April 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part II


Hello and welcome back to the second part of what is turning out to be CRAVE Guitars’ magnum opus for this year. You can revisit Part I by clicking on the link below (it will open in new browser tab):

After posting Part I in March 2019, I realised that the intended approach wasn’t going to work as I’d originally intended, especially as the series would progress. The idea for this year was to present each section in two parts, i) a short narrative setting the general historical context through global political, technological and economic events of the time, and ii) the list of music facts covering the same period. That worked well enough for the first article, which briefly covered 250 years (1650 to 1900) as a precursor to ‘modern’ musical times (from 1900 onwards).

Now… after a bit of reflection, this posed a few problems once we get into the 20th and 21st Centuries, as the number of facts and the historical context expanded in quantity and complexity. Not only this, there was a noticeable disconnect between the context and the musical facts that seemed to leave a hole in the story. While not a huge problem, I wasn’t happy with the result. The course of events needed something additional not only to make the story more coherent but also to become more interesting.

So, as it’s ‘early doors’ in the project, I decided to revisit the deferred piece of research that I was going to publish this year. This brainwave enabled me to adapt that other idea and to combine it with the historical context and musical facts. It isn’t quite what I was thinking of but I reckon it will work quite well. This extensive new piece of work involved documenting the development of relevant musical genres that took place over the same time period as the rest. This move, however, will negate the original idea I had for 2019. Oh well, never mind.

Unfortunately for me, this presented another issue which was to undertake the background work needed for it to make sense and this was on top of the other elements I was already working on. If that was the end of the story, that would be enough. However, it also meant that the length of each section would then not only become too long but also too ‘chunky’. The answer to that is to split the sections into decades, each comprising three parts – historical context, musical genre developments and music facts. That’s where we are this month.

As music is an art not a science, the approach is, to some extent, necessarily arbitrary. In an attempt to avoid repetition, each genre is only covered in the first period when it became popular. As you might expect, history, genres, artists and time periods are not always neatly organised, so there is often overlap and a degree of ‘fuzziness’ around the edges. I hope, however, that the structure is relatively easy to follow and makes some kind of sense.

As previously mentioned, this is not a detailed, comprehensive academic exercise. It is purely for entertainment and each snippet of information barely scratches the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you want to know more, I’m afraid you’ll have to go and explore where it takes you for yourself.

Finally, before we get started with this month’s part of musical history, I also have to say that the starting point of the series is from the perspective of the guitar and guitar music. If you are reading this, then you probably already appreciate that anyway, however, it does need to be said. This means that, while other aspects of music are covered, it will have a definite and obvious guitar bias. As the author, that’s my prerogative and I’m not apologising for that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this part of the story because this is where things begin to get enthralling.

The Story of Modern Music Part II  – 1900-1919

Musical Context

This is the new bit of the story added to cement the whole together, so a quick recap is needed.

Popular music of the early 1900s was very different from the predominantly highly structured classical music genres that preceded it. Starting around 1870, the catalyst for the emergent modern styles led to a seemingly miraculous eruption of musical innovation, creativity and experimentation during the 20th Century that was unlike anything that preceded it and probably unlike anything we will see again, at least in our lifetimes. Blues, jazz, gospel and folk were becoming particularly prominent and relevant in the western world.

In order to appreciate where modern music of the 20th Century began, we need to take a brief look at the origins that began to appear in the late 19th Century, even though they were still not necessarily prominent at the turn of the millennium. In these sections it is important to recognise that musical genres did not appear from nothing and neither did they disappear overnight. In addition, many musical genres endured and morphed over decades and many have seen periodical revivals. The categorisation of music into decades for the sake of this article is simply a convenient device to provide a frame of reference within which the ‘facts’ can be readily accommodated. Similarly, genre boundaries and musical styles emanating from particular geographical territories should be seen as fluid and constantly cross‑pollinating, and should not, therefore, be taken as definitive. Where appropriate, relevant notes will be included. Nothing in music, it seems, is simple or straightforward.


The Blues, or ‘the devil’s music’ is a major musical genre that originated in the Deep South of the United States such as Mississippi, Louisiana and southern Texas from around the 1870s and spread widely across the country changing its style as its popularity increased. Blues really came to prominence at the beginning of the 20th Century. The basis of the blues came predominantly from African American music and traditional African music, as well as European traditional folk music. The genre can be recognised often by repeating chord progressions and commonly a 12‑bar structure. The word ‘blues’ is largely attributed to melancholy, sad or depressed mental states and is often associated with trials and tribulations of post‑slavery black oppression. The development of the blues included work songs, spiritual songs, chants, and ballads. Around 1902, African American musician WC Handy, often called ‘the father of the blues’, heard blues music being played at a railway station and set about promoting the genre through early recordings. Some of the early practitioners of blues include Charlie Patton, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy and Lead Belly, along with many others. Blues music has been highly influential over the last 150 years and its lasting effects can be found widely in jazz as well as later musical genres such as rhythm & blues, rock ‘n’ roll and rock music. Blues has also spawned many sub‑genres including Delta blues, country blues, Piedmont blues, hill country blues, West Coast blues, electric Chicago blues, Texas blues and blues rock.


While orchestral music remained popular up to the end of the 19th Century, a new breed of music was attracting listeners’ attention. Ragtime emanated from the African American communities of urban cities including St. Louis in Missouri around 1895-1897. Ragtime takes the traditional march musical style that had been made popular by John Philip Sousa and was often played by African American bands. Ragtime incorporated ‘ragged’ syncopated rhythms often reminiscent of polyrhythmic African music. Ragtime became a massively popular form of dance music up to around 1919. Ragtime, along with blues music largely influenced and evolved into Jazz from about 1917. Dance crazes inspired by ragtime became popular with contemporary audiences of the time including the shimmy, the turkey trot, the buzzard lope, the chicken scratch, the monkey glide, and the bunny hug. Predominantly white audiences first encountered the new craze at popular vaudeville shows, with artists soon migrating to the music clubs. Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and James Scott are known as the ‘big three’ ragtime composers of their time.

Right, now things are back on track, let’s get going with the early part of the 20th Century.

The 1900s

The 1900s was a decade that heralded not only intense hope for a new millennium but also further leaps of scientific and technological progress.

 Historical Context 1900-1909


Work on the famous New York subway from City Hall to the Bronx began.


The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

The Commonwealth of Australia was created.

Hubert Cecil Booth made the world’s first commercial vacuum cleaner.

King Gillette and William Nickerson founded the American Safety Razor Company.

After 63 years on the throne, British monarch Queen Victoria died and was succeeded by King Edward VII.

The first 2000‑mile transatlantic radio message from England to Newfoundland was sent by Italian electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi.


The Flatiron Building in Manhattan, New York became the world’s tallest at 20 stories and 205 feet tall.


The first powered flight was made by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright using the first heavier than air powered airplane, the Wright Flyer.

American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford started mass production of motor cars in America.

The first baseball World Series was held.


Albert Einstein published his ‘Special Theory of Relativity’ proposing the relationship between space and time.


A massive 7.9 (estimated) magnitude earthquake struck California, killing 3,000 people and destroying 80% of San Francisco. The Britain suffragette movement began, aiming to give women the vote.

The first Grand Prix motor race took place at Le Mans in France.


Lord Baden‑Powell founded the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movement.

The headquarters of the Singer Manufacturing Company in Manhattan reached 47 stories and 612 feet tall.

The American agency, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was formed.

Ford introduced the massively popular Model T motor car, which sold for $850.


Explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson claim to be the first people to reach the North Pole.

Musical Genre Development 1900-1909

Blues music was beginning to spread from the rural areas of the American Deep South and varieties such as hill blues and country blues reflected the social culture of their regional origins. Church music was also prominent in the American Bible belt, as was Anglo‑American folk music with immigrants influencing home grown styles.

Although classical music began to be overtaken rapidly by more modern forms, opera became particularly popular in the early 20th Century and sustained interest until about 1960.

Jazz music, often termed ‘America’s classical music’, is another major musical genre starting from around 1900. Early forms of jazz musical expression emerged mainly from the American south and particularly around the city of New Orleans in Louisiana, often referred to as Dixieland. Jazz stemmed from existing blues, ragtime and European military band music, all of which were popular in the late 19th Century. Musician Buddy Bolden is widely recognised for fusing blues and ragtime to form the basis of jazz. Partly because of these origins, early jazz music was principally performed by African American musicians. Jazz is characterized by ‘swing’ and ‘blue’ notes, call and response patterns, polyrhythmic arrangements and extensive improvisation. Jazz rapidly diversified with forms such as ‘honky‑tonk’, ‘boogie woogie’ and simple jug band music. The main surge in the popularity of jazz music occurred after WWI and particularly from 1920 onwards, known widely as ‘the Jazz Age’. The growth of the jazz craze soon spread to dance halls and speakeasies as well as ubiquitous marching bands. Music and dancing became a significant part of popular jazz culture, including the cakewalk, the black bottom, the Charleston, the lindy hop and the jitterbug. The introduction of recording technology and wireless radio also gave much broader exposure to the exciting new musical genre. Popular jazz artists included Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Fats Waller, as well as big band orchestras led by the likes of Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. Jazz rapidly diversified including forms such as Kansas City jazz, gypsy jazz, bebop, cool jazz, free jazz and fusion. Jazz and its many different styles remained hugely popular up to the 1940s and its legacy heavily influenced the proliferation of other musical genres from the early 1950s.

Musical Facts 1901-1909

DayMonthYearMusic Fact
4August1901Legendary American jazz trumpet player, singer and composer, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.
21March1902Legendary and influential blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Son House (1902-1988, 86) was born in Lyon, Mississippi.
9June1902Influential delta blues guitarist and singer Skip James (1902-1969, 67) was born in Bentonia, Mississippi.
10October1902American luthier Orville Gibson founded The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. Ltd in Kalamazoo, Michigan, now better known as manufacturer of Gibson guitars.
26June1903American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Big Bill Broonzy (1903-1958, 65) was born in Jefferson County, Arkansas.
1March1904American big-band trombone player, arranger, composer, and bandleader Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa.
21August1904American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer Count Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey.
19November1905American jazz trombone player, composer, conductor and bandleader, the ‘Sentimental Gentleman of Swing’ Tommy Dorsey was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
12January1906American country blues singer and guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell (1906-1972, 66) was born in Rossville, Tennessee.
12November1906American delta blues guitarist and singer Booker T. Washington ‘Bukka’ White (1906 or 1909-1977, 67 or 70) was born between Aberdeen and Houston, Mississippi.
2December1906The inventor of the long playing microgroove record (a.k.a. the LP) for Columbia Records, Peter Carl Goldmark was born in Budapest, Hungary.
29September1907American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor, rodeo performer and businessman, ‘the singing cowboy’ Gene Autry (1907-1998, 91) was born in Tioga, Texas
26January1908Amazing French virtuoso jazz violinist, known as ‘the grandfather of jazz violinists’ Stéphane Grappelli was born in Paris.
30May1909American jazz clarinet player and bandleader, the ‘King of Swing’, Benny Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois.
10August1909One of the most significant figures in guitar music history and business, Clarence Leonidas ‘Leo’ Fender (1909-1991, 81) was born in Anaheim, California.
10October1909American businessman, president of guitar manufacturer Gibson and mentor to luthier Paul Reed Smith, the formidable Theodore ‘Ted’ McCarty (1909-2002, 91) was born in Somerset, Kentucky.

The 1910s

The 1910s was a tumultuous decade and one that would leave the world on a watershed, with positive and negative implications for the ones that would follow.

 Historical Context 1910-1919


Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.

The Chinese Revolution led to the formation of the republic of China.

The first Indianapolis 500 motor race took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.


The so‑called unsinkable ocean liner, the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden transatlantic voyage from Southampton to New York after striking an iceberg, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew.


The first crossword puzzle was published in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World.


The Panama Canal in Central America opened, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The First World War (WWI) started between Germany/Austria and Britain/France/Russia, which lasted until 1918.


A German torpedo sank the British ocean liner Lusitania off the Irish coast, killing nearly 1,200 people.


Albert Einstein published his ‘General Theory of Relativity’ proposing a unified description of gravitation as a geometric property of space and time.


The Russian Bolshevik Revolution took place, led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

America joined WWI on the side of the Allies.


The British Royal Air Force was founded.

Women over the age of 30 were given the vote in Britain.

A deadly influenza pandemic infected c.500 million people around the world and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million, equivalent to 3-5% of the global population.

The armistice between the Allies and Germany ended WWI. Approximately 17 million people were killed during the conflict.


The infamous Chicago Black Sox baseball match fixing scandal, when 8 members of the White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the World Series to Cincinnati for money from a gambling syndicate.

The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was created.

After WWI, the League of Nations was established, intended to ensure world peace, lasting until it was abandoned in 1946.

Musical Genre Development 1910-1919

By 1910, blues music was migrating into urban areas and would have a major influence on all forms of music. Jazz particularly New Orleans Jazz maintained its popularity during the 1910s. Religion was of great solace to the oppressed black communities of southern USA and unaccompanied singing of spirituals grew in popularity, eventually morphing into gospel by the 1930s. Social development in America and particularly Europe during the 1910s was heavily impacted by World War I. In the absence of technological music distribution, the ‘new’ music from the previous decade continued to spread and it maintained its influence during the 1910s. As a consequence, no major genre styles appeared before the boom period of the post‑war ‘roaring twenties’. Recordings of Afro‑Caribbean calypso music began to appear in the 1910s, which proved not only popular but also influential.

Musical Facts 1910-1919

DayMonthYearMusic Fact
23January1910Belgian/French virtuoso gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt (1910-1953, 43) was born in Liberchies, Pont‑à‑Celles, Belgium.
28May1910Influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter T-Bone Walker (1910-1975, 64) was born in Linden, Texas.
10June1910Legendary blues American guitarist and singer Howlin’ Wolf (real name, Chester Burnett) (1910-1976, 65) was born in White Station, Mississippi.
8May1911Legendary American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Robert Johnson (1911-1938, 27) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.
5November1911American singer, guitarist and popular Western film actor, known as the ‘King of the Cowboys’ Roy Rogers (1911‑1998, 86) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
15March1912American country blues singer, songwriter and guitar legend, Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins (may be 1911 or 1912‑1982, 69) was born in Centreville, Texas.
14July1912Legendary and influential American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Woody Guthrie (1912‑1967, 55) was born in Okemah, Oklahoma.
4April1913Legendary American Chicago blues guitarist, Muddy Waters a.k.a. McKinley Morganfield, (1913-1983, 70) was born in Issaquena County, Mississippi.
7August1913American pioneer of the 7-string jazz guitar, long before its current popularity in modern rock music, George Van Eps (1913-1998, 85) was born in Plainfield, New Jersey.
22November1913Famous English classical composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
20March1915Influential American gospel singer, songwriter and guitarist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973, 58) was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas.
7April1915Legendary American singer Billie Holiday was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, She is widely recognised as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.
9June1915True American guitar legend and musical innovator, the incomparable Les Paul, a.k.a. Lester William Polsfuss (1915-2009, 84) was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
1July1915Influential American blues singer, songwriter, upright bass player and guitarist, Willie Dixon (1915-1992, 75) was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
29July1916Highly influential American jazz guitarist, Charlie Christian (1916-1942, 25) was born in Bonham, Texas.
12March1917American record producer and co-founder of Chess Records in Chicago, famous for pioneering blues and rock ‘n’ roll artists, Leonard Chess was born in Motal, Poland.
7June1917American singer, actor, comedian, and producer Dean Martin was born in Steubenville, Ohio.
22August1917Massively influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, an all-time great music man, John Lee Hooker (1917-2001, 83) was born in Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
30September1917Legendary American jazz drummer and band leader Buddy Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York.
21October1917American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and singer Dizzie Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina.
17November1917Influential American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, Merle Travis (1917-1983, 65) was born in Rosewood, Kentucky.
27January1918American blues guitarist, the ‘king of the slide guitar’, Elmore James (1918-1963, 45) was born in Richland, Mississippi.
25April1918Renowned American jazz singer, known as the ‘First Lady of Song’ and the ‘Queen of Jazz’, Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia.
19August1918Pioneering American luthier, Orville H. Gibson, founder of Gibson guitars, died in a New York hospital at the age of 62.


OK, there you have it for this month’s article and we’ve only covered two decades! But, what influential decades they were. Things are just starting to hot up and there is still plenty to look forward to over coming months. Music and world events begin to get even more complicated and quite exciting from here on in. I’m not sure how many months this series will last, so we’ll just have to take things as they come.

In the background, the repatriation project is ongoing at an intentionally slow pace with about 3‑4 guitars a month attracting some much deserved tender loving care and attention. Also, the ‘most wanted’ vintage gear hunt is still underway but with no desperate urgency, as there is plenty else to be getting on with. Also, the postponed and much‑needed cellar renovation (i.e. future guitar accommodation) may begin to get underway by mid‑year. So, lots of fun and games to be had if at all possible. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Intelligence is not about what you know or how much you know but about having the curiosity to ask ‘why?’”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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