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Glimpses of the Future

In the Knott’s record collection, records featuring soloists outnumber those featuring bandleaders after about 1943. The big bands were a casualty of war. Rationing limited touring and wartime mobilization did the rest.  The remaining musicians were left scrambling.   Popular music’s future can occasionally be heard on the newest recordings in the Knott’s record collection.

For example, Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters adopted vernacular lyrics and an upbeat rhythm on this 1944 arrangement of Louis Jordon’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”. Known then as jump blues, this style informed rhythm and blues and eventually rock and roll.

Artie Shaw was a big band leader with a string of hits when he turned to combos. The Gramercy Five, drawn from his big band, are featured on this record from 1945:

On Side A “The Grabtown Grapple” resembles bebop jazz more than it resembles 1940’s popular music. The record’s label describes it as a ‘Romp Stomp.’ The name “The Grabtown Grapple” was Shaw’s nod to his girlfriend at the time, Lana Turner whose hometown was Grabtown North Carolina.

On the flip side, “The Sad Sack” is identified on the label as a blues, the only such designation in the Knott’s collection. It follows a jazz combo style with each member improvising a solo:

The passing of the big bands revealed new musical niches but no one anticipated the impact youth culture would soon have on recorded music. Neither Artie Shaw nor Bing Crosby would ever be cool.


Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters  (1944)

A: Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby

Artie Shaw and His Gramercy Five (1945)

A: Grabtown Grapple

B: The Sad Sack