The Gala

The Age of Jazz

Dance Halls & Radios

The King & Carter Jazzing Orchestra, 1921

Jazz music became the soundtrack for the freedom mindset of the Roaring Twenties. The cultural shift that was occurring in the United States during the 1920s also brought new styles of both music and dance. While Jazz is largely credited to African-Americans bringing traditional African music and adding in new musical techniques like syncopated beats, this music style quickly expanded to America’s burgeoning new white middle class.

Birth of Jazz

Once the Great War ended, many jazz musicians moved from New Orleans (the birthplace of jazz) to the larger cities like New York City and Chicago. As they moved into these great cities, more people were able to hear the jazz and it became more popular throughout the country. The different cities also influenced the jazz music, with unique styles developing in each place. The popularity of jazz, especially in Prohibition-era illegal clubs called speakeasies, helped create a cultural shift. Advanced recording methods also developed during this time period, which coupled with its popularity in the speakeasies, led to jazz becoming very popular very quickly. The speed of its rise was unparalleled in prior music history. Jazz music stars included Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and others. Famous entertainment venues associated with the Jazz Age included the Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club.

Growth of Jazz

Jazz was played on urban radio stations more frequently that on the suburban stations. Young people in the cities were influenced by jazz to take on the traditions of culture and this brought about new fads like the bold fashions of the flappers.

Once large-scale radio broadcasts began in 1922, Americans across the nation were able to experience different styles of music without have to actually go to a club or a concert. Concerts were broadcast over the radio and syndicated to stations across the country. Dances put to the music, such as the Charleston, became popular among young people. The radio shows provided a trendy new way for young people to explore a variety of cultural experiences from their own homes. One of the popular types of broadcasts was called a “potter palm” – an amateur concert or big-band performance broadcast from one of the big cities. Once the radio broadcasts became popular across the nation, jazz music boomed.


“A Culture of Change.” A Culture of Change | Boundless US History,