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Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924 Paperback – 1 Aug 2003
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"A cool book . . . bringing alive the deepest roots of American rock, R&B and rap." -- Discoveries
"A hot book about hot music . . . with a rare ear for its subject." -- Seattle Weekly
"A lovingly written account." -- Esquire
"Appealingly irreverent." -- Chicago Reader
"Entertaining and engaging" -- Library Journal
"Groundbreaking." -- Robert Christgau, The Believer
"Highly logical and entertaining . . . No other author has done a better job of putting all the pieces together." -- The New York Sun
"Music book of the year? Probably Stomp and Swerve." -- Austin AmericanStatesman
"Saucy." -- The Village Voice
"Wondrichs own passion is infectious enough to make the reader retrieve the old marching band horn from the attic." -- Shepherd Express
The early decades of American popular music are, for most listeners, the dark ages. It wasn't until the mid-1920s that the full spectrum of this music -- black and white, urban and rural, sophisticated and crude -- made it onto records for all to hear. This book brings a forgotten music, hot music, to life by describing how it became the dominant American music -- how it outlasted sentimental waltzes and parlour ballads, symphonic marches and Tin Pan Alley novelty numbers -- and how it became rock 'n' roll. It reveals that the young men and women of that bygone era had the same musical instincts as their descendants Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and even Ozzy Osbourne. In minstrelsy, ragtime, brass bands, early jazz and blues, fiddle music, and many other forms, there was as much stomping and swerving as can be found in the most exciting performances of hot jazz, funk, and rock.Along the way, it explains how the strange combination of African with Scotch and Irish influences made music in the United States vastly different from other African and Caribbean music; shares terrific stories about minstrel shows, 'coon' songs, whorehouses, knife fights, and other low-life phenomena; and showcases a motley collection of performers heretofore unknown to all but the most avid musicologists and collectors.<
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is also plagued by flat-out misinformation (William Shakespeare Hays was black, really??), faulty reasoning, shoddy research, cheap shots left and right, and the most annoying, smart-alecky, and off-putting writing style I think I've ever encountered in a non-fiction book. The author uses profanity as if he earns points for slipping it in at every opportunity. Clearly he thinks by doing so he connects himself to the "underworld" characters he so romanticizes. The result, though, is simply obnoxious. His desire to be smugly hip becomes downright offensive at times. After pointing out Irene Castle's frustration at having to work with the "Topworld" music direction of John Philip Sousa instead of her previous bandleader James Reese Europe, the author concludes that "once you've had black, you never go back."
If you want to read a freewheeling and irreverent dissertation on similar subject matter, check out Nick Tosches's "Where Dead Voices Gather," an infinitely better and more rewarding book. For a level-headed, scholarly, and brilliant account of this material, read Tim Brooks's excellent "Lost Sounds."