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R is for Recordings (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)


“The first sensational music novelty of 1917. The jazz band is the latest craze that’s sweeping the nation like a musical thunderstorm and is giving modern dance new life and new thrill.”

This is how the New York Time saluted the first jazz record.

Music had been recorded since the late 1800s, mostly on cylinders. In the Twenties, a great revolution happened: the acoustic recording process was replaced by the electronic process, which allowed a much better recording of sound and a much larger production, since stamping up discs was easier than stamping up cylinders.

This happened at the same time jazz music became popular, so it should be no surprise the two came together and produced fantastic results.
And the band who recorded the first record in history labelled as jazz?
It was the Original Dixieland Jass Band, five white kids originally from New Orleans, where they play jazz in Papa Jack Laine’s integrated marching band – though they didn’t play together at that time. As so many others, they came north during the Great Migration and ended up in New York.


On February 26, 1917, they reached a building on West 38th St. between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, boarded the freight elevator and rode to the 12th floor, where the Victor Talking Machine Company had just leased space for their new recording studio.
They recorded two tracks, Livery Stable Blues and Dixie Jass Bland One-Step on the flip side. They sold one million copies of that first recording.

So the first kind of jazz that became widely popular was the tamed kind played by white jazz musicians. For a long time, white jazz and black jazz remained two different and distinct things on records as well as in nightclubs. Many independent recording companies that flourished in the Twenties produced jazz record for the wide audience and what was called ‘race records’ just for the African American communities, where these records were crazily popular.

The ODJB’s recording is the first one ever labelled specifically ‘jazz’, but other songs were recorded around the same time that, although recognizably jazz, weren’t labelled as such. And apparently, black New Orleans bandleader Freddie Keppard turned down a recording offer from Victor in 1916 on the base that he wouldn’t “put off stuff on records for everybody to steal.”

The first important collection of jazz recordings was put on disc by King Oliver’s Original Creole Band in 1923.


Jazz Standards – Jazz History in Standard Time (1920s)
Music Record Industry – 1900s-1920s
JazzWax – Jazz First Record Turned 95
Riverwalk Jazz – A Tribute to the Original Dixieland Jass Band
The Guardian – The first jazz recording
CW Hawes – The Wonderful Machine’s Age – His Master’s Voice

Ogren, Kathy J., The Jazz Revolution. Twenties America and the Meaning of Jazz. Oxford University Press, New York, 1989

Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002

ROARING TWENTIES AtoZ - Recordings - Advanced in recording thechniques and the propagation of radio made music readily available in the 1920s. That was a factor is the great popularity of jazz


  • Mee Magnum
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 04:12

    Amazing how far we’ve come so quickly! And it’s incomprehensible what this new phenomenon must have been to that generation!

    –Mee (The Chinese Quest)

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 16:32

      It must have been quite shocking. In the Twenties, so much changed so fast and at the same time.
      Sounds kind of familiar 😉

  • Sara C. Snider
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 05:55

    Fascinating! I imagine elderly ladies clutching their pearls in horror over this new development. 😉

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 16:38

      Jazz music caused quite a bit of shock in the Twenties. Some places banned that kind of music. Sounds crazy today.

  • Tasha
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 09:25

    Sounds like not everyone was pleased with the new medium. Many records today wish they could sell a million copies 🙂
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 16:39

      I couldn’t belive the figures when I saw them!

  • Anabel Marsh
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 10:17

    The guy that wouldn’t put his music on record – change is always hard! Still happens – look how long it took record companies to come to terms with downloads. If they have yet. Great track, by the way.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 16:40

      Change is Always scary, isn’t it? Even when it’s good in the end.

  • Roland Clarke
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 13:31

    Catching up on your posts and grinning as I listen and read.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 19:51

      Hi Roland, happy to see you around 🙂
      I like listening to early jazz, it’s kind of fun.

  • Tarkabarka
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 13:40

    Interesting! I didn’t know this. We learned some about recording history because there was a strong movement in Hungary of folklorists recording folk music…

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 16:59

      That’s so nice too, recording folk songs. It’s like preserving folk tales 🙂

  • S. L. Hennessy
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 15:48

    I love that Jazzy, 20’s sound!

    Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 17:01

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m enjoying the challange a lot… in spite of all the work it requires. I’m having great fun and meeting a lot of great people. Who can ask for more? 🙂

  • Elizabeth Mueller
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 21:54

    Fascinating! I did not know that. Thanks! 🙂

    Elizabeth Mueller
    AtoZ 2015
    My Little Pony

    • Post Author
      Posted April 22, 2015 at 14:32

      I find the history of recordings quite fascinating. But then, I often find social history fascinating. I like learing of people’s everyday life 🙂

  • Jeri Burns
    Posted April 22, 2015 at 03:41

    When you think of the one recording and a million “views” back then…my mind is breaking. I wouldn’t have guessed that the infrastructure for such massive distribution would have existed back then.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 22, 2015 at 14:34

      I was very surprised of those figures as well. But you also have to think these were the first commercial recordings ever done to an affordable price. There wasn’t much competition back then.
      And as I understand it, recordings were extremely popular even among less affluent classes. It was indeed a revolution.

  • Sabina
    Posted April 22, 2015 at 14:21

    Listening to ODJB vs. black jazz is such an interesting contrast. It’s got a completely different feel.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 22, 2015 at 14:26

      That’s true.
      Personally, I prefer black jazz 🙂

  • Sue Archer
    Posted April 27, 2015 at 00:28

    I love anything with a syncopated rhythm. I find it so wonderful that today we can listen to music that was recorded a long time ago – we have so much to choose from!

    • Post Author
      Posted April 27, 2015 at 05:27

      And we can listen to the talent of so many artist we’ll never meet. It’s awesome 🙂

  • eddy
    Posted May 22, 2021 at 18:22

    Amazing!! Love jazzy 20’s sound!!!

  • james
    Posted September 9, 2021 at 12:02

    That’s a great article. thanks for sharing

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