A Historical Playlist

What was considered popular American music changed significantly over the 20th Century. The earliest iteration of popular American music in the early 1900s was comprised of sentimental parlor songs. The growth of Broadway in the early 1910s also heavily influenced the sound of American music, and gave rise to composers like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern, who are now synonymous with the Great American Songbook. 

Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph cylinder in the late 1800s ushered in a new era of music: recorded songs. Early recorded songs were a mix of vaudeville, barbershop quartets, marches, opera, and novelty songs. As popularity grew, so did distribution of the phonograph cylinders. Companies such as the Victor Talking Machine Company entered into the phonograph industry, and recorded music continued to evolve. 

Ontario County played host to notable musicians during the Jazz-era at Club 86 in Geneva, including acts like Louis Armstrong, Velma Middleton, Nat King Cole, the Four Aces, and clarinetist Barney Bigard, who co-wrote Mood Indigo with Duke Ellington. 

Interested in hearing some early popular American music? Check out our curated playlist below!   

Sweet Adeline (1903) – Harry Armstrong

My Gal Sal (1907) – Paul Dresser

They Didn’t Believe Me (1914) – Jerome Kern

Swanee (1919) – George Gershwin 

Ain’t We Got Fun? (1921) – Richard A. Whiting

Stardust (1929) – Hoagy Carmichael 

Mood Indigo (1931) – Duke Ellington

Stormy Weather (1933) – Harold Arlen

A Columbia phonograph cylinder from the OCHS collections
An Edison phonograph cylinder from the OCHS collections