Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s
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The forgotten history of the "all-girl" big bands of the World War II era takes center stage in Sherrie Tucker's Swing Shift. American demand for swing skyrocketed with the onslaught of war as millions-isolated from loved ones-sought diversion, comfort, and social contact through music and dance. Although all-female jazz and dance bands had existed since the 1920s, now hundreds of such groups, both African American and white, barnstormed ballrooms, theaters, dance halls, military installations, and makeshift USO stages on the home front and abroad.
Filled with firsthand accounts of more than a hundred women who performed during this era and complemented by thorough-and eye-opening-archival research, Swing Shift not only offers a history of this significant aspect of American society and culture but also examines how and why whole bands of dedicated and talented women musicians were dropped from-or never inducted into-our national memory. Tucker's nuanced presentation reveals who these remarkable women were, where and when they began to play music, and how they navigated a sometimes wild and bumpy road-including their experiences with gas and rubber rationing, travel restrictions designed to prioritize transportation for military needs, and Jim Crow laws and other prejudices. She explains how the expanded opportunities brought by the war, along with sudden increased publicity, created the illusion that all female musicians-no matter how experienced or talented-were "Swing Shift Maisies," 1940s slang for the substitutes for the "real" workers (or musicians) who were away in combat. Comparing the working conditions and public representations of women musicians with figures such as Rosie the Riveter, WACs, USO hostesses, pin-ups, and movie stars, Tucker chronicles the careers of such bands as the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Phil Spitalny's Hours of Charm, The Darlings of Rhythm, and the Sharon Rogers All-Girl Band.
Duke University Press
May 23, 2001
6.02 X 8.94 X 1.11 inches | 1.47 pounds
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About the Author
Sherrie Tucker is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. A longtime jazz fan, she has conducted oral histories for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program, writes a column called "Jazzwomen Jam" for Jazz Now Magazine, and was formerly a jazz radio announcer in San Francisco.
"Swing Shift is a long-overdue historical corrective and a compelling read--a thoroughly remarkable achievement."--David Hajdu, author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn
"Swing Shift is the most original, thought-provoking jazz book written in the last thirty years. Sherrie Tucker's virtuoso performance not only tears down the bars of silence that have kept women musicians invisible, but she reveals how this silence works to uphold the race and gender mythologies that we know as the history of the 'swing era.' After prying open our eyes and ears, Tucker takes us on a funky, surprising, inspiring musical journey that will drive all jazzheads back to the woodshed. And if that's not enough, as a writer this 'girl' can swing off the page!"--Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America
"Sherrie Tucker's beautifully written and meticulously researched book on women jazz bands introduces us to a generation of awesome musicians, whose stories raise provocative questions about the impact of race, class, gender, and sexuality on dominant conceptions of jazz history. In suggesting new ways of thinking about the place of women jazz musicians in recent U.S. history, Swing Shift boldly challenges our contemporary understandings of the unruly politics of culture. "--Angela Davis