Get your best cocktail dress on and razz it up, as we Charleston our way into the music decade! Taking an exciting look as to what bands, celebrities and Christmas songs were famous during the 1920’s.
With radio as their only form of home entertainment fans of 1920’s music who wanted to see their favourite singers went along to their local music hall, where they were entertained by a mixture of popular songs, comedy, speciality acts and variety entertainment.
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Popular singers including Harry Lauder, who in 1925 recorded ‘Keep right on to the end of the Road’ and followed it in 1926 with ‘Just a Wee Deoch-an-Doris’, and Nellie Wallace who was noted for both her eccentric appearance and her role as a disappointed spinster, kept music hall audiences entertained with songs such as Meet Me (the Sniff Song) and ‘Under the Bed’ where our hero searches in vain for a man under the bed.
Often referred to as ‘The Golden Age of British Music’ the 1920’s saw the dawn of the Jazz Age and by the mid 1920’s jazz was thriving in Britain. Its popularity boosted by the Melody Maker, a music newspaper which first appeared in January 1926, as well as by radio programmes from the recently launched British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), could this be the first ever top 20 run down? We don’t think Tony Blackburn was a DJ back then.
Soon Jazz records became readily available and played in the home on ‘the gramaphone’ and just like today’s teenagers, back in the 1920’s (their was no gangnam style back then) they experimented and perfected the dance moves of the day. Imagine trying to get to grips with the ‘Black Bottom and the Charleston!
Listening to iconic artists such as American artists Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, they practised the Rumba, Samba and everyone’s favourite – the Konga, who hasn’t had great fun at Christmas joining onto a Konga line and laughing until the line breaks? It wasn’t long before British jazz stars such as Patrick Cairns ‘Spike’ Hughes also achieved prominence at this time. 1927 saw the publication of the first British book on Jazz, ‘The Appeal of Jazz’ by R.W.S Mendl.
Although the true origins of jazz were in the United States, British dance bands of the 20’s typically played melodic, good-time music that had jazz and big band influences but also maintained a peculiarly British sense of rhythm and style which came from the music hall tradition and it was in 1926 one of the worlds earliest music weeklies, the Melody Maker, made it’s appearance.
Christmas was a very important time back in the 20’s and in churches around Britain services were held. During 1920, Worcester Cathedral’s Christmas Service book shows Hymns such as as Christe Redemptor Omnium, followed by the prayer O’ Come All Ye Faithful. The choir would then sing in the Bleak Mid Winter which would be followed by The First Noel The Angel Did Say, with the recessional hymn being While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night.
As Christmas passed and a New Year was welcomed in revellers in West End London could toast their friends and family with the first cocktail, which became available in 1921-1922.
Ada Coleman, a female bartender who had ideas for new drinks, created a creation of gin, Italian vermouth and dashes of Fernet Branca, so excited about the taste, actor Sir Charles Henry Hawtry,a regular customer exclaimed ‘Why Ada, this is real hanky panky.’ Ada’s Hanky Panky can still be found at the Savoy today, why not give it a try next time you fancy a Christmas cocktail.
Music entertainment in Britain during the twenties was just as important, if not more so, than today. Even though the UK doesn’t have just as many music halls now as they do club’s, in todays era it does seem as though music, whatever the decade brings fun, laughter and a lot of “good dancing”
Have you ever preformed the Charleston? Are you a fan of Jazz? Why not get involved in UnderTheChristmasTree’s Bygone Christmases series by posting your comments below.