accessed 21 August 2013).
Secondary Texts
Baade, Christina (2008) ‘The Battle of the Saxes: Gender, Dance Bands, and British Nationalism in the Second World War’. In Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies, ed. Nichole T. Rustin and Sherrie Tucker, 90–118. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
——(2012) Victory Through Harmony: The BBC and Popular Music in World War II. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bergmeier, H. J. P., and E. L. Rainer (1997) Hitler’s Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Briggs, Asa (1970) The War of Words. New York: Oxford University Press.
Calder, Angus (1971) The People’s War. London: Panther.
——(1991) The Myth of the Blitz. London: Jonathan Cape.
Chilton, Charles (2011) Auntie’s Charlie. London: Fantom Publishing.
Colin, Sid (1977) And the Bands Played On. London: Elm Tree.
Delmer, Sefton (1962) Black Boomerang. London: Secker and Warburg.
Doherty, M. A. (2000) Nazi Wireless Propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British Public Opinion in the Second World War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Fröhlich, Elke, ed. (1993) Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II Band VII. 1.1.1940–8.7.1941. Munich: K. G. Sauer.
Godbolt, Jim (2005) A History of Jazz in Britain 1919–50. London: Northway Publications.
Hughes, Spike (1951) Second Movement. London: Museum Press.
Kater, Michael H. (1992) Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Newton, Francis [Eric Hobsbawm] (1961) The Jazz Scene. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Scott, Derek B. (2003) From the Erotic to the Demonic: On Critical Musicology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151961.001.0001
Shack, William A. (2001) Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520225374.001.0001
Shirer, William L. 1999. This Is Berlin: Reporting from Nazi Germany 1938–40. London: Random House.
Starr, S. Frederick (1994) Red & Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union. New York: Limelight Editions.
Tackley, Catherine (2012) Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Articles
Baade, Christina (2006) ‘“The Dancing Front”: Dance Music, Dancing, and the BBC in World War II’. Popular Music 25/3: 347–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0261143006000973
Cerf, Walter (1942) ‘Freedom of Instruction in Wartime’. Public Opinion Quarterly 6/4 (Winter): 576–87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/265577
Durant, Henry, and Ruth Durant (1940) ‘Lord Haw-Haw of Hamburg: His British Audience’. Public Opinion Quarterly 4/3: 443–50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/265423
Garton Ash, Timothy (2001) ‘Is Britain European?’ International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944–) 77/1 (January): 1–13.
Heathorn, Stephen (2005) ‘The Mnemonic Turn in the Cultural Historiography of Britain’s Great War’. Historical Journal 48/4: 1103–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X05004930
John, Eckhard (2005/6) ‘“Es geht alles vorüber, es geht alles vorbei”. Geschichte’ eines “Durchhalteschlagers”’. Lied und populäre Kultur/Song and Popular Culture 50/51: 163–222.
McKay, George (2003) ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee: New Orleans-style Jazz and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1950s Britain’. Popular Music 22/3 (October): 261–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0261143003003180
Monson, Ingrid (1995) ‘The Problem with White Hipness: Race, Gender, and Cultural Conceptions in Jazz Historical Discourse’. Journal of the American Musicological Society 48/3 (Autumn): 396–422. JSTOR. Web (accessed 15 January 2014).
Powell, Peter W. G. (2013a) ‘First English Public Jam Session 1941’. Unpublished MS. (Subsequently published in Jazz Journal, May 2013.)
Stevenson, Patric (1941) ‘A Musician in the Ranks’. Musical Times 82/1182: 291–3. JSTOR. Web (accessed 1 June 2012).
Strauss, David (1965) ‘French Critics and American Jazz’. American Quarterly 17/3: 582–7. JSTOR. Web (accessed 15 November 2012).
Studdert, Will (2013) ‘“The Death of Music”: The Nazis’ Relationship with Jazz in World War II’. Skepsi 5/2: 26–39.
Tackley, Catherine (in press) ‘Race, Identity and the Meaning of Jazz in Post-Second World War Britain’. In Black Music in Post-Second World War Britain, ed. Jon Stratton and Nabeel Zuberi. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
Wilmer, Val (1999) ‘Harlem Nights in Deepest Mayfair’. Guardian 17 February. Web (accessed 1 May 2013).
Interviews
Charles Chilton, interview with Jim Godbolt, West Hampstead, 29 June 1989. Available in British Library Sounds, ‘An Oral History of Jazz in Britain’.
Charles and Penny Chilton, interview with the author and Olya Lyubchenko, West Hampstead, 15 June 2012.
CTASC (Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University, Toronto), Michael H. Kater Fonds (Fonds #456), 2006-030/003, Protocol of interview between Michael H. Kater and Georg Haentzschel, Cologne-Mulheim, 1 October 1988.
Correspondence
JZD, Hans Blüthner papers. Hans Blüthner to Horst J. P. Bergmeier, 18 January 1984.
Powell 2013b. Peter W. G. Powell to the author, letter dated 4 February 2013.
Powell 2013c. Peter W. G. Powell to the author, e-mail dated 3 September 2013.
Discography
Swing Under The Nazis (The Clandestine Recordings Of The Frankfurt Hot Club; 1941–1944). 1986. Harlequin, Vinyl disc HQ 2051.

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