A Walk Down Memory Lane...
Fun Facts
Curtis Chamberlain

What is a Big Band?

A "Big Band" is a large jazz or popular ensemble that dominated American popular music of the period 1935-45. Typically, a rhythm section of piano, upright bass, drums and guitar accompanies five saxophones (two altos, two tenors, and one baritone, who also double on clarinet and flute) three or four trumpets, three or four trombones. A male or female vocalist frequently performs with such groups. These ensembles, now often called stage bands have enjoyed a considerable revival in high schools and colleges in recent decades. The big cities have also seen an increase of big bands performing for a variety of venues.

The Vaudeville Show (1870-1930)...

There was nothing like a good Vaudeville Show! Popular from 1870-1930, American Vaudeville shows or revues consisted of classical and popular music, singers, instrumentalists, dancers, acrobats, comedians, animal tricks and a variety of other unique acts. The "Polite" Vaudeville Shows were the most popular established by Benjamin Keith in the 1880's.. He maintained a "fixed policy of cleanliness and order" providing only family friendly entertainment. He and others built a network of Vaudeville Theaters across the United States emulating European Palaces with ornate detail and sophistication. For quite some time, the shows would repeat all day long, so one could stop in at anytime to catch a performance.

The Vaudeville Show slowly blended with the silent movies of the day interspersing the movies with live variety acts. The movies also required live musical accompaniment for effect. As the "talking pictures" began in 1927, the movies became more prominent in the theaters and the live variety shows slowly faded away. Interestingly, the early days of television adopted a "vaudeville" type of format with a blossoming of numerous "variety" shows. Even with today's modern music shows we see remnants from the days of vaudeville. The variety show lives on!

Great American Music: 1800’s - 1950...

Stephen Foster (1826-1864) considered to be the “Father of American Popular Music.” He wrote over 200 songs. Some familiar titles include;

Oh! Susanna
Camptown Races
Old Folks at Home
My Old Kentucky Home
Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair
Old Black Joe
Beautiful Dreamer

1860 - 1900

Songs of the Civil War and Negro Spirituals very prominent. The Vaudeville Shows begin. John Philipp Sousa became King of the Marches. Scott Joplin wrote ragtime music. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Guglielmo Marconi invented radio.

Popular Songs;  Many of Stephen Foster’s songs were popular. In addition; When Johnny Comes Marching Home, The Flying Trapeze, The Little Brown Jug, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silver Threads Among The Gold, Away In A Manger, Rock-a-bye-Baby, There’s a Tavern In The Town, The Stars and Stripes Forever, The Washington Post March, After The Ball Is Over, Maple Leaf Rag, When You Were Sweet Sixteen.


George M. Cohen became a major star on Broadway and prolific song writer. Irving Berlin became a major composer. Enrico Caruso became a recording superstar with his powerful tenor voice.

Popular Songs; A Bird in a Gilded Cage, Bill Bailey-Won’t You Please Come Home?, Give My Regards To Broadway, Yankee Doodle Boy, Wait ‘Til The Sun Shines, Nellie, You’re A Grand Old Flag, Harrigan, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Moonlight Bay, Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, For Me and My Gal, Swanee. 


Prohibition became law and actually fueled the music industry. Louis Armstrong began his rise to fame. George Gershwin composed “Rhapsody In Blue.” The WSM Barn Dance Radio Show became The Grand Ole Opry. The phonograph became common place in American Homes. “Showboat” opened on Broadway becoming one of the greatest musicals of all time. The first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer”, staring Al Jolson premiered in 1927. The “Charleston” was the dance rage. Early signs of the Big Band Era appear. 

Popular Songs; I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time (also popular in the 40’s), April Showers, Second Hand Rose, Carolina In The Morning, California, Here I Come, Does The Spearmint Lose It’s Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight, Five Foot Two Eyes of Blue, I’m Sitting On Top of The World, Sweet Georgia Brown, When The Red Red Robin, I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, Ol’ Man River, Without a Song.

1930’s and 40’s

The Great Depression begins. The Big Band Era begins. Such rising stars as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Les Brown, Guy Lombardo, Paul Whiteman and many others. Also great vocalist like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dick Haymes, Doris Day and The Andrew’s Sisters. America entered WWII in 1942. Many of the great musicians played for the troops overseas. 

Popular Songs; Body and Soul, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, All of Me, Dancing In The Dark, April In Paris, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, Night and Day, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Stormy Weather, Anything Goes, Blue Moon, Deep Purple, I Only Have Eyes For You, Begin The Beguine, Cheek To Cheek, Lullaby of Broadway, Summertime, Stompin At The Savoy, The Way You Look Tonight, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Jeepers Creepers, Beer Barrel Polka, God Bless America, Over The Rainbow, Fools Rush In, The Nearness of You, This Is My Country, You Are My Sunshine, The Anniversary Waltz, Deep In The Heart of Texas, Chattanooga Choo Choo, I’ve Got a Gal In Kalamazoo, String of Pearls, Let’s Dance, White Cliffs of Dover, Be Careful It’s My Heart, White Christmas, In The Mood, Don’t Fence Me In, Sentimental Journey, Rum and Coca Cola, It’s A Grand Night For Singing, Ole Buttermilk Sky, Tennessee Waltz, Some Enchanted Evening.

The Great American Songbook...

The Great American Songbook is a list of the best, most important and most influential American popular songs of the 20th century principally from Broadway Theater, musical theater, and Hollywood musical film, from the 1920s to 1960, including dozens of songs of enduring popularity. The Great American Songbook became (and remains) a vital part of the repertoire of jazz musicians.


Curtis' Blog...

The Look of Longevity

On a daily basis, I continue to be amazed by the number of seniors I meet who are in their mid to upper 90's and even the numerous centenarians (100+). In my 15 years of working with and having delightful…Read more

Everything Old Is New

Vinyl records seem to be making quite the comeback. In addition to all the modern media, many artist are now releasing their albums on the old LP format at a much higher price. Up to $30 for an LP! One…Read more

Mini Blizzard 2015

Yesterday, February 14th,  I was scheduled for two Valentine's Day Celebrations in Columbus. The forecast was calling for moderate snow showers but nothing too drastic. I left at 12:30pm for a 3:00pm show. All was fine, snow showers with wet…Read more

A Melody of Amazing Grace

I am convinced when one life comes to the full realization of God's overwhelming love and grace, that one life will be renewed and refreshed forever. As an act of unmerited favor, God sent his son Jesus as a gift…Read more

What Christmastime Is To Me

What Christmastime is to me... one beautiful moment in time, a cherished memory, a kind word, a tender touch, the sparkling lights, a melody from long ago, the scent of pine and the aroma of Constant Comment Tea, a taste…Read more

The St. Olaf Choir

Last night on PBS Television, we enjoyed a beautiful Christmas Concert of traditional selections, "Christmas In Norway" featuring the St. Olaf College Choir. The concert was filmed in a lovely cathedral in Norway. What a breathtaking performance it was with…Read more

Adventures In Contentment

"Adventures In Contentment" is a great book about one man's journey as he considered the important things in life. A nostalgic writing published in 1907 by a well known author of the day, David Grayson. It is a refreshing read…Read more

Delicious Peaches by Laura

Laura and I love to shop at a place called "Sweetwater" in Amish Country of Ohio. It is an authentic farm market and reminds me of the days growing up on the apple orchard. They grow a ton of vegetables…Read more

Song Story: For Me And My Gal

"For Me and My Gal"... what a wonderful, light hearted love song. The words were written by Edgar Leslie and E. Ray Goetz. The music was written by George W. Meyer. The original song was published in 1917. I arranged…Read more

Song Story: Hugs and Kisses (x's and o's)

This is the first post in a series of blogs called "Song Story." Every song has a story and so I begin with the original title song of my new album. The melody and style for this tune first came…Read more

A New Reed Adventure

A couple of weeks ago it was time to order new reeds for my Selmer Saxophone. I decided to be brave and try something totally new. Instead of the traditional Vandoran SR21 style, I ordered a rather new Vandoran ZZRead more

Sunday Morning Beauty

As I looked out the window on this beautiful "Palm Sunday", I was inspired to write this poem...

"The lovely daffodils sway,
In the gently flowing breeze,
Wafting to and fro,
Just as freely as they please.

A gift from…Read more

Remembrance of a Father's Prayer

Last week I performed for a Catholic Retirement Community and was honored to receive a "second blessing" from one of the residents, a retired priest. He took my hand to pray over me speaking words of prosperity, good health and…Read more

What is Vaudeville?

There was nothing like a good Vaudeville Show! Popular from 1870-1930, American Vaudeville shows or revues consisted of classical and popular music, singers, instrumentalists, dancers, acrobats, comedians, animal tricks and a variety of other unique acts. The "Polite" Vaudeville…Read more

Springtime Snow

We had quite the interesting weather this weekend. Yesterday began in the mid 40's with heavy rain. The temperature dropped to 30 by evening and the rain changed to snow. We received at least 2 inches at our house. The…Read more

What is a saxophone?

A saxophone is a family of metal, single reed instruments invented by Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) of Brussels in 1841. He patented the instrument in 1846 when he settled in Paris. The instruments have two basic shapes. The smaller ones are…Read more

What is a Big Band?

A "Big Band" is a large jazz or popular ensemble that dominated American popular music of the period 1935-45. Typically, a rhythm section of piano, upright bass, drums and guitar accompanies five saxophones (two altos, two tenors, and one baritone…Read more
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