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12/06/23 12:36 PM #451    


Bill Kelso


                  The Impact of our Youth Culture on America

While the dramatic increase in the size of the teenager population as well as its creation of a unique youth-oriented culture was an interesting story in and of itself, the impact this new culture had on America was an even bigger story. 

But because as teenagers we were often preoccupied with our own personal lives, we were often unaware of the collective impact our individual decisions had on American society.

As we shall soon see one of the major unanticipated consequences of the 1960s embrace of a new style of music was the creation of a new form of popular culture that enhanced the status of African Americans. But perhaps this change is not surprising for if there is one defining event that distinguishes the 1960s from other decades in American history it is the decline of Jim Crow and the growth of the Civil Rights Movement. The youth culture of the 1960s played an important but often unreported role in advancing racial tolerance during this decade. 

They achieved this goal by initially embracing a previously neglected form of music made popular by African Americans.  But in many cases the preferences of young people for Rhythm and Blues as well as Rock and Roll music initially met stiff resistance from their parent’s generation. That resistance to what then was known as race music was part of a large opposition by much of society to complete integration. 

While it does not get the press it deserves, the teenagers of the 1960s who popularized this novel form of music helped break down much of that opposition by the larger adult community. By their listening habits and participation in shows like Dick Clark they gradually showed middle America that they had nothing to fear by their embrace of African American music and culture. 

                                             The Rise of Rock and Roll

As noted above the first impact of this new youth culture on American society, which often unnerved their parents, was a dramatic shift in the musical tastes of their children. In the 1940s and the 50s, American adult musical tastes were shaped by the Age of the Crooner, in which the likes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet sang slow and somewhat commonplace songs.  By the late 1950s and 60s teenagers had rebelled against much of the music of their parents and supported the pounding beat of Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues.

As American teenagers often went into a frenzy over singers like Elvis Presley, middle class America became worried about the lack of restraint among their children, Even more worrisome for many white parents, their kids seemed to have embraced African American music and dance that their parents found frighteningly provocative, seeming undermining traditional conventional American values.

                                    The Rise of an Egalitarian Popular Culture

As mentioned previously the second impact of our expansive growth in the teenager population and its new musical interests was the growth of a new popular and political culture which was more tolerant of racial difference and supportive of integration in an age noted for racial prejudice. 

Despite the significance of these changes, as young teenagers we were probably not aware that the first two major institutions to become partially integrated in America after the war were the US Army and the musical and dance industry. While President Truman has accomplished the first goal by an executive order, in the latter case our generation of high school students had voluntarily sought to incorporate African American music into our lives. Rather than ignoring or segregating African song and dance culture, the teenage generation of the 1960s eagerly embraced it.

Why and how did this change occur? Part of the answer lies with technology. As American electronics led to the growth of radio stations in the 1950s, young Americans became aware for the first time of both African American and Country western music. In contrast to the bland tunes of the crooners and the playbook of Tin Pan Alley, young Americans kids found this new ethnic kind of music appealing.

Why the Appeal of a New Culture

What was the cause of this appeal? The answer appears to be three fold. First Rock and Roll was a musical genre that people loved to dance to. However, when the Big Bands became financially impossible to maintain at the end of World War II, Americans lacked both the opportunity as well as a type of music they could dance to. The crooners who replaced the Big Bands at the end of war sang bland romantic ballads that were great to listen to if you wanted a serene quiet afternoon. But their style of music rarely stimulated anyone to spend the evening on the dance floor. However, as more and more young people attended school, they wanted a chance to dance the night away with their new dates. That was a desire that Rock and Roll easily satisfied.

Secondly, the new music of the 1960s seemed to meet an emotional need for many teenagers that most conventional American songs lacked.  If you happened to read an excellent comment by Kurli Thompson several months back, she mentioned that when she taught high school her students often seemed like they were the walking wounded. But probably for every generation, including ours in the 1960s, many teenagers felt like they were the walking wounded as they struggled to adjust to high school life. Also many of us were hoping to find a soul mate to share the difficulties of growing up. But aside from a few success stories, most high school romances failed, leaving people feeling isolated and alone. But fortunately in listening to Rock and Roll music many young teenagers found a sense of solace and peace of mind that they often could not find with their parents or even close friends. 

If you look at the titles of major Rock and Roll songs in the sixties, they include By By Love, That Will Be the Day, Breaking My HeartWhen Will I Be Loved?, and Only the Strong Survive.

Regardless of what emotion you were feeling after a bad breakup, there was also a Rhythm and Blues or Rock and  Roll song that consoled you by expressing that exact feeling in its lyrics.

Thirdly part of the appeal of this new form of music may reflect the fact that a whole generation of young kids who were struggling to grow up, often felt restrained by the more conservative tastes of their parents whose life often seemed too restricted or restrained. For young people who were trying to fit in with society while simultaneously trying to rebel against the monotony of adult society, the novelty and unusual beat of African American music seemed appealing. While modern American life stressed moderation and restraint, rhythm and blues stressed liberation, energy and a more intense way of living life. 

Before our generation knew it, a young Scotch Irish singer from Memphis, named Elvis Presley, tried to combine the best of Country music and African American music to create rock and roll. The music electrified young people and often scared their parents who often did not know what to make of this new music and its racial overtones. 

Prior to the 1970s, American music had been dominated by the Germans who in the 17th to the 19th century had developed Baroque, Classical and Romantic forms of music. In addition, most of the modern musical instruments such as the clarinet, saxophone, trumpet and piano were invented by Europeans. At the turn of the century most American cities, which had been heavily influenced by the German musical tradition, established brass bands, as exemplified in the movie “The Music Man”.

However in the 1950s and 60s we see a major shift in American popular culture as we witness both the Africanization of American music and the Americanization of African Music. As we shall soon see, African Americans and the Scotch Irish, who had been marginal players in American society, soon came to play a dominate role in shaping American culture. 

A New Synthesis of African and American Culture

The new synthesis of contrasting musical styles was first seen during the 1920s when Jazz became popular. While Africa developed this new genre of music, they used European woodwind and horn instruments in the development of Jazz. Later in the 1960s African music was further Americanized when blacks developed the Blues in the Delta region of northern Mississippi which morphed into R&B or Rhythm and the Blues.  While the phrasing and tempo of the music were all based on traditional African tunes, the Blues artists, like their Jazz counterparts, adopted western instruments to play their music. The guitar, which is the heart of most R&B as well as Rock and Roll bands, originated in Spain and had been introduced in this country by the Scotch Irish who used it in the creation of Country music.

The New Stress on Rhythm

But the synthesis of different musical tradition was not one sided. As we shall see later, American music was also significantly Africanized, especially rock and roll. Whereas as traditional western music has spent much of its history stressing harmony, and melody African music was unique in its stress on rhythm. 

The Development of Syncopation

But equally importantly while African America music was noted for stressing rhythms, it was also famous for its unusual rhythms. This process which is called syncopation involves playing rhythms that accent or emphasize the offbeats. For instance, if a song had a 4/4 time signature you would normally stress the first and third beat. However, in much of Rhythm and Blues music as well as Rock and Roll, the musicians emphasize the second and fourth beat. 

Multi Complex Rhythms

Finally as Rhythms and Blues evolved over time into new genres like Funk, African American artists like James Brown developed a form of Rhythm and Blues music that was also characterized by multi rhythms or polyrhythms. In contrast to traditional western music black music increasingly had unusual and complex rhythm patterns that seemed to infuse a sense of life and excitement into their music. This stress on rhythm made black music very appealing to any young people who wanted to kick up their heels and dance.

To appreciate the appeal of rhythm for anyone listening to music today, all you have to do is hear Michael Jackson’s song Beat It or Billie Jean or James Brown rendering of Living In America to understand why Rhythm and Blues and its stress on a pounding beat was so popular to young people.

 Non Western African Americn Dances

Similarly whereas western music had seen music and dance as two separate forms of entertainment, African Americans combined them. While singing groups like Beetles or crooners like Barbara Streisand appeared stationary and erect as they belted out their tunes, singing groups from Motown to Michael Jackson combined music and dance which excited young audiences. Elvis Presley, who synthesized black and white music was also notorious for his swiveled hip dancing, which often shocked middle America with his novel dance steps.

Besides the dance moves of Black artists, African American singers gave the younger generation a whole new array of dance steps that significantly departed from the stress on couple dancing popular in western music. In place of western dances like the Waltz, which emphasized dances by couples, African American culture popularized communal dances like the Stroll, which was performed on every episode of American Bandstand. Yet other black artists like Chubby Checker also popularized individual dances like the Twist and a countless array of spinoffs of that dance such as the Jerk, the Pony the Watusi and even the Mash Potato. While teenagers in the Age of the Crooners found the ballads of people like Perry Como hard to dance to, black music of the 50s and 60s energized teenagers and made them eager to dance again. Although Kevin Bacon’s movie “Footloose” was made in the 1980s, it perhaps likewise captured that mood of teenagers in the decade we graduated from McClatchy. 

By the time the 1970s finally arrived there had been a dramatic change in American popular culture. Two ethnic and racial groups, African Americans and Scotch Irish, who had been on the margins of American society, were now dominant forces in shaping popular culture. In the 1970s as sporting events came to rival music in defining popular culture in American life, blacks but not the Scotch Irish, also came to play a highly visible role in this new dimension of American culture.

                                        The Growth of the Entertainment Age

Finally a third way in which our generation helped dramatically transformed America was in its impact on the economy. As we noted in an earlier post, the start of the 20thcentury is called the “Industrialized Age”.  Unfortunately, in the 1970s America began a process of deindustrialization which led to the loss of many working class jobs. 

Prior to the 1960s economists saw the American economy as consisting of three legs, 1) finance, 2) service and 3) manufacturing. In the 1970s the third leg of the economy had declined as America reduce its tariffs and embraced globalization. 

However, offsetting the above negative development was the creation of two more innovative ages in the middle of the 20th century. Economists tend to call these new ages the rise of the Information Age as well as the Entertainment Age in America. While the 19th and early 20th century was transformed by the rise of manufacturing, the latter part of the 20th century was transformed by the rise of Silicon Valley and the Entertainment Industry, two new industries which have dramatically altered how we currently live our lives today. 

In place of a three legged economy we now had a five legged economy where information and entertainment complemented the operations of the service, finance and industrial sectors of the economy.

How this New Age Benefitted Minorities

Aside from diversifying the economy, the above changes had dramatic consequences for minority groups. The growth of these two new legs of the economy has dramatically enhanced the opportunities for upward mobility for both Asian Americans and African Americans. While the growth of the Information Age has created numerous job opportunities for the Asian community in Silicon valey, the growth of the New Entertainment Age has primarily benefited African Americas in the sports and entertainment world. 

Whereas the traditional ethnic groups such as the English, Germans, Jewish and Irish had come to dominate the early American economy, minorities such as Asians and African Americans were dominating these two new elements in our economy,  

For instance, while Asians makeup 7% of the present American population, over 50% of the employees in Silicon Valley are now Asian Americans. In many cases they occupy the most prestigious positions instance in this new industry. For instance, the CEOs of both Micro soft and Google are both immigrants from India. 

In a similar vein African Americans have now come to dominate professional sports as well as the music industry. Whether it was the numerous stars of Motown, or Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin merging Black Gospel music and Rhythm and Blues to create Soul music, Black artists were key figures in creating popular music. Even when white artists appeared to create new genres of rock music, much of their musical phrasing and rhythms were heavily influenced by black inspired Rhythm and Blues. For instance, the Beatles, who were part of the British invasion of Music life, felt so frustrated over their inability to duplicate the appeal of black music, that they good naturedly named one of their albums Rubber Soul, a failed attempt to duplicate Black Soul music.

As our economy has taken on new directions, minority groups who were often on the periphery of American society have financially prospered as they now appear to have met the information and entertainment needs of the American public.



12/06/23 01:03 PM #452    


Bill Kelso


                                   A Summing Up

                How Our Generation Reshaped America

In light of the above developments, we have to realize that whether it is our McClatchy classmates getting on David’s website to learn about our reunions or senior citizens downloading tunes from Spotify for their workout at the local gym, our generation helped ushed in a new American economy that has been preoccupied with entertaining us and making our lives enjoyable. 

While we did not realize it when we turned 18, the new youth culture of the 1960s played a key role in the development of both this Entertainment Age as well as the growth of a more tolerant and racially integrated society. 

The Jazz Age & The Rock and Roll Age

Despite the distinctive 40 years that separate the two periods, many want to compare the Jazz Age with our own Rock and Roll Age. 

In both cases, the age was defined by the development of a youth culture, primarily people in their early 20s for the Jazz Age and a slightly younger teenage population during our high school days. In both situations young people served in the army to fight in WWI during the Jazz Age and later participated in the Vietnam War during the 1960s. Similarly, both time periods were identified with the creation of novel forms of music: Jazz in the 1920s and Rhythm and Blues as well as Rock and Roll in the 1960s. Both ages also led to excesses as flappers spent too much time getting drunk in speakeasies while too many of our peers acquired addictive drug habits limiting their future opportunities. 

However, despite the superficial similarities, I want to argue that the two major youth cultures were very different. 

While novelists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway felt that the Jazz Age was a failure they often focused on different explanation for that failure. In Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises” he felt those who had fought in the war had become disillusioned and were a lost generation without direction or purpose. However, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel “The Great Gatsby” he suggested that the failure of the Jazz Age reflected the age’s belief that the selfish pursuit of making money would somehow give shape and form to their sense of emptiness.

The Differences between the Two Ages.

While the 1960s has never had a novelist comparable to Hemingway or Fitzgerald to describe our teenage years, we can nevertheless identify key differences. First the young people who came of age in the 60s were neither disillusioned nor lost. They were often critical of their country’s foreign or racial policies but they were hardly young people who lacked direction or purpose.

But even more importantly the Rock and Roll generation of the 1960s were radically different from the flappers and young people Fitzgerald described. With the growth of the hippie generation at the end of the 60s, the youth culture of the Rock and Roll was more idealistic than overly materialistic. In place of believing that making more money would provide them with a fulfilling life, they sought to build a more egalitarian and humane world. While many of their notions about achieving peace and brotherhood were naïve, their outlook on life was very different from that of the Jazz Age. 

Admittedly there was a self destructive tendency among many young people in the 1960s as Timothy Leary’s advice to Tune in, Turn on, Drop Out lead many young people astray.

Similarly, the 1960s had its faults as it witnessed a rising crime rate, the breakdown of the family, a growing number of children born out of wedlock who were abandoned by their fathers, and a flawed set of government policies called the "Great Society" to end poverty which actually increased rather than decreased the rate of poverty, But these faults were the consequences of inept prosecutors, and poorly designed government programs rather than the faults of our youth culture.

Without minimizing the faults of the Rock and Roll Age, I want to argue that the expansive teenage population of the 1960s had a much more lasting and benign impact on American life than the Jazz Age.

Our class can be proud of its legacy as it promoted a popular music culture that has swept the world and embraced a more tolerant and diverse society that has enabled previously marginal groups to achieve upward mobility. And it helped to diversity our economy which enabled America to become more resilient as our manufacturing sector faltered in the 70s. In this sense our McClatchy class was not only affected by changing national events, but also helped initiate and shape these national developments in a positive direction. As our time as a class approaches the end, we can be proud of our achievements as American teenagers.


03/04/24 06:19 AM #453    


Bill Kelso

                  The Changing Nature of Western Music

In a pervious discussion about how life has changed since we graduated from high school, we mentioned that African Americans have come to play a dominant role in shaping American music. It started in the 1920s with the creation of Jazz, expanded in the 50s and 60s with the development of Rhythm and Blues and was further enhanced in the 70s and 80s as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin combined Black Gospel music with Rhythm and Blues to create Soul Music.

Among its many features was its stress on complex rhythms and its fusion of music and dance.

However in the late 1980s Paul Simon discovered than an even better example of African American influence on music was to be found in Brazil with its nationally known Samba or Samba Reggae Music.

The country had unusual Samba Bands made up of only flamboyant drummers who played even more complex rhythms than American rhythm and blues. Whereas western music had stressed melody and harmony, Brazilian music is famous for its remarkable emphasis on rhythm.

The Brazilian experience was so notable that later Michael Jackson also went to Brazil to film his video of “Nobody Cares About Us”

Both of these video have become very popular videos as well as classic examples of how African Americans contributed to the growth of popular music.

Michael Jackson in Rio

Paul Simon Singing “The Obvious child” in Brazil

In addition to the videos of famous American singers performing in Brazil, many local residents have also posted videos of Brazilian bands entertaining their neighbors.

Brazilian culture has many attractive features. For instance, you often see the above pattern of behavior in Brazil because music and dance plays a much larger role in the lives of Brazilians than it does for most Americans. While most Americans are more circumspect and restrained in their everyday lives. Brazilians see music as part their desire to live a more spontaneous and effusive lifestyle.

Brazilians are also a demonstrative and outgoing people who place a lot of emphasis on maintaining friendship and expressing their common sense of joy in being alive by dancing and singing with one another. Unlike many Americans who are more cavalier and indifferent about their relationships, Brazilians stress the use of music to enhance and cement their personal ties. During carnival you can hear and see Samba dance bands like those shown above on almost every other street corner in Rio as Brazilians hug one another and dance the night away.

Despite their much lower standard of living, Brazilians also seem to have a knack for knowing how to enjoy life.

If you want to hear some great music as well as appreciate the impact of African music on popular music, try watching the above videos.  You shouuld be able to just hit the videolink and get the  video. If that does not work, just copy the above addresses and put them in your search engine, hit the enter button and you should be able to watch some fascinating musical videos. 







03/05/24 04:35 AM #454    


Bill Kelso

                One More Fabulous Braziian Band

Here is one more wonderfu Brazilian Band. It seems like almost every other Brazilian owns a drum. Brazil has so many Samba dance bands, many of them dominated by women.

03/06/24 08:46 AM #455    


Bonnie De Angelis (Stormont)

Awesome sauce!!  I love this!  🎵. Thanks for posting Bill!

03/06/24 03:47 PM #456    


Barbara Alexander

Hi Bill. I've been enjoying your contributions to these pages. Lots of interesting info that I didn't know. I especially enjoy your posts on music. Fascinating! Thanks, Barbara

03/06/24 09:08 PM #457    

Susie Weidman (Arnold)

Bill, thanks for sharing this wonderful music.  You and Linda were fortunate to have just been in Brazil and to see and listen in person to this wonderful music. 🥁🎶. Susie

03/20/24 09:41 AM #458    


Bill Kelso

                           Our Lives During the 1960s 

As our time grows short, it is natural to contemplate what our life has been like. To achieve that goal, I would like to focus on two separate issues. First, I would like to spend more time on how our individual lives changed during the 1960s.


After that discussion, I would like to try to sum up all of the major changes that happened in the US over the last 60 years. In that post I would hope to look at international and economic issues and analyze how the country has changed over the past decades.


                                 Creating a New Identity


Before looking at the major changes in the US, it might be helpful to briefly review our life as high school students.  As noted earlier we had classmates from very different ethnic backgrounds, even thought we were not necessarily conscious of that fact. In living our lives, most of us had no notion of where we came from or what our ethnic heritage was. 


However, in the second post we discussed how in the 1960s the US developed its first large scale teenage population. As ethnic differences declined, generational differences became apparent. While age differences were generally muted, our high school generation nonetheless had a different outlook on life than our grandparents and parents.  Because I thought of myself as a teenager I felt I was at least partly aware of the larger world outside of high school. I just had no idea that in previous decades our age cohort in the US was considered young adults rather than teenagers and that the idea of being an adolescent was a rather recent and novel idea. Furthermore, I also never realized that our musical tastes as teenagers helped usher in the age of Civil Rights.


                         How Our Eating Habits Dramatically Changed.


In this post I want to show how our age also experienced another major fundamental change in our lifestyle that we were completely unaware of.  That dramatic change consisted of a radically shift in our eating preferences. Besides our musical taste, and personal identity, our eating habits significantly changed during our teenager years and helped define our age. While it may be a slight exaggeration the 1960s to the 70s are today known as the Age of the Hamburger. Again, this idea may seem so obvious you may be wondering why I am bringing it up. 


For much of the 19th and early 20th century many people in the US were not well fed. The tenement houses in large cities were made up of immigrants who just barely found enough to eat. During the Great Depression of the 1930s many people came close to starving to death. If you managed to read John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath” which reflected his experiences working with the displaced during the Great Depression, he ends the novel with a poor pregnant women breast feeding a starving individual close to death who was a complete stranger. 


The novel was so shocking because people did not realize how desperate so many people were. If people in American ate meat during the 19th century it was primarily pigs while few ate beef let alone hamburgers.  The reason for this decision was that the pig was very well suited to the woodland environment of 19th century America. It was thus easy to raise hogs as they matured very quickly and required little care. In addition, given the available, technology, pork meat could be easily smoked or cured. Since pork tasted much better than beef processed in this way, most Americans, if they could afford to buy meat, chose to eat pork rather than beef.


                                  The Growing Popularity of Beef


However by the end of the 19th century the emphasis shifted from pork to beef. There were three main reasons for this change. First, the buffalo had been largely killed off by 1870s which finally opened the great plains to cattlemen. In light of the free grass on the plains the costs of raising beef declined significantly. Secondly as railroads expanded and created refrigerator boxcars, it was possible to ship beef to all parts of the country. Thirdly as the economy finally expanded and the country financially rebounded from the Great Depression during WWII, American could afford to eat meat again. Presently close to half of the beef currently consumed is ground beef. 


When German immigrants thought of enclosing processed beef in a bun, which they named after their German hometown of Hamburg Germany, we finally had the hamburger.


Given the new prosperity and technology of supplying beef to people, beef consumption dramatically rose. In 1963 it hit 78 lbs. per capita and in 1976 it hits its high point of 97 lbs. per capital. American had become the home of the hamburger.


                                 How Chicken Replaced the Burger


However no sooner had beef come to dominate America’s eating habits,  beef began a dramatic decline. By 2020 beef consumption had decline to 58 to 59 lbs. per capital. In its place was the rise of the chicken. While Americans only ate 34 1963 they were consuming around 80 lbs. in 2020.


                                 Meat Consumption

Beef                       1963                      1974                        2020

                               78lbs.                      97lbs.                      58lbs.


Chicken                    1963                   1974                         2020

                                 34lbs.                   44lbs.                       80lbs.


Besides hamburger restaurants like MacDonalds and Wendy’s we now have chicken restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chick-Fil-A, Zaxbys, Popeyes, and Bojangles.


 Why the change? The answers may have to do with both health reasons and environmental reasons. In medical terms many nutritionists think eating too much red meat may eventually lead to heart problems. In terms of the environment many environmentalist disliked cows because they have a much bigger carbon footprint than chickens. Because cows do not have a well-tuned digestive system they fart a lot releasing in the process methane gas.


                                   The Importance of the Journey


While our class initiated many reforms in American life, our desire to eat hamburgers is turning out to be a passing phenomenon.


To put this discussion into a larger context I would like to mention how several months back I exchanged letters with Lettie Joe Thommen about the number of our classmates and friends who have passed away. Lettie, in a very perceptive moment, replied that we should not necessarily despair because for all of us the key was not the destination that was important as we were all destined to die. Instead it was the journey we took that really mattered. Lettie's wonderful comment was so right. As we get older, we must realize that we have had an interesting journey while we were young students in Sacramento.


As you can see our high school class lead a unique life style that differed significantly from our parents and grandparents. If we just review our high school years, our McClatchy class of 1963 had:


1) Its own unique identity as we one of the first group of young people to lose our ethnic identity since we were fortunate enough to live in a Melting Pot City,

2) We were also part of the first major youth group in the US that thought of themselves as teenagers with a separate identity.  

3) We were likewise the first generation to enjoy privacy in dating, 

4) Similarly, we were a major part of the first generation that accepted and eagerly embraced the creation of an integrated racial society. 

5) We had parents, who in becoming more affluent, allowed us to buy our own radio or record player.

6) Many of us were able to move from a 900 square foot Bungalow house to a 1400 square foot Ranch style house where we had our own room. If lucky we even lived in a house with one and a half baths, which meant that we did not have to yell at our sisters in the morning to hurry up because we had to go to the bathroom. 

7) We also played a major role in promoting a novel form of music that our parents called race music but which we designate as rhythm and blues. However, we more often than not had to listen to our parents telling us our music was too loud and to turn it down.

8) Finally, we were the first generation of Americans to enjoy a great Hamburger. I still remember my first hamburger at the MacDonalds stand where you sat outside across from the old Sacramento Solon’s baseball stadium. The hamburger cost 25cents and the coke cost 5 cents. When my family went to watch the Solons play, I never could make up my mind whether it was the baseball game or eating out at MacDonalds that was the most enjoyable moment during our family outing.


If we had to pick a top three from the above list, I, as a parochial kid in the 1960s with a limited knowledge of the outside world, would probably have included the privacy of dating while driving dad’s car, listening to great R & B music and thirdly eating great hamburgers at MacDonalds. 


Wow? Even if you disagree with my list, all of the above events are wonderful memories. In retrospect, who could ask for more of an interesting life that began in the 1960s and is now only coming to a close.  


While admittedly we can’t change our destiny, we should at least be thankful that we had an interesting and enjoyable journey during our teenager years. 



03/29/24 09:37 AM #459    


Bill Kelso

            The Origins of the Hamburger & Hot Dog


After the recent discussion of our eating habits in the 1960s I was asked if I would elaborate on the origins of the American Hamburger. 


How German Americans Shaped our Eating Habits.


I am happy to do so as the question of the origins of much of our food and drink is an interesting piece of American social history. While the topic of food may seem like an obscure topic in American history, it is actually a way of understanding the much larger historical issue of how America became an immigrant nation, shaped and developed by a diverse group of people from very different countries. 


In the case of understanding the American hamburger it is helpful to focus on the role German Americans played in forming our eating habits. Ironically enough, if there is an iconic American food, I think most people would say it is the Hamburger and Hotdog but it turns out that these two iconic American foods are really the creation of ethnic German immigrants in America. 


How our Eating Habits reflect larger Trends in American Society


Bu it is not surpringing that immigrants have played such a prominent role in shaping our eating habits. As it turns out the Germans before they invented the hamburger were also instrumental in creating the beer industry in America. And as an offshoot of that drink, German American also transformed American baseball into a mass popular sport. 


However, as we mentioned above, this story is worth retelling in more detail because of the often long and convoluted steps Germans American had to undertake to alter our food preferences including our taste for beer. In the process we can also see how early Germans, like many other ethnic groups in America, faced intense prejudice. While most American probably realize that immigrants faced opposition because of their ethnic background, we shall see that German immigrants were also dismissed because of their alleged lower class or working class lifestyle. 


Germans and the Beer Industry


In spite of these challenges, the record of German Americans is impressive in overcoming the difficulties they faced in being accepted by many other Americans. Among other reasons for their initial hostile reception, were their unusual social customs. For instance, when the Germans landed in America they brought with them their long tradition of drinking beer, a spirit few Americans initially drank. The reason for this tradition is that in 19th Europe drinking water was often unsanitary and as a result the French drank wine and the Germans enjoyed beer. 


Since most Germans settled in the Midwestern part of the US, that region was the home of most American beer companies.  In Milwaukee, the cultural capitol of German America we find the development of Pabst, Schlitz and Miller and in St Louse, another major German city in the middle of America, we find the creation of Anheuser Busch.


However during the Temperance movement, the Germans faced a major movement to limit the drinking of intoxicating spirits in America.


How German Immigrants Made Baseball a Working Man’s Game


Among their successes, the temperance movement succeeded in banning beer from popular sporting events such as professional baseball. At the turn of the century baseball was becoming the major sport in America. But at that time the owners of the original National League of Baseball were wealthy members of the upper class who wanted to confine the enjoyment of the sport to the upper class. To limit enjoyment of the game, they raised the price of a ticket to a baseball game and prohibited all liquor sales in the stadium. By and large they were successful in keeping what they felt was the rabble or working class out of their ballparks.  But the actions of the major league owners should not surprise us. The German working class as well as other ethnic members of the working class who has few privileges in life, were often looked down by the upper class. Unfortunately economic as well as ethnic snobbery was a major part of life for the average American in the early 20th century.


When the baseball teams banned beer drinking and raised their prices to keep the working class out of the ballpark, the German beer industry decided to launch a populist revolt against their upper-class opponents. If the upper classes shunned the working class, the Germany beer industry would create an alternative baseball league that welcomed ethnic blue collar workers and respected their tradition of beer drinking. To achieve that goal the German beer owners, in what is today known and the Beer and Whisky League, created the American League in baseball to compete with the National League. As was to be expected the new league included many teams from primarily German cities like St. Louise and Cincinnati. 


The German beer industry launched this new sporting venture because they believed that baseball should be for the masses and not just the wealthy elites. And they also insisted that the working class should be able to relax and enjoy a beer while watching their favorite past time. Because of their efforts, the upper class National Baseball League was eventually forced to lower its ticket prices and allow beer to be sold in their ballparks. 


The success of Germans in popularizing baseball encouraged a large number of young men from German families to participate in the sport. In fact in the early 20th century the most famous ball players were primarily Germans such as Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Lou Gehrig and Casey Stengel.


The Germans Invent the Hamburger and Hot Dog


However, the impact of German Americans on America’s culinary habits was not just limited to drink. They also played a key role in making the American hamburger a major staple in the American diet. In the process they challenged and modified not only what we ate but how we ate our food.


The Long Twisted History of the Hamburger


If you review the previous discussion of America’s eating habits, we explained the rise of beef as due to environmental and economic factors such as the emptying out of the great plains that allowed cattle to graze in the heartland in place of the American buffalo, the rise of refrigerator railroad cars and the growing affluence of America. But that discussion left three unanswered questions about the eating habits of Americans. First, in that discussion of beef there was no explanation as to why Americans chose to eat their meat minced or ground up and secondly there was no satisfactory reason as to why Americans wrapped that ground beef in a bun. Finally, there was no answer as to why the iconic American food of the 1960s and 70s is called the Hamburger. In a related manner there was no hint as to why Americans also came to call their sausages wrapped in a bun a hot dog, 


The Development of Minced Meat


While half of all beef in the 70s as well as today is ground beef, Americans could just as easily have chosen to eat filets, rib stake, sirloin or countless other forms of beef. Why then did they choose to eat minced meat or what we called ground beef, that is beef that has been finely cut up by a knife or a meat grinder?


The answer lies with the large German immigration population in the US. It is important to remember that German Americans are the largest ethnic group in America with close to 50 million members. Just as Germans had a long tradition of drinking beer, they had an equally long tradition of eating minced or ground beef. Historically Germans have always consumed sausage as a major part of their diet. To make a sausage you need finely ground meat. If we had never had such a large German immigrant population, we would probably have been less inclined to adopt their customs of eating ground beef as a major source of protein.


But while minced meat for German sausages was long and slender in shape, their use ground round for hamburgers had the shape of a horizontal and flattened disk. While many explanations for this development in German cuisine are speculative in nature, many think the Germans acquired the idea of a flat hamburger patty from the Mongolians during the Middle Age. The Mongolian soldiers of Genghis Khan often put beef under their saddle while they traveled long distance to attack their enemies.  In the process they unintentionally flattened and cut up the beef under their saddle. When the Mongolians conquered part of Europe, many individuals in Germany found their beef dishes easy to swallow especially if they cooked the patty. 


The Origins of the Name Hamburger


While the above theory is hard to definitely prove, it leaves unanswered the issue of why German American in the US decided to call the patty a hamburger. The answer has everything to do with geography. Hamburg which is on the river Elbe was one of the main destinations Germans used to board ships in order to migrate to America. It is thus very possible that when German immigrants ate traditional German food in America, they named it after their last home in their native country.


The Origins of the Bun


But if we accept the above reasons for the name of a hamburger, we are left with the final question as to why the meat was wrapped in a bun. Perhaps not surprisingly, the final piece of the puzzle brings us back to the topic of baseball. When German beer owners created their own baseball teams, they found out that their customers wanted to eat something as well as drink beer. To satisfy that wish they tried offering them beef patties. But since working class people did not bring forks and knives to the ballpark, German venders started wrapping the hamburger patty in a bun, creating in the process the American hamburger with two buns, a beef insert and mustard or ketchup. It quickly became apparent that the development of the American bun was a very simple and practical solution for feeding a lot of people who had no kitchen utensils. 


The reason why hamburgers are wrapped in a bun also explains why hot dogs are wrapped in a bun. In German owned baseball parks, German venders started selling German sausages as well as beef patties. But to hold a hot dog was a very unpleasant experience. As with the case of the hamburger patty, the Germans venders in baseball parks realized that they could make selling their sausages more attractive and profitable if they wrapped them in a long vertical bun.


The Origins of the Name Hot Dog


But that still leaves unclear why Americans call German sausages hotdogs? Initially Germans tended to call their sausages by their city of origins, similar in manner to the reason why German Americans named a hamburger after the city of Hamburg. Because in Medieval Europe German sausage was initially made in the City of Frankfurt and consisted of primarily ground pork, people refereed to the sausage as a Frankfurter. Once other Germans in the Austrian city of Vienna changed the menu and added beef to the sausage, many people in Germany started referring to their sausages as Wieners (the German pronunciation of Vienna which is Wien) rather than Frankfurters.


German immigrants in America initially adopted a similar naming procedure as they also called their sausages Wieners while selling their wares in ballparks.  However with time, German sausages acquired the nickname of hot dogs. The reason German venders used such a nickname reflects the pets they brought to the new home in America.


Germans, more any other ethnic group were responsible for introducing many of our most popular dog breeds in the US including the German Shepard, the Doberman Pincher, the Rottweiler, The Great Dane, as well as the Dachshund. The latter dog was bred to have short longs and long snout to hunt down and kill badgers in their dens.


When German vendors were selling their product, they noticed their sausage in a bun resembled their dachshund. As a joke they initially starting calling their product a hot dachshund but since many early German immigrants had trouble remembering how to spell dachshund they finally settled on the simpler nickname Hot Dog.


Why it Took a While for Hamburgers and Hot Dogs to gain Acceptance.


Given the appeal of beef and the convenience of eating a hamburger or a hot dog in a bun, these German forms of cuisine were a big hit in baseball parks. Unfortunately, it took a considerable period of time before the American hamburger became popular in the country at large. While German venders had considerable success in selling hamburgers and hot dogs to their customers in the ball park, they had less luck in convincing many other Americans to try their new German dishes. The answer for this reluctance reflects the often hostile reaction immigrants encountered in America. 


In the late 19th and early 20th century the wealthy upper class often felt they were gentlemen who distinguished themselves from the lower classes  who dominated immigrant communities by not only their money, and education but also by their polished manners. The last thing a gentlemen would ever do would be to eat his meals with his fingers rather than with a fork and knife. Just as a member of the upper class would never eat with his mouth open, he also knew how to use his eating utensils so that meals were a dignified occasion. In contrast, a person could go a MacDonald and eat both his hamburger and fries without ever touching a fork and knife. It was very clear that hamburgers and hot dogs were lower or working  class forms of cuisine and lacked appeal to many members of the financial elite.


Life as an Immigrant and Member of the Working Class.


The difficulty the hamburger initially faced in being accepted was a reflection of the situation that faced many immigrants in the period before WWII. 


If you recall a previous discussion we had on college life in the early 20th century, we mentioned how many Ivy League Universities, who catered to the very wealthy, looked down on the children of neighborhoods like Hells kitchen or Little Italy or the Lower East side and often agreed to establish “Gentlemen Agreements” to limit immigrant enrollment.  In a similar vein the initial owners of baseball clubs were eager to limit the ability of German workingmen to afford a ticket to a baseball game. Likewise their reluctance to embrace so called German food was also part of a general reaction by the wealthy and nativist group towards the growth of the immigrant population in America.


Today in some circles there is an attempt to depict all immigrant groups who came to this country as affluent individuals who enjoyed numerous privileges, faced limited obstacles and had an easy time being accepted in America. Unfortunately, the opposition is a more accurate description of the situation. Many immigrant groups were harshly treated and had to deal with numerous forms of discrimination.


Fortunately, most immigrants like the Germans, Irish, Italians and Jews to this country were resilient and refused to think of themselves as victims. Rather than passively accepting their fate, they worked hard to enhance their chances of success in America. As the size of the immigrant populations grew, they pressured states and cities to build city colleges and state universities so that the children of immigrant families could attend college if they so wanted to. When wealthy businessmen tried to limit the attendance of the working class at baseball games, German beer owners created their own league and lowered the prices to accommodate the working class. Finally, as the immigrant population grew, the popularity of eating hamburgers or hot dogs with your hands spread from the working class to the middle class and finally to the upper class. While eating with your hands and fingers was once a sign of poor manners, today it is considered a convenient way of enjoying a favorite American cuisine.


The rise of the hamburger and hot dog illustrates how America became truly a nation of immigrants. Despite many obstacles in their path, German immigrants who were very resourceful, helped to modify the eating habits of America, and in the process shaped the country we live in today. But that success and acceptance did not come over night. However, by the 1960s the impact of the German Americans was readily apparent. As a sign of both their individual success and impact on America, their hamburgers and hot dogs had finally become part of the culture identity that today distinguishes America from other nations.



04/02/24 03:15 PM #460    


Bill Kelso

               What the Future Holds for California   

          In case you are interested in what is happening in California, I have posted a demographic study of California’s future population. The following article examined the US Census Bureau ‘s recent study of demographic changes in the country, including changes in the last three years of the state of California as well as an estimate of the state’s future population. As you can see the Census Bureau is projecting significant changes in the number of congressional seats that California will have by 2030.

 The Changing Population of the US. An Article from Website Real Clear Politics  

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its population estimates for this decade and estimated its impact on the upcoming decennial reapportionment (yes, believe it or not, we are almost halfway through the 2020s).

The census is, at least in theory, a complete enumeration of the American population. It is the first and last word on who is living in the United States – and where – and on how all those people are translated into seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the interim, however, the Census Bureau conducts the American Community Survey, or ACS. This is an ongoing sample of the U.S. population, which contacts millions of people each year in an attempt to estimate the ever-changing demographics of American society.

The Future Makeup of Congress

In December, the Census Bureau releases population estimates for the 50 states. These give us an opportunity to form educated guesses about where reapportionment is headed. Based on this new data from 2023, if the reapportionment occurred today, California would lose two congressional seats, while Illinois, Minnesota and New York would each lose one. On the gains side, Arizona, Florida, and Idaho would each gain a seat, while Texas would gain two.

But these are the 2023 estimates; they reflect population growth for the first three years of the decade. What would things look like in 2030 if things proceeded apace?

If these trends continue at their current rates, the 2030 reapportionment would have some of the most dramatic district apportionment shifts in quite some time. Eighteen states would gain or lose districts. California would lose five seats in the House, while New York would lose three. Illinois would lose two, and Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would all lose one.

At the same time, Texas and Florida would each gain four seats, while Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah would each gain one. Delaware would gain a second district for the first time since the early 1800s.


04/03/24 08:38 AM #461    


Carol (Kurli) Thompson (Mack)

Maybe the shift in population will turn these states purple.

04/05/24 08:55 AM #462    


Bill Kelso

                       What is our Historical Legacy?

           A Summing Up

Over the past year and a half I have tried to write a series of posts for our high school website about how the world had changed since we were young kids. However I quickly realized that I had posted so many notes that maybe it was hard  to remember all of the dramatic change we had witnessed in our lives.

To simplify and hopefully make more sense of these postings, I thought I would try to summarize in one article what has happened to our country during our lifetime. If you wanted to get a quick overview of how the world had evolved, this brief note would hopefully make it easier to remember the major events of the last 60 years. 

To achieve this goal, I have posted two distinct types of history on David’s website. 

Focusing on our High School Days

In the first type of history, I have tried to write about our teenager years during the 1960s. These posts have talked about our what life was like growing up in Sacramento as a teenager. Both Patrick Hassey and Kurli Thompson have provided the inspiration for this concern.  A while back Patrick mentioned that he wanted to talk to his son about growing up in the 1960s, and Kurli mentioned in one of her posts that she enjoyed discussing with her grandchildren her activities as a teenager. In remembering our teenage years we focused on the following six topics that shaped our high school experience:

1.   First, we were one of the first groups of young people who lost our ethnic identity because we lived in a Melting Pot City. Unlike individuals from enclave cities, members of our class who did not grow up in ethnic neighborhoods like Hell’s kitchen or Little Italy, were often unaware of their own ethnic heritage or even the meaning of their own surnames.

2.   Secondly were also part of the first major youth group to identity and subsequently think of themselves as teenagers with a separate culture.

3.   Thirdly, we likewise were the first generation to enjoy privacy in dating as the affluence of our parents enabled us to borrow the family car when seeing the opposite sex.

4.   Fourthly we were also part of that first generation that accepted and eagerly embraced the creation of an integrated racial society.

5.   Fifthly we were also part of that early generation of music lovers who played a major role in promoting novel forms of music today known as Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll.

6.   Finally, we were part of the first generation of Americans who enjoyed and popularized the idea of the Hamburger. Besides being part of the Rock and Roll Age, our McClatchy generation helped promote the development of the Hamburger age.

Focusing on our Post High School Days

Besides discussing primarily our high school experience during the 1960s, I also tried to write a second type of history that took a longer historical view. This perspective tried to analyze the social and economic changes that have occurred in American during our entire lifetime. 

Whereas the above posts about the 1960s focused on six or seven years in our earlier lives when we were teenagers, the numerous posts from the previous year focused on how the world we live in has changed since we graduated from high school. While the above posts were meant to help us to relive our lives as young teenagers, the posts of 2023 were meant to help us as senior citizens understand what kind of world we have left our children and grandchildren.

To amplify that point, the earliest articles focused on four developments that have transformed America over the past several decades. They include the topics of 1) Foreign Affairs, 2) Personal Ties, 3) Race Relations and 4) Economic Developments. Unfortunately, not all of these changes have been positive for the average individual nor for the country at large.

Foreign Policy

For example, the first dramatic change in our lives has been the fluctuating role America has played in foreign affairs. The US has evolved from being a 1) peripheral power prior to WWII to 2) being one of two superpowers after the war to 3) emerging as the world’s first superpower in the 1990s to 4) a period of decline in which today the US is merely one of several multi powers, challenged by China, Iran and Russia. That last point has been reinforced by the government’s inept use of “Coercive Diplomacy” to discourage our opponents in Syria, Russia and now China from taking coercive actions against our allies in the Middle East, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Personal and Political Ties

A second major change that affects us more personally has been a real deterioration in in our personal and political ties. If we review poling data from both the Pew Center and Gallup, we find that America has taken a turn for the worse in how we treat one another and view our own country. Among these developments we find that 1) Americans have fewer friends than 60 years ago, 2) that people are less considerate and civil when dealing with other people than in the past, 3) that the country is perhaps more polarized than at any time since the civil war, 4) that Americans, in the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the famous Democratic senator from New York, are increasingly choosing to define deviancy downward, confusing many people as to what is ethical or proper behavior and 5) that our country has been transformed from a high trust to a low trust society in which most Americans no longer have much faith in the integrity or fairness of our major institutions, and 6) finally that increasingly many Americans say that no longer feel proud of their country or feel a patriotic sense of duty to defend it. On both a personal and political level America is going through a toxic rough patch that show no signs of dissipating any time soon.

As people become less civil and more prone to attack one another, it is easy to understand why people have fewer friends, as they become wary of long-term relationships that may be anything but stable, considerate or polite. 

Because the phrase “define deviance down” is probably new to most people, it is worth further discussion. The phrase merely means that behavior which was once considered harmful or criminal or unethical is now considered acceptable behavior. Surprising enough, California is a perfect example of Moynihan’s point. In 2014 California passed Proposition 47 which allowed people to steal up to 950 dollars of goods a day, and face little or no jail time as that offense was reclassified from a felony to a misdemeanor. Deviant behavior that was once condemned and faced severe penalties was defined downward to a minor offense that was rarely prosecuted.

Paralleling the doctrine of defining deviance downward was the doctrine of defining deviance upward. That situation would arise if a person from the 1960s who looked at California in 2014 and argued that the state had lost its moral compass on crime, soon found themselves under attacked as a bigoted individual because of their stance on shoplifting.

What is right and wrong sixty years ago has been turned upside down by 2020. Increasingly we live in a society where public norms about acceptable behavior are in doubt, creating a more unpleasant and uncertain world.

Changing Race Relations

As pessimistic as the above developments in personal ties has been, a positive note has occurred in race relations. A third major development in our American history has been the evolution of more tolerant race relations in the country. Within a year of our graduating from high school, the US government dismantled the Jim Crow laws that existed in the nation.

While in the 1960s America was basically a bi racial society in which 85% of the population was white and 10% of the population was African American, the US was slowly evolving into a Multi Racial Society by the end of the century.  Because of changing immigration laws and the rather rapid decline in the birth rate of whites in the world at large and in America in particular, the white population will probably decline to around 47% of the American population. In contrast, the Asians population will be likely 9%, African Americans will be 14% and Hispanics will constitute anywhere from 25 to 30% of the country’s population. Besides having a greater diversity of ethnic and racial groups, we are also like to see more mixed marriages in the country raising issues of how we racially classify people.

The Changing Economy I

Finally, the fourth major change we examined is how the US, which had been a major industrialized power up until the 1970s, went through several periods of economic deindustrialization. This decline in our country’s manufacturing base transformed the industrial Midwest or parts of the south into what is today called the Rust Belt. 

The people who were hurt the most in this process of deindustrialization were often the children of immigrants from the working class. After all industrialization had been the means by which many immigrant families had escaped the working class and enjoyed the prosperous lifestyle of a middle class family.

Their devastation is reflected in the changing class makeup of the US. While after WWI over 61% of the public was considered middle class, the number dropped to around 50% by the 21st century. While admittedly part of that changing class structure reflected more people moving into the upper class, it left over 29% or close to a third of all Americans in the lower class. Billie Joel captured the plight of the working in America in his famous ballad “Allentown.”

If the economic hardships were not enough, by the year 2005 the working class were also under political attack. Besides having lost well paying jobs, the working class were now often attacked as deplorables and depicted as the beneficiaries of some unspecified privileges. 

While in the 1970s many people had felt compassion for the workers of Allentown who saw globalization destroy their livelihood, by the year 2010 many of those same people dismissed the working class as threats to the well being of society. This startling change in their status in roughly 40 years only added to blue collar worker's sense of dismay and alienation from American society. In light of the fact that many working-class families were often looked down upon as living in fly over territory, they quickly realized that many in the political system no longer cared about their well being. In place of respect and concern, which many political elites once showed for the welfare of the working class, today they often choose to ignore the dire economic situation of the working class.

The Changing Economy II

But if I) deindustrialization and 2) the shrinking of the middle class and the growth of the lower class were the main economic stories of America from 1970 to the turn of the century, two very different changes have characterized the economy since 2020. 

While these new emergent trends have yet to fully run their course, they may very well signify a significant shift in the economic and political makeup of the country. The south which was once an minor player in America’s successful post war economy, may now become the economic power house which fuels further economic development in the country.

1)A Major Demographic Shift in the Nation’s Population. 

The first of these two changes which we just hinted at in the last post and will expand in the next post is a dramatic shift in the demographic makeup of the US. We are beginning to see a major shift in the country’s population from the west and east coast to the south. That demographic change may significantly alter the distribution of political power in Washington as both the west and east coast lose representation and the south gains more congressional seats

2) A Major Shift in the Economic Makeup of the Economy

The second major change is the significant change in the preferences of businesses for where they wish to run their operations. Increasingly we are seeing more and more companies choosing to leave states like California, Illinois and New York while shifting their plants to a variety of southern states.  In the same way that the demographic makeup of the country will likely change, it is possible that the makeup of the country’s economy will experience a parallel change, essentially altering the country’s political culture. 

To appreciate this development, we should realize that the shift in the location of American companies covers the gamut from firms specializing in computer software to movie houses producing films to financial industries investing people’s retirement funds. 

The major industries that have up to now defined California as well as New York may soon start departing for the more business friendly states in the south.  For instance, in a major blow to California’s silicon valley, we now see companies like Oracle and Hewlett and Packard moving much of their hardware and software design from California to Austin and Houston Texas. Likewise, in the film industry, we increasingly see Atlanta Georgia producing as many if not more movies than Hollywood in some years. Atlanta Georgia may soon come to rival Hollywood as the movie capitol of America. 

Finally, if we focus on the east coast rather than the west coast, we see Miami giving New York City a run for their money as the financial capitol of America. If you want an investment banker or a hedge fund to park your retirement funds, you may find that they are increasingly headquartered in Miami rather than New York city.  If these trends continue in the next decade or so we may find that part of the territory once called fly over territory or home to the deplorables has been transformed into fly to Territory.

While Silicon Valley and Hollywood once distinguished California while New York’s Financial district once set New York apart from the rest of the country, both areas run the risk of being eclipsed by a growing and increasingly prosperous south.

04/05/24 12:42 PM #463    


Bill Kelso


A Declining California & A Rising South

      The Changing American Economy


In the previous post, we tried to summarize most of the major changes that have occurred in American history during our lifetime. However, while we previously have examined how America’s economy changed from the 1970s to the 1990s, our present knowledge needs to be significantly updated. As is obviously the case, our understanding of the national financial situation is incomplete if we do not study how the economy has evolved over last two decades. 


The Rise of the South and the Fall of the West and East Coast


If deindustrialization and the changing makeup of the middle class were the key economic issues of past decades, today the major financial story is the demographic transformation occurring in the former states of the old confederacy. Our country’s economy is currently beginning yet another major geographical transformation that will dramatically alter the political and economic landscape of the country. On the one hand we are seeing the demographic and economic decline of both the west and east coast including California and at the same time we are seeing the emergence of the South as a major economic and political force in the country.


Because these changes have primarily occurred in the last decade, we have only recently become aware of how our economy is starting to develop. Fortunately, organizations like the Census Bureau as well as economists and reporters from a variety of institutions including Stanford, have started to gather enough data that we can finally draw a tentative picture of these newly emerging trends in America.


1)The Changing Demographic Makeup of America.


                           2020                   1960                   1910


Northeast            17.7%                 24.4%                 28%


Midwest             20.7%                 28.7%                 32%


West                   23.7%                 15.7%                 7.6%


South                  38.4%                 30.6%                 31%


For instance, if we look at the above chart, we see that the distribution of the nation’s population has changed over time, sometime dramatically. Over the past 200 years or so, the major changes in population have primarily concerned the Northeast and Midwest. But today the major shift in population involves both the east and west coast as well as the South.


But to provide some context for this discussion, first look at the declining share of the population located in the Northeast.  Over the last hundred years or so the number of individuals in the Northeast have declined from 28% to 17.7% of the American population while the population of the Midwest which was the heart of Industrial America has dropped from close to 29% of the country’s population to 20%. The result should not surprise us for as the US deindustrialized, many former blue collar workers moved from the Midwest to other states in search of work.


However, the most dramatically story of the post 1960s has been the growth of California. For about 50 years California was the Golden state, the land of opportunity that attracted millions of new residents. However, by 2000 the miracle of California began to fade, and its population growth began to stall out. In the last census of 2020 California failed to keep up with population increases in the South and actually lost one congressional seat. But the Census Bureau is now suggesting that the relative decline of California’s population has accelerated in the last couple of years and that California may now lose 5 congressional seats by 2030.


As California has declined the South has boomed. As the above chart indicates population growth in the South jumped from around 30% of the American population to 38% by 2020. The Census Bureau is now suggesting that the South’s share of the country’s population is rapidly growing and may be over 40% of the country’s total census by the end of the decade.


The most surprising development in this growth spurt in the South  is its popularity among African Americans. Starting in the late 1970s African Americans started moving out of New York and Illinois to the South and in the last two decades they have started moving out of California. Today roughly 60% of all African Americans have chosen to lives in the states of the south.


What is interesting is that the west coast seems to have little appeal to African Americans. Presently only 2% of people in Oregon,  4.6% of individuals in Washington State and 5% of Californians are black. In contrast, around 13% of Texas, 18% of Florida and 30% of Georgia are African American.


2)The Changing Economic Makeup of America


a.The Problems facing California.


If the shift in the country’s population is an interesting story, an even more dramatic change in our economy is the growing migration of American business firms out of states like California, Illinois and New York to the South.


In the case of California, the number of businesses moving out of the state covers the gamut including movie studies, manufacturing plants, computer software and hardware companies and financial firms.


Movie Studios

For instance, Atlanta is fast becoming the Hollywood of the South and in 2023 it made 390 productions with 31 studio films and 55 independent made films. In 206 it actually made more films than did Hollywood. Recently over 7 film studies have made their headquarters in Atlanta.


General Firms including Silicon Valley Companies

But the out migration is not limited to movie studies. In one of the oldest studies, the Relocation firm Spectrum Location Solutions claims that 10,000 business of all types either left or reduced their operations in the state between 2008 and 2015.


More recently economists at Stanford found that 352 California companies moved to other states in three years from 2018 to 2021. They also claimed that the data indicated that the outmigration from California was accelerating. Among the most notable companies to leave was Oracle, the third largest software company in the world by revenue which elected to move its Redwood City headquarters to Austin Texas.


That major loss was followed the following year by Hewlett Packard, one of the major firms that helped established Silicon valley which also decided to move its operations from San Jose to Houston Texas. 


Manufacturing Plants

In addition to computer firms, California has also lost significant manufacturing jobs. For example, from 2010 to 2021Tesla manufactured cars in Fremont California and employed over 20,000 workers. However, by the late 2020s Tesla, like an increasing number of California companies closed their operation in California and elected to build clectrical vehicles in Austin Texas.


Financial Companies

Besides losing general American companies, California as well as New York have lost many of its hedge funds and investment firms. As proof of that comment, six months ago Bloomberg financial news reported that since the year 2019, 158 financial companies that had responsibilities for investing and managing close to a trillion dollars had moved out of the state of California.


Retail Stores
Finally the state has lost a significant share of its retail business. In June of last year the San Francisco Standard, an on line newspapers reported that the number of retail stores in Union Square alone decreased from 207 to a mere 107. Among the stores closing were the Legos Store, Adidas, and Nordstrom. 


Things were so bad that the San Francisco Chronicle, normally a cheer leader for all of California’s public policies, even ran an editorial that asked “Is San Francisco a Failed State?” They also ran a whole series of articles about a doom loop in California as things deteriorate, more companies move out which only exacerbates the decline of the city.


b. The Rise of the South


While the outmigration of companies from states like California is dramatic it is only part of a larger story. And that story is the growing shift of economic power and companies to the states in the old confederacy. If present trends continue, we will probably see the south displace the west as the major source of economic growth in the country over the next couple of decades. That development is stunning.


During the 1940s the south was an incredibly poor part of the country troubled by the bigotry of Jim Crow. In fact the region was so poor, when the US had to fight Germany during WWII, most of the new army and marine bases were built in the South because the land was so cheap. The most famous of those bases is what use to be called Fort Bragg in North Carolina where our famous Delta Force is located which specializes in counter terrorism and hostage rescue.


But the rise of the South should not necessarily surprise us.  In our country, different regions have been the dominant force in our economy during different periods in our history. When we were first formed, the Northeast was the richest area in the country only to be displaced by the Midwest when America industrialized at the start of the 20thcentury.


Likewise the Golden Age of California, which lasted some 50 years from the 1950s to 2000, now seems to be coming to a close. But we should not be surprised by these results as California is well known for its hostility to business. In several surveys spanning numerous years California has consistently scored as either having the worse or second to worse climate for business out of all the 50 states. Those findings have had little impact on Sacramento. In the last two decades California’s legislature and governor has chosen to do very little to make their states more attractive to American companies.


Unfortunately the state of California also seems to be troubled by numerous social issues. In the 1960s when Lyndon Johnson set up a commission to study poverty in America, the poorest population in America were the Scotch Irish living in Appalachia.  However today 60 years later, California has displaced Appalachia as the region with the worst poverty rate in the country. Similarly, California is in the top three state for the most unequal distributions of income and it also has the largest homeless population in the nation.


Unanswered Questions


But this whole discussion of changing population and business patterns leaves one question unanswered. In reaction to the last post Kurli Thompson raised the perceptive question as to what does the out migration from states like California and New York mean politically? Will the out migration of people from California to states like Florida or Texas alter their more conservative political orientation and turn the state purple or even perhaps blue.


Because Kurli raises such an interesting question, we could try in another post to analyze the issue in more detail. But we have to realize that the question Kurli asks is an empirical issue and the only way to correctly answer it is to wait and see what the election data in the next few elections tells us. Thus the most definite answer to her query is that it is too early to tell.  However given our age, we may not be around to see what happens in future elections. We can thus use whatever data is currently available and speculate where we lack data. For instance, in the 2020 midterm elections Republicans in states like Florida, Texas and Georgia swept the election and, in the process, managed to control both branches of the legislature as well as all of the state wide elected office. That result suggest that the inmigration of people has had little impact on the electoral politics of the above states. But to know if this trend will continue, we again need data from several more elections. 


If we take Kurli’s question and broaden it, we can actually speculate about the future political direction of both California as well states like Florida. Besides asking if people moving from California to the South will turn these states purple, we can reverse the question and ask if people and businesses moving out of California and New York will turn these blue states more reddish.


If a state like California also has a high poverty rate, a large homeless population and numerous African Americans and American businesses abandoning the state, will people be willing to change their voting habits. Another possibility is that the out migration may embolden more moderate Democrats to try to wrestle power away from more Progressive Democrats. More moderate Democrats might be less hostile to business and more opposed to Progressive policies that define deviance down such as defunding the police or letting shop lifters walk scott-free.


Again, if we are willing to wait, we should know the answer some time in the next decade. But given our age, we probably won’t have the opportunity to see the results.  That leaves us with the option of just speculating about various scenarios. The process can be fun. But every possibility is just that a possibility. Unless we are incredibly long living members of the class of 1963, we will probably won’t be around to correctly answer Kurli’s interesting question.

04/06/24 06:36 PM #464    

Susie Weidman (Arnold)

Bill, thank you so much for your informative posts.  We are so fortunate to have our own in house professor.  Good to still be learning at our age, best to you, Susie 

04/06/24 08:49 PM #465    


Tim Kleeman

Hi Bill, I hope you realize that some of us that do not post-or even go online for that matter that often, really enjoy your insights. Please keep posting Bill. You're a good man and citizen! Thank you

04/07/24 04:41 AM #466    


Bill Kelso

Just want to thank Susie and Tim for their nice comments. Over the years I have exchanged many wonderful letters with Susie who is a dear friend. 


It was also nice to be back in touch with Tim again. I wanted to tell Tim how much I enjoyed his comments a year or two ago when our friend Bennie Sargis passed away. At that time we were discussing how Bennie had perfected his ability to break into California Jr. high, enabling our class to play basketball in the school’s gym during the weekends.


At that time I think everyone at Cal thought that Benny was probably the finest two story individual Cal had ever produced. Nobody else ever came close to having Benny’s B and E skills. 


Because Benny’s hijinks quickly become widely known, many members of our Jr. high class started showing up for the recurring basketball weekend games.  


When Tim mentioned that he had participated in those games, I distinctly remembered playing with him in those pickup games. As a result his comments brought back a lot of great memories about jr. high. 


At that time none of us had cell phones, video games or streaming, but who needed it. With Benny, we had the better option of playing in a posh junior high gymnasium protected from the outside elements.  In discussing our weekend basketball games at Cal, Tim recalled one of the most pleasant aspects of life in jr. high. 

04/11/24 07:56 AM #467    


Bill Kelso

                  A McClatchy Reunion Theme Song

When I opened the “In Memory” section the other day and saw Lynn Anderson’s name, I was really saddened. In my senior year I sat across from Lynn as well as 

Robert Moeckly in Mr. Lindberg’s science class and when I joined the website, I was hoping to contact Lynn. However, because she never joined the McClatchy website I had no way to get in touch with her.

When I looked at all the students who had died in just the first 3 ½ months of 2024 it was hard to be optimistic about the future. It seemed like we were losing a classmate every 3 weeks or so. 

Because the news was so depressing, I thought I would look for some positive news to offset the news about our classmates who were no longer with us.

To achieve that goal I started looking at videos of the TV show Glee which was about a bunch of high school students who sang and performed in their Glee club at their high school of McKinley high.

A Theme Song for our Reunion

Very quickly I found this song originally sung by Diana Ross but in this video performed by Amber Riley, one of the best young singers in America. It seemed to me to both a poignant as well as happy song about kids graduating from high school. It thus appeared to be a perfect theme song for a high school reunion.

Someday we will be together,vid:C1X0E4AiNZA,st:

It is also a wonderful video that illustrates the importance of high school friendships as well as the importance of staying in touch.

Because Amber Riley is such an impressive and powerful singer with incredible range, I added two other videos of her to this post. 

Maybe it is a stretch but they also illustrate problems we all have to face in attending high school.

The Importance of Being Resilient. 

For instance in the following song “I am Beautiful” which was written by Candice Glover tells the story of a young person who refuses to believe negative things thought about her. In the lyrics of the song, we are told that words will not bring us down, that in effect we will be resilient. The record is important because many think our generation was trained to be much more resilient than Millennials or Gen Z. Where as colleges today tell young  people today that they need safe spaces and should worry about Micro aggressions, Amber Riley expresses the need for young people to believe in themselves. Or to repeat the above point “What ever happens do not let word bring your down today.”

You are Beautiful. The Main Theme of the Show


The Importance of Treating others with Consideration

Finally a third Amber Riley’s recording you might like is her rendering of Otis Redding’s song “Try a Little Tenderness”. This song reflects probably both a short coming in our generation as well as that of young people. That is the tendency of people to show a lack of tenderness or concern for other people. In our very polarized and low trust world, it would be nice if people were more thoughtful of others.

Mercedes singing a song from Otis Redding

If you liked these videos of kids at McKinley they can perhaps be a model for our next reunion. Besides enjoying the company of our fellow classmates, we can also appreciate the need to be resilient as well as considerate of the people we grew up with.

If at the next class get together the reunion committee is going  to play any music, they may want to consider “Someday we will be together” as the theme of our high school reunion.  

04/14/24 07:55 PM #468    

Diane Hinesley (Malone)

Hi Bill, Thank you for your posts, they take me and perhaps others down memory lane.Hair styles, Lanz dresses, Vic's hot dog sandwiches, Glee Club, and friendships, many still contact today.
Like Tim I do not check our web site as often as I should. Do keep posting it helps in keeping we from the class of "63" in touch. Diane Hinesley Malone

05/03/24 06:26 AM #469    


Bill Kelso

                History of Dance in Popular American Music.

A while back Francis mentioned that he liked to talk to his son about growing up in the 1960s. One of the most unusual  occurrences during that time was the invention of the dance called the Twist and its many derivatives such as the Swim and the Locomotion. I recalled that period when Linda and I recently looked at pictures of our relatives dancing the Watusi and the Locomotion at the wedding of our nephew hosted by a DJ playing tunes from the1960s a few years back. We naturally laughed and thought the pictures were priceless.

Because we laughed so much it dawned on me that maybe our McClatchy class of 63 be might also be interested in understanding how our generation danced compared with people in the 20s, 40s, 70s, 80s, 90s as well as the 21st century. We also wanted to show that as music changed in America so did popular dance steps.

To put this discussion in some context and to connect it with previous posts, in the following links we tried to show how both singers of Rhythm and Blues and then secondly the public changed dance styles from one decade to the next.

1.The Various Types of Singer Song Dances

In looking at the dance moves of singers we have to recognize that this type of dance in America originated with the development of African American music. Unlike western music, African music has never made a distinction between music and dance. Thus in Africa when people sang they simultaneous danced.

However, when African Americans started to sing professionally in the United States, they followed the American tradition and initially just stood straight while belting out their songs. After all most African America rarely danced to Jazz or the Blues. But as Black music evolved from Jazz to Rhythm and Blues, many black recording artists started reverting back to their national heritage by dancing while singing. In the course of moving their bodies while singing, black artists came up with a variety of unique dance steps to enhance their particular sound.

In the follow video links we can see how Chuck Berry first revived traditional African dance by developing the duck walk. 

After Chuck Berry African American singers such as the Temptations to Michael Jackson devised a wide variety of dance styles.

A.The Song And Dance Routines of Black Artists. Notice how each singer has his own unique dance style. 

To appreciate the diversity of how singers sought to express themselves we can watch the following 1) videos of Chuck Berry as he developed his Duck Walk, 2) following by the Temptations, one of the most successful Motown groups, who are in turn are followed by 3) James Brown who was a sensation in his day, 4) followed by Michael Jackson who created the Moon Walkl and MC Hammer with his unique dance style.  5) To appreciate the above videos we need to also watch the dance moves of Elvis Presley, a white singer who also performed and danced like a black artist.  Finally to appreciate the differnce between white and black singers, we can  finish this segment with a 6) video  of Bobby Rydell singing Volare. While Bobby Rydell has great hand gestures and can swing his hips a little, he, like most white singers, is not much of a dancer. 

1)Chuck Berry as he experiments with the Duck Walk

Chuck Berry and the Duck Walk

The above video of Chuck Berry is worth viewing if you simultaneously want to see how our generation danced. Watch the guy in the white suit and the girl in the white skirt with black circles to the left of Chuck Berry. When you look at how our generation danced, it is hard to know whether we should be amazed or embarrassed. 

The only time I have danced like this in the last 40 years occurred at my nephew’s wedding I discussed above. Halfway through the dance, my many cousins asked me if I knew how to do the Swim or the Watusi. I said yes as I had been young once. Most of my younger relatives looked at me in disbelief as they insisted that I had always been at least 70 years old. To demonstrate that they were wrong, Linda and I got on the dance floor. But before we started to dance, we confiscated the phones of all of our relatives so that there is no permanent record us acting like teenagers from the 1960s.

2) Chuck Berry and Johnny B Good

3) Motown. The Temptations

Video of Motown swingers

4) James Brown

James Brown on the ED Sullivan Show

5) MC. Hammer

. MCHammer Singing and Dancing

6) Michael Jackson and the Moon Walk

Michael Jackson and the Moon Walk

7) Elvis Presley

Elvis and different types of Dances

8)Bobby Rydell singing



2. Popular Participatory Dances. How our generation was different from other generations.

The second form of dancing has generally involved couples dancing traditional moves like the waltz or the polka. In Africa, in contrast, dancing rarely involved couples. In place of two people dancing with one another, much dancing was either communal involving a whole line of people or else it was individualistic dancing in which one person shows off a whole array of moves. Because many of these individualistic dances involves a lot of pelvic activity, many westerns felt African dance steps were lascivious. However, Africans argued that since individuals danced by themselves and rarely touched someone from the other sex, their moves were more restrained than western dances.

Given our unique Western European as well as African American heritage it should not surprise us that in America the dance scene is very eclectic. Much of swing dancing from the 1940s involves couples and is very physical as the two dance partners end up twisting and rolling over one another. In contrast much of the dancing in the 1960s are variation on the twist. While nominally two people are dancing with one another, they in effect rarely touch one another as each individuals shakes and twists all by himself. 

If we look at the videos you will also see that the Charleston and Swing dance of the 1920s through the 1940s required the dancers to be fairly athletic. The same goes for Disco dancing in the 1970s with the advent of the Hustle. In contrast the dances of the 1960s, which many of our generation performed on shows like the Dick Clark Show, required little skill. If you review the dance steps of the last several decades it is fair to say that our generation will probably not be remembered for its dancing. The oppositive is probably true of the 1940s generation who popularized swing dancing.

To appreciate this variety of dance styles in America we will look at the seven main types of popular dance that have dominated the 20th and 21st century. They include: 1) The Charlestown Dance which is associated with early Jazz or Dixieland Jazz, 2) Swing Dance also called the Linde Hop or the Jitterbug, which is associated with the Big Band Era or Swing Jazz 3) the dances of the 1960s which are variations on the Twist and associated with Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll, 4) Country Dancing which is a retro form of dancing similar to swing dancing, and was popular from the 1920s to the present,  5) Disco dancing, which naturally reflect the development of the sub-genre of R and B called Disco music and was popular in the 1970s, 6) Break Dancing which is associated with the rise of Rap of Hip Hop Music in the 1980s and  1990s and finally the development of 7) Rave dancing which is connected to the development of Electronic Dance Music in the 21st century.

A. A quick summary of the dance types over the last 100 years.

1. Jazz. The Charleston: The Dance of the1920s

Dixieland Jazz.     The Dance of early Jazz or Dixieland Jazz is the Charleston.

2. Big Band JazzThe Swing Dance of the 1940s and the Big Band Era

The Dance of Big Band Jazz is called Swing Dance or the Linde Hop which is also known as the Jitterbug. In Europe Swing dance is also known as Boogie Woogie dance.

3. Rhythm and Blues and Rock and  Roll Music.  Its main dance is the twist but with time there are many variations on the Twist such as the Locomotion or Swim. These dances are popular from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

The Dance of R and B and Rock and Roll is the twist and its many variation such as the Swim or the Watusi.

4. Country Dancing As we shall see there are three main types of country dancing: Clogging, Line Dancing and Couples Dancing. These dance steps were popular from the 1920s to the Present.

Clogging, Line Dancing or Couple Dancing. Country Couple dancing has many similarities to Swing Dancing of the 1940s.

5. Disco Music. The Hustle: The Dance of the 1970s.

A sub genre of R and B is Disco music. Its main dance style is the Hustle. It stresses dancing more than traditional Rhythm and Blues.

6. Rap or Hip Hop Music. The Break Dance steps of the 1980s

The dance of Rap or Hip Hop is Break Dancing which is a form of entertainment dancing rathe than participatory dancing. 

7. Electronic Dance Music. The dance of Electronic Dance music is Rave Dance and it was popular during the 21st Century. 

B. Examples of the above Dance Types

1. Dixieland Jazz and its main dance the Charlestown. The 1920s

1) A Major Charleston Dance routine

Another Charleston Routine

2) Charleston Demonstration

2. Swing Jazz. The Dance Moves of the 1940s

Two videos. The European version of American Swing Music is called Boogie Woogie. 

Swing dancing which is also known as the Linda hop or Jitterbug is known for:

a. Aerials (lifting and throwing one’s partners over one’s back) called a roll over move. 

b. Abundant spins and swivels and 

c. Plenty of twists and turns and 

d. Pull throughs where the guy pulls his partner through his legs.

1)Swing Dance of young couples

Swing Dance with Young Couples

2)Swing Dances from the Movies

Swing dances from the Movies

3. Rhythm and Blues as well as Rock and Roll. Dances.  Popular from the 1950s to early 1970s.

Five Videos.  

1)The 1950s. At this point Jim Crow still exists in the US. But you can see teenagers begin to challenge segregation by adopting both Black music and dance. This clip is from the movie Hairspray.

Hair Spray. An Introduction

2)Tradition Dancers on Dick Clark in 1964 who were one year young than we were in 1964. We now see a change from the 1950s as Dick Clark has black dancers on the show. 

Also notice all of the women with a Bouffant Flip hair style. Even if you did not know the year this was filmed, all the bouffant flip hair styles would tell you it was sometime in the 60s. Among our classmates perhaps 30% of the women wore bouffant flips.  

3) Learn the dance steps of the 1960s

Dances of the 1960s

4) More Dance Examples from the 60s. Different Forms of the Twist

5)The Nitty Gritty

The Nitty Gritty of the 1960s

4. Disco Dancing. The Dance Moves of the 70s. This styles of dance is called the hustle. Two Videos

Several main steps including:

a.Finger pointing up 

b.Roll it up

c. Chicken Wing

d. Kick Ball Chain

1)Examples of Disco dancingExamples of Disco Dancing

2) The Main Steps of the Hustle, the main dance of disco

5.Country Music and the Rise of Country Dancing. 1920s to the present. There are three types of country dancing. 

Country dancing has been popular from the 1920s. It involves Clogging to Line Dancing which was popular in the 90s to Couple Dancing which has always been popular among country fans.


When the Scotch Irish came to America they revived the dance habits of their native country but they modified it and called it clogging. Clogging refers to the dancers being in synch with the beat of the song. Like people in Ireland the Scotch Irish were incredibly poor and lacked the instruments to have a full band. They compensated for their lack of instruments by using their feet to make music. 

Like Blacks who invented both tap dancing, as well as Doo Wop music which is acapella, the Irish used alternative measures such as using their feet to make up for their lack of musical instruments

If you watch these videos carefully you will also see that Irish dances have loud and elaborate rhythms. That is unusual because generally western music stresses melody and harmony and not rhythm. 

2) Country Line Dancing. This type of dancing was popular in the 1990s.

Wilson and country line dancing

3)Couples Country Dancing

V)deo of Country Dancing

6.Rap and Break Dancing. Popular form of dancing in the 1980s

Four key elements

a. First is the Top rock in which a dancer shows off his moves standing up.

b. Second is the down rock in which the dancer demonstrates his versatility while on the ground

c. Third is the power move as the dancer demonstrates his strength by standing on his hands

d. The fourth move is the freeze moves where his remains frozen for a minute or two.

Don’t try this dance if you are in your seventies..

1)Examples of Break Dancing

Rap or Break Dancing

7.Electro Music and Rave Dancing Popular in the 21st Century 

In the following video you have to turn on the sound.

1)Short Video of a Rave 

Video of a Rave dance

2) Various Dance Moves to use at a Rave Dance

The Moves of Rave Dance

3)Rave Dance in the Netherlands. A rather elevated and overblown view of the benefits of rave dancing. 

Rave dance in the netherlands




05/04/24 09:39 AM #470    

Allison Oakes (Sabraw)

Bill Kelso:

Wow oh wow - loved the music update !!!

I will lookforward to read again - THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME !  Allison

05/12/24 08:59 AM #471    


Bill Kelso

                  The Development of American Music

Because, one of my greatest joys was listening to music when I was younger, I thought about posting yet another note about music on the McClatchy website.  But I was not sure how many of our classmates either enjoy listening to music or are interested in the subject. 

However, I remembered from a recent post that our very nice and friendly classmate Barbara Alexander expressed an interest in music in an earlieer discussion of Rhythm and Blues. I likewise recalledl from several earlier exchange of letters with several other classmates that there are at least a handful of people who get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to music.

As I indicated above, that certainly included me. I know when I was in Cal Jr. High, my brother and I really enjoyed spending our Saturdays at Tower records listening to music and using our allowance to buy records. After pooling all of our money at the end of the seventh grade we were even eventually able to buy a record player which enabled us to listen to our collection of 45 records before falling asleep. 

Based on the above recollections, I decide to write a brief outline about one of the most important developments of music in American life which is the development of jazz.  I hope that at least some members of our class might enjoy listening as well as reading about the development of this unique form of music. While we have previously talked about how our generation of the 1960s helped create and sustain the two forms of music today known as Rhythm and Blues as well as Rock and Roll, hopefully our class may likewise find it also of interest to know what kind of music teenagers enjoyed in the decades before us.

To achieve that goal, I wrote a brief discussion of the various types of jazz music. In the 40 years from the middle of the 1920s to the 1960s jazz went through several major development and today there are basically four main types or genres of jazz music. 

While some of this music may be unfamiliar to many people. I tried to find links that would at least allow you to hear what the music was like. Hopefully after listening to different forms of jazz, you will come to enjoy this uniquely American form of music.




05/12/24 09:05 AM #472    


Bill Kelso

                       The Role of Popular Music in America

Today music is a major form of entertainment in America. For many people from all walks of life, music plays an important role in their lives. To help us understand why that is the case, we shall briefly look at two issues before studying in more detail jazz music. First we shall ask where much of popular American music originated.  We may be surprised that initially most of American popular music came from one particular region of the country. Not until the second half of the 20th century did the rest of the country get involved in developing new styles of music. 

Secondly, we shall examine why so many Americans have fond memories of listening to music. Surprisingly we shall find that beside providing tremendous personal satisfaction to individuals listing to their favorite artists, American music has also been a vehicle by which groups, especially minority and ethnic groups, have been able to achieve an identify that gives them some dignity or status in society. At the same time, we shall find that music has often become caught up in the political disagreements that affect our country. As the US has become more polarized, certain types of music including certain types of jazz have fallen either in or out of favor over time.

                                     The Origins of Popular Music in America

Presently, if you want to know the origins of much of American popular music, you just need to learn the names three cities: New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis.

To understand the significance of these streets we have to talk about the role the south has played in developing American popular culture. While today there is much news about how many companies like Hewlett Packard and Oracle have moved their operations to the south, these news announcements should not overshadow the role the south has played in developing American music. 

In the 20th century, the first sign that the south was finally starting to confront and eventually overcome its legacy of poverty and racial oppression was reflected in its development as a major center of musical creativity. Beginning around 100 years ago, in cities as disparate as New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis the south developed three unique forms of music which today we know as Jazz, Country Music and Rhythm and Blues. In addition, the south developed a fourth type of music, Black Gospel Music, which arose in a variety of churches in numerous cities in both the south and north. It was not until the later part of the 20th century that cities outside the south contributed to the evolution of the various forms of American music. However, in this post we will only look at the origins and development of jazz in the late 1920s, the major form of popular music in America before the rise of Rhythm and Blues.

                                        The Impact of the Germans 

Prior to this date, German Americans in particular and Europeans in general as well as the military had shaped American music. The Germans after all had dominated European music for three centuries, from the 17th to the 19th Century, as they had developed Baroque, Classical and Romantic Music.

                                       A New Musical Adventure.

However beginning by the 1920s, African Americans in the deep south as well as the Scotch Irish in Appalachia developed alternative musical traditions which soon began to rival and then helped transformed classical forms of music popular in major cities. The fact that two marginal ethnic groups in society, with limited power and influence, should be so successful was unexpected. As we mentioned before, the growth of a unique and large youth culture first in the 1920s and secondly in the 1960s partly explains this dramatic transformation in American musical tastes.

                                               The Rise of Jazz

Of the four types of major music developed in the south, jazz was one of the earliest forms of music to develop in the old confederacy, arising in the middle of the 1920s. Before jazz, blacks had achieved some fame with the growth of what is today called Rag Time. However with the invention of jazz black music achieved nationwide appeal. As we have seen many novelists and historians even named the decade of the 1920s in America as the Jazz age.  

And as everyone knows, the first form of jazz which is called Dixieland Jazz or Hot Jazz developed in New Orleans. The raises the obvious question as to why New Orleans was such a center of creativity? The answer is that unlike most areas in the South, New Orleans was a cosmopolitan town with a very diverse population. New Orleans, in the aftermath of WWI, also had had a large military brass band entertaining the public, thus exposing African Americans to a whole array of new instruments. Historically most African Americans had a musical tradition that relied on percussion instruments like drums as well as various string instruments. But in New Orleans, blacks could now try playing new instruments like the clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and tuba. 

Before you knew it the African American community had developed funeral bands as part of their native culture to honor member of their community who has passed away. However given the musical talent in the black community, many black artists started using their new brass instruments to entertain people as well as to honor the dead. Besides being part of funeral processions, jazz became a popular form of music in the black community because people could dance to it and entertain themselves.  Unfortunately, in light of the novelty of the music, and its secular nature, the earliest and most popular venues for playing jazz were in the Cat houses on the outskirts of town. 

The Rise of Dixieland or Hot Jazz.

In light of the harshness of Jim Crow laws and the difficulties of living in a highly segregated society, many black artists eventually decided to leave the south and move to the north, primarily Chicago and New York.  From its inception in 1927 Dixieland Jazz lasted until the middle of the 1930s enjoying roughly 8 years of popularity. In the north and south traditional Jazz was soon eclipsed by three new and very different forms of Jazz music.

Swing Jazz

The first major evolution occurred when white musicians heard their black counterparts play and decided to copy them. This process which led to the creation of the big bands developed a new form of jazz which is known as Swing Jazz. It lasted from roughly 1935 to 1945 or the end of World War II. 

Benny Goodman was a leader in creating this new form of music. Because Benny Goodman was Jewish and had unfortunately suffered from antisemitism, he went out of his way to treat his black counterparts with respect. He was the first big band leader to direct a partially integrated band, an incredibly rare event in the 1930s. Goodman’s success soon led other musicians like Glenn Miller and later Duke Ellington to follow suit.

But that raises an interesting question as to why Big Band Jazz or what is also called Swing Jazz soon became more popular than Dixieland Jazz and eventually lead to the latter’s decline in popularity. The answer is probably twofold. By the 1930s the US was in the middle of the Great Depression and people were frustrated by their economic situation. In this new depressing environment, people sought to escape from the misery of their lives by seeking to dance the night away. In pursuing entertainment, they sought to overcome their sense of anxiety by escaping into the make believe world of music, movies and entertainment. In particular they wanted to listen to music that was happy or uplifting, that diverted their attention from the privations of daily living. In light of the limited size of most Dixieland ensambles, people preferred to dance to the sound of larger and more polished bands.

In recognition of this desire bands became larger and created arrangements that would facilitate dancing.  But in the 1930s most hotels and school auditorium practiced Jim Crow and only white bands could rent dance halls to accommodate large number of people. While there were a few Black big bands, most notable that led by Duke Ellington, African American bands lacked the resources to compete with their white counterparts who sought to meet the public’s desire to be entertained.

With the rise in prices during WWII, the cost of maintaining the big bands became so expensive that they eventually disbanded when the war ended. When the big bands ceased to exist, jazz no longer dominated public music. As the bands became a thing of the past, individual crooners like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como or Nat King Cole came to dominate American music.

Bebop Jazz

By the 1940s many black musicians resented this situation.  Their displeasure was twofold and ambivalent in nature.  First they were naturally unhappy that their unique contribution to the American playlist had fallen out of disfavor. Secondly while regretting the demise of jazz, they were also unhappy that Swing had replaced Dixieland as the primary form of jazz played in this country. To show their displeasure with these two unfortunate events, they decided to create a third form of jazz which is today known as Bebop Jazz. While they realized that this new form of jazz would not have the popularity of the big bands, they pursued this new form of jazz as a means of preserving their cultural identity.

A select group of black musicians chose to create new genre of Jazz as a protest against what they felt were the efforts of the big bands to appropriate black music while minimizing the role of black musicians in their bands. In light of the racial divide in the country, many black musicians had become hostile to the displacement of Dixieland Jazz by the Swing Jazz of the big bands.  Many African American musicians felt that an art form they had developed, had been used to enhance the well-being of white musicians at the expense of black artists. 

In seeking to broaden its appeal, the big bands had tended to modify jazz so that it had fewer spontaneous moments or rough edges. But in modifying Dixieland music, Black artists thought that the big band sound had so diluted their musical art form, that they had compromised its authenticity. For many Black musicians jazz was not just a form of music to entertain people. On the contrary it was a form of music that gave Black America an identity that they could be proud of because of its unusual creativity and novel sense of music. 

As a response several black musicians, most notable Charlie Bird Parker and Dizzy Gillespie created a new more convoluted form of jazz known as Bebop.  This type of jazz was designed to be so complex that it would be difficult to play, listen to as well as impossible to dance to. Bebop was thus a form of rebellion by some black artists who hoped to make the music so complex that white artists would be unable to duplicate let alone copy it.

In many ways it was so frenetic and difficult, that it became a form of jazz that primarily appealed to musicians who wanted jazz to reflect Black culture. The music was so hyper charged, that one of the chief proponents of this new type of jazz, John Gillespie was even nicknamed Dizzy Gillespie.

Cool Jazz

In light of the frenetic and difficult nature of much Bebob music, many musicians eventually rebelled against it and created a fourth version of jazz which is today call Cool Jazz. It is much slower and mellow type of Jazz that became popular around the1950s. Cool Jazz, which deemphasized the politics of Bebop, created a new form of music which stressed a relaxed tempo and lighter tone than Bebop.  

While Bebop wanted to stress the racial or cultural nature of Jazz, most advocates of Cool Jazz wanted to emphasize just the nature of the music created by jazz musicians. The hostility that had been expressed towards the big bands had finally started to dissipate by the time Cool Jazz finally emerge in post war America. The key issues now were the quality of the music created rather than the color of the performing musician. 

 While Cool Jazz was radically different in style from Bebop, Cool Jazz, unlike Dixieland and Swing Jazz, was a similar to Bebop in that it was music that was designed to be listened to rather than danced to.

As Cool Jazz became more popular, more musicians began to practice it. The most famous practitioner of this new form of jazz was John Coltrane, who came quickly became one of the best known jazz artists in the country.  Besides Coltrane, Cool Jazz attracted numerous white musicians and this form of music was fairly multi racial in nature.  The most notable musicians of this new era were Dave Brubeck, Herb Alpert and Stan Getz who achieved fame with songs like “A Taste of Honey,” “This Guy is in Love with You” or “Take Five.”

With time, Cool Jazz became part of popular American culture. In many well received detective shows like the TV program Bosch, the detective becomes famous for always listening to John Coltrane music. The TV show wanted to contrast the violence of the streets and police work with the mellow atmosphere of Cool Jazz. 

Given its popularity in America the idea of Cool Jazz soon spread to other countries. In Brazil musicians created a form of Cool Jazz known as Bossa Nova which today is famous for its song “The Girl from Ipanema.” While Cool Jazz originated in America, this very American form of music has now spread around the world and has practitioners in Europe. Asia and Latin America.

The Revival of Dixieland Jazz

While Bebop and Cool Jazz had their fans after WWII, they primarily remained a niche form of entertainment in the US. By the 1950s Dixieland Jazz had even made a comeback, reviving in the process interest in the music of the 1920s. Many musical historians insist that the revival of Dixieland was in large part due to the likeable and charismatic personality of Louie Armstrong. While Armstrong had played a key role in the 1920s in helping to established jazz as a new form of American music, he simultaneous played an important part in reviving that earliest form of Jazz 40 years later.  He was helped along by Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson who repeatedly book him on their programs.

In the 1960s, his song “Hello Dolly” became so popular that it was made into a Broadway play and later a movie music with Barbara Streisand. Despite his gravelly voice, Armstrong became the oldest singer at the age of 60 to produce a number one top hit on the musical charts.

While Armstrong worked the TV circuits, his hometown of New Orleans was reborn as the center of traditional jazz in America. In Bourbon Street in New Orleans, numerous entrepreneurs created jazz clubs to become the center of the jazz world. The city that was the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, became so famous that Bourbon Street soon became the place where tourists flocked to listened to the first popular form of African American music.


The development of Jazz had thus come full circle. A musical form that originated in New Orleans as Dixieland Jazz had been transformed up north into first Swing jazz, then Bebop Jazz and finally Cool Jazz before it finally returned to its roots in the south. Today depending on your musical preferences, you can listen to four different version of jazz. While Rhythm and Blues as well as Rock and Roll and its various sub genres dominate the musical scene in America, jazz lives on with a small but devoted group of fans. In place of being the most popular form of music like Rhythm and Blues or Rock and Role, jazz occupies a limited but secure niche in America’s listening habits.




05/12/24 09:09 AM #473    


Bill Kelso

           The Evolution of American Popular Music

                                 A Quick Timeline

A. The Jazz Age

Main Period: 1927 to 1960

1. Dixieland Jazz 1927 to 1935

2. Swing Jazz 1935 to 1945

3. Bebop Jazz 1940s to 1950s

4. Cool Jazz 1960s

5. Revival of Dixieland Jazz with Louie Armstrong 1960s

B. The Age of the Crooner 

Main Period: 1940s to late 1950s

After the demise of jazz, American music was dominated by the Age of the solo Crooner. He or she mainly sang songs from the American play list composed by song writers associated with Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Group in New York City. They include the following singers. 

1. Tony Bennett,                         1. Dinah Shore

2. Nat King Cole                          2. Doris Day

3 Perry Como                               3. Rosemary Clooney

4. Frank Sinatra                           4. Peggy Lee

5. Andy Williams                          5. Patty Page

6. Bing Crosby                              6. Dinah Washington

7. Vic Damone

8. Dean Martin

9 Johnny Mathis

C. The Rhythm and Blues & Rock and Roll Age

Main Period: 1950s, 60s to the Present.

In the 1960s R & B and Rock and Roll replaced the more bland tones of the Crooner Age.

1.The Rise of Rhythm and Blues.  1950s to 1960s

2. The Rise of Rock and Roll. 1950s to Present

05/12/24 09:14 AM #474    


Bill Kelso

                                        The Evolution of Jazz

                                      How to View the Videos       

Because there are often  anywhere from two to seven videos of the different types of jazz, the best way to view this post and its accompanying videos may be in distinct viewing periods. Because several videos watched back to back may run 5 to 10 minutes, it might be best to watch them on sequential days if you are interested in this topic.

However if you are not all that interested in jazz, you might want to pick and choose which videos to watch. While many of the songs from the Big Band era may be unknown to you, you are probably going to be familiar with many of the videos from the Cool Jazz era especially those by Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, and Herp Alpert. You should also listen to “The Girl from Ipanema” which is the most popular Jazz record ever recorded. Finally you might want to watch Louie Armstrong singing “Hello Dolly” which was a number one hit in the sixties. The video is part of a clip he made with Barbara Streisand in a movie with the same title.

But because much of Jazz lacks the pounding beat of Rock and Roll, you may find the music at first as being somewhat bland or boring. But if you give it a chance you may find the music soothing and refreshing. If you just want to relax, listening to Cool Jazz or the Big Band sound will put you in a mellow and contented frame of mind.

1. Videos of Dixieland Jazz

As mentioned previously, Dixieland Jazz is the earliest form of Jazz which was invented in New Orleans. To get a feel for that time period watch the impromptu jazz combo performing on the streets of New Orleans. In the 1920s this was a common occurrence in New Orleans. The only thing that is different is that these jazz musicians are white rather than African American.

1) This is an impromptu Jazz band in New Orleans

Video of street musicians playing Dixieland Jazz

Many of the early Dixieland songs had religious overtones That is reflected in the song “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” sung by a young girl on the Ed Sullivan show and Louie Armstrong’s rendition of “When the Saints go marching in.”

Swing Low Sweet Chariot refers to the belief that Heaven awaits you once you die. 

“When the Saints go Marching in” is also about a religious theme which hopes that the Angels will escort you through the pearly gates of Heaven. This song was often played at funerals in New Orleans. Because of the trumpet sound it may also indicate an impending end of the world as depicted in the Book of Revelation in the Old Testament. The sound of the trumpet in the bible often indicates an apocalyptic event, signaling the end times.

2) A very popular Dixieland Jazz song, Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Popular Dixieland song Carry me Home

3) Louie Armstrong singing when the Saints go Marching In. As we shall see Louie Armstrong played an important role in the early establishment of Dixieland Jazz when he was a young man in the 1920s and 40 years later when he helped to revive Dixieland Jazz in the 1960s. This song takes a while to develop so be patient and I think you will be glad you saw the song to its grand finale. 

Louie Armstrong singing when the saints go marching in


2. Videos of Big Band Jazz which is also called Swing Jazz.

The Big Band Era was much bigger and much better organized than Dixieland bands with anywhere from 10 to 17 members. 

Even more importunately, they often relied on the device known as Call and Response among the sections of the band to distinguish their unique sound. For instance, in a band the reeds or the trumpets would play a statement and then another section of the band say the trombone section would respond. The interplay between the different sections of the band gave the band a unique musical signature. In playing their instruments the band members would point them in different direction as the band was involved in a kind of symbolic dance among its various sections.

As the end of the videos we also can see a unique form of Swing music that is known as Scat and was made popular by Ella Fitzgerald. Instead of singing words, the jazz vocalist sings the equivalent of musical sounds. Because many early jazz bands lacked instruments, some jazz singers began singing nonsense syllables to imitate the sounds of instruments. 

Below I listed 8 of the most famous big band sounds of the 1930s and 40s. Initially Benny Goodman was the most popular Big Band leader and is considered the King of Swing. But eventually Glenn Miller surpassed him in popularity as his music was smoother and more mellow than Goodman.

A. Two of Benny Goodman’s Two Hits. Benny Goodman is considered the King of Swing as his music was faster paced than Miller’s music.

1)Benny Goodman playing his famous hit Sing, Sing Sing with Gene KrupaBenny Goodman playing his major hit Sing Sing Sing

2)Benny Goodman and Peggy LeeWhy don't you do right with Benny Goodmzn and Peggy Lee

B. Many of Glenn Miller’s top Hits. He soon displaced Benny Goodman as the leader of the most popular Big Bands.

A Short note on Swing Jazz and Swing Dance

While Swing Dance is associated with Swing Jazz, it mainly applies to middle class and working-class people. When people get dressed up in Tuxedos and long dresses, they are unlikely to do the aerials of swing dance in which the women roll over the backs of their partner or later the dance movmens in which they get pulled through the legs of their male counterparts. The dancing in the following  video is a restrained and sedate version of swing dancing which accompanied most examples of Swing Jazz.

3)Glenn Miller playing in the mood

Glen Miller playing in the mood

4) Miller playing I got a Girl in Kalamazoo

Glenn Miller playing I got a girl

5)Linda Carter sings Chattanooga Cho Cho. This song takes a while to get going but Linda Carter’s singing  is worth the wait.

 Linda Carter singing Big Band Tune

6) Big Band Jazz putting on the Ritz. A Dance interpretation of Big Band Music.

Putting on the Rit

7) Miller playing Pennsylvania 6500

Example of the Big Band Sound

8) Miller playing Moonlight Serenade

Miller playing Moonlight Serenade

C. Ella Fitzgerald Singing Scat

11) Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington sing scat

Ella Fitzgerald singing Scat with the Duke

12) More Scat with Mel Tome and Ella Fitzgerald


3. Videos of Bebop Jazz

1)Charlie Parker playing Bebop which is a form of rebellion against the Big Band version of Swing Jazz. This form of jazz is not meant for dancing and it made difficult so white musicians will have a hard time copying it.

Charlie Parker Bebop Jazz

2) Dizzy Gillespie. A rather mild version of Bebop

Dizzy Gillespie playing Jazz


4. Videos of Cool Jazz

Below are some great classics of Cool Jazz. But the most popular Jazz song by sales  in the history of Jazz is the Girl from Ipanema

1)Herb Alpert sings Rise

Herbert Alpert sings rise a song of cool jazz

2)Herb Alpert

Alpert singing a touch of honey

3)Dave Brubeck and Cool Jazz

The Cool Jazz of Take Five

The Brazilian form of Cool Jazz which is known as Bossa Nova produced the following song, “The Girl from Ipanema.” The record is the story of an actual event.  Two Brazilian musicians actually watched for many weeks a beautiful girl walking past them on Ipanema beach which is an upscale neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. When they wrote a song recounting their experience the woman on the beach became a famous celebrity in Brazil.  Today she is a grandmother with many grandchildren, but she is still celebrated in the Brazilian press as a symbol of Brazil’s romantic heritage. The song went on to record the most record sales or musical downloads of any song in the history of jazz.

4))The Girl from Ipanema

The girl from Ipanema

5)John Coltrane Playing

John Coltraine Playing Cool Jazz

6)Stan Getz playing MistyStan Getz polaying his hit cool jazz recording of Misty

7)Herb Alpert singing  “This guy is in love with you”

Alpert singing this guy is in Love with your


5. Video of the Revival of Dixieland Jazz

1)This is the most popular of Louie Armstrong’s Jazz hits

Louise Armstrong singing to Barbara Streisand

2) Example of Dixieland JazzThe Song Won’t You come HomeLouie Asrmstrong on Ed Sullivan

3)Louie Armstrong Up a Lazy River

In this song Louie Armstong also sings Scat rather than the lyrics of the song Up a Lazy River. Ella Fitzgerald was the most famous jazz singer that relied on Scat during her performances but Armstrong also employed this unique type of jazz singing too.

Louie Armstrong Up a Lazy River



06/05/24 06:01 AM #475    


Bill Kelso

            Jazz and Jazz Dancing   

After posting some videos of jazz music and the week before various forms of jazz dance, a classmate wrote that he found jazz music rather bland compared to rock and roll. I told him that in its day jazz was considered rather exciting and very novel. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that the short videos of jazz I had posted earlier were in large part responsible for Swing Jazz’s apparent lack of appeal. To alter his opinion, I consequently looked for videos especially of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, sing sing” that would explain why Goodman’s music was so popular in the 1940s. 

1) Why Benny Goodman is the King of Swing 

Overall I wanted to accomplish three goals in this post. First I hoped to show why Benny Goodman was considered the King of Swing. Hopefully these videos will do a better job than the earlier ones in showing how Goodman transformed American music and dance. His song “Sing, sing sing, was comparable in its day to Elvis Presley “You ain’t nothing but a Hound Dog” which instantly made Elvis a a musical celebrity and the King of Rock and Roll. “Sing sing sing” did the same thing for Goodman as it elevated him into the face of modern Swing Jazz. Hopefully if you watch all three videos you will see why Goodman was so popular and his music was considered so exciting and novel.

2) How to Recognize the Differnt Types of Dances

Secondly, I felt that the earlier discussion of various types of dances did not make it clear how one dance style differed from another. I think if you just saw a short video of the different dances popular in America, it might be difficult to automatically identified whether a dance was a Charleston or a Swing Dance of a Hustle Dance.

In trying to understand dance or music, like any other subject, the more experience you have in watching and studying a subject, the better you become at recognizing differences in the various dance styles.  In case you wanted to know more about popular American culture, I thought seeing more videos of different dance style might prove useful. Hopefully this video will supplement the earlier discussion about different dance styles in America.

(1)For instance while the first video with a bunch of young girls is an example of swing dance (also known as the jitterbug or the lindy hop) it might not appear so at first glance. After all Swing dance is primarily a couple’s dance and these young girls are thus unable to perform some of the key moves of Swing Dancing. For examples listed below are two moves couples do in swing dance that are missing in the first video.  They include:

1.Aerials.  They consisted of two difficult moves. First, they involve the guy throwing the women up in the air. Secondly, they also involve the guy enabling the women to roll over his back, a dance move obviously called the roll over.

2.Secondly, because these young girls lack dance partners, they obviously can’t perform the pull through movement where the male dancer pulls his female dance partner through his legs. But while dancing as a group the young girls do several other important Swing maneuvers. They include

1.Flips. Early on a young girl does a flip and they repeat the flips at the end of the song

2.Swivels.  This is the rotating of your waist  while moving your arms which enables the young girls to quickly catch your attention. 

3.Shim Sham. This is when the dancers start imitating tap dancing as the camera focus on individuals dancers doing complex routines.

 Video of young girls dancing to sing  sing Sing

(2) In the second video we have yet another group of people dancing to Benny Goodman’s main tune “Sing, sing, sing.” But to help you recognize different American and even foreign styles of dance, we can try to identify what moves belong to what dance styles. This video is a  good learning devise for recognizing different dance genres. For instance, the video starts out with young kids doing the Irish Jig, a dance that has nothing to do with Jazz. But that fact that Irish kids are dancing to Swing Jazz with their own dance show you how popular Swing Jazz became world wide. 

However, if you watch the video to the end, you secondly will also see individuals as well couples doing Swing dancing including aerials. Thirdly, you might even be able to recognize two young girls at the end of the video going beyond Shim Sham to actually engaging in tap dancing. Finally in an unexpected twist, towards the end of the video you will even see one dancer performing a fourth dance style as he exercises moves from break dancing. In this one video you can thus see individuals performing the Irish Jig, Tap Dancing, Break Dancing as well as Swing Dancing.

Young People dancing to Goodman's Sing Sing Sing

(3) Finally, in contrast to the first two videos, the third video posted below shows a group of older women dancing to Benny Goodman’s song “Sing sing, sing,” but they are dancing the Charleston dance, a dance that was popular in the 1920s when Dixieland Jazz rather than Swing dancing was in vogue. The women are also dressed like flappers, the name given to young women jazz dancers in the 20s with bob (short) haircuts.  Besides their dress, it is also easy to tell these women are not dancing the Jitterbug as they have no aerials, pull throughs, sensual swivels, flips or shim shams in their dance routine. However, these women are well versed and professional in looking like flappers completing the dance moves of the Charleston.

An Older Crowd Singing to Goodman's Sing Sing Sing

After watching these three videos you can see why Benny Goodman was considered the King of Swing.  The song was so popular you have people dancing swing dances, the Irish jig, tap dances, and even the Charleston to Goodman’s most popular song. While most people today are only familiar with R & B and Rock and Roll, if you watch enough of jazz music and dance it is easy to understand why jazz swept the world during the 1920s to the end of the 40s.

3) Finally a third goal in writing this post was to take a look at the Irish Jig

Now you may be wondering why I  choose to end this post by analyzing the Irish Jig. You are probably asking what the Irish Jig has to do with Jazz music and Jazz dancing. 

The answer is absolutely nothing. But it is often the case that to fully analyze and understand your own culture you have to look at how it differs from a completely different national tradition. In looking at how the history of a country like Ireland is dramatically different from that of America, we can see that American view of dancing is not a sentiment all other nations necessarily share. 

For instance, if you ask an America how important is dance in daily life, they would probably minimize its importance. After all dance fads in America never seem to last more than a decade or two. As one form of music fades and a new type of music appears in America, at the same time new dance styles happen to occur. For instance, as Dixieland Jazz gave way to Big Band Jazz, the Charleston was replaced by Swing dancing. In our generation as R&B and Rock and Roll became popular, displacing the Big Band sound, variations of the twist replaced the Lindy hop also known as the swing dances of the 1940s.

Most Americans would also probably say dancing is something you do when you are a teenager or young adult or it is an activity you engage in during important events like weddings or anniversaries. Otherwise it is a pleasant and entertaining pastime but of no larger significance.

                                                 How the Irish View Dancing

In contrast, the Irish have a radically different take on the importance of dancing. If you look at how the Irish see their national dance, the Jig, they do not view it as a merely pleasant pastime at all, but as an important symbol of their national identity. The Irish Jig is part of their national heritage that helps distinguish an Irishmen from an Englishman or even an American. The differences in attitudes toward dance raises the obvious question as to why there is there this big disconnect between Ireland and American attitudes towards something like dance.  

The answer is that for many centuries the English controlled Ireland and to enhance their occupation of the island they tried to suppress Irish culture, transforming all Irishmen into English citizens albeit second class citizens. When Ireland finally gained her political independence, the country also wanted to regain its cultural independence from Britain by reviving her traditional Gallic culture. 

One important part of that culture was to revive the Irish Jig which is also called Irish stepdance. To affirm their identity the Irish perform their dance the Jig at all major functions. Regardless of what kind of music they are listening to, whether Big Band Jazz, Rhythm and Blues or Rock and Roll, the Irish prefer their own intricate dance steps to the popular style of dances found in America. For the Irish dancing is not just a pleasant and entertaining pastime but a symbol of who they are as a people, an accomplishment that it took the Irish centuries to achieve.

The Ethnic Heritage of American Irish

Finally I secondly wanted to post some videos of Irish Jig dancing because of the numerous people in our class who have Irish surnames. And on top of that our very own high school McClatchy is named for an Irishman.  The name McClatchy is a quintessential Irish name that takes its place on the relatively long list of our classmates whose surname begin with the letter Mc. Surprisingly enough, even though most Irish live in states like Massachusetts and New York, two of the most popular high schools in Sacramento, McClatchy and Kennedy are named for Irishmen.

For the Irish individuals in our class who want to know more about their ethnic heritage or for anyone just curious about dance in particular I tried to find some videos of what life would have been like if our Irish named high school had actually been located in Ireland.

Irish High Schools

1)The first video show how young Irish kids at a relatively early age have mastered the intricate steps involved in Irish jig dancing. This video takes a while to get developed but it is a great view of what the life of a female high school student  in Ireland would be like.

  Irish Weddings

2)The second video is a video of an Irish wedding. While in America we might get a DJ to play 60s music and all the guests at the wedding would be doing the Twist, or Watusi or the Swim, in Ireland they would be doing the Jig.

The Irish Jig at a Wedding

Professional Irish Dancers

3) Finally if you want to see some of the best Irish dancers in the world you can watch professional Dance Group called Riverdance.


                                               Why the Irish Jig is so Different?

As a final note you may be wondering why the Irish dance in such an unusual way. That is why do they dance solo with a rigid upper torso. There are two parts to this answer. First the Irish like African Americans deemphasized couple dancing and generally relied on either communal or individual dancing.

As to why they have a rigid upper torso there is one possible answer that is popular today. The argument is that Irish dance reflected the puritanical nature of the Catholic Church in Ireland. In the early Church the Church fathers like St. Paul were opposed to people enjoying sex justfor its own pleasure. As part of this attitude the CatholicChurch insisted that people should only engage in sex if their goal was procreation.

To spread this view the priests in Ireland not only tried to forbid dancing all together but they also tried to dampen down any sensual encounters between the sexes.  However, because of the strong Celtic tradition of dance, the priests finally decided to allow dancing only if the partners kept. their hands off the opposite sex.

Whether this explanation is actually true is hard to say, as there is very little evidence about the origins of the Irish Jig.


Hopefully the above videos will make it easier to understand why jazz music in general and Benny Goodman in particular were so popular during the 1940s. After looking at more videos of people actually dancing, you should find it easier to identify the distinctive dance styles in America and even Ireland. Finally after the very brief look at the very different historical experiences of the Irish and the US you hopefully understand why the two countries have very different styles as well as outlooks on dance. You have to realize that the dance traditions of any nation reflect its unique historical experiences.




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