Night Lights Classic Jazz

Gennett Days: Hot Jazz From The Heartland

In the 1920s hot jazz swept Indiana's campuses—and a Richmond record label introduced the world to Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Hoagy Carmichael.

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Gennett logo

Photo: Flickr

The logo for Richmond, Indiana's Gennett Records label, preserved on a brick wall at the site of the former Starr Piano factory.

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When the great songwriter Hoagy Carmichael published his first memoir in 1946, he called it The Stardust Road, alluding to the song that had set him on his way to becoming famous. The road that Hoagy took, metaphorically and geographically, began in his home state of Indiana–a state that played a significant role in the rise of Hoagy’s beloved jazz music. From the ragtime of the early 20th century to the jazz education movement of today, from the pre-cool jazz of Claude Thornhill’s big band to the relaxed yet intense swing of Wes Montgomery’s guitar, and from the show tunes of Cole Porter to the bop trombone of J.J. Johnson, the Hoosier heartland has helped shape the sound of modern jazz.

“Gennett Days: Hot Jazz From The Heartland,” the first episode of the Jazz Crossroads of America series, delves into the early days of Indiana jazz, focusing on the Richmond, Indiana Gennett Records label, where future jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Bix Beiderbecke made their first recordings. At the same time, Indiana college campuses saw the rise of a thriving jazz scene, with young musicians like Hoagy Carmichael leading the way for a generational and cultural change.

Authors Rick Kennedy (Jelly Roll, Bix and Hoagy: Gennett Records and the Birth of Recorded Jazz), Duncan Schiedt (The Jazz State of Indiana), and James Madison (The Indiana Way: A State History) join the program, which also includes an archival interview with jazz historian Richard Sudhalter (Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael).

Music Heard On This Episode

Washboard Blues
Hoagy Carmichael/Bunny Berigan — Saturday Swing Session broadcast
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Washboard Blues
Hoagy Carmichael/Bunny Berigan — Saturday Swing Session broadcast
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Dipper Mouth Blues
King Oliver/Louis Armstrong — Complete 1923 Recordings (Off The Record, 2006)
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Chimes Blues
King Oliver/Louis Armstrong — Complete 1923 Recordings (Off The Record, 2006)
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Mr. Jelly Lord
New Orleans Rhythm Kings/Jelly Roll Morton — 1922-1925 (Challenge, 2002)
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The Pearls
Jelly Roll Morton — 1923-1924 (Milestone, 1991)
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Royal Garden Blues
Bix Beiderbecke — Bix Restored V. 1 (Origin Jazz Library, 1995)
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Riverboat Shuffle
Bix Beiderbecke — Bix Restored V. 1 (Origin Jazz Library, 1995)
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So Tired (midpoint music bed)
Jean Goldkette — Jean Goldkette Bands 1924-1929 (Timeless Holland, 2003)
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Copenhagen/Mean To Me
Charles Davis Orchestra — Radio transcription
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Boneyard Shuffle
Hitch's Happy Harmonists — Hoagy Carmichael: First Of The Singer-Songwriters (JSP, 2009)
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March Of The Hoodlums
Carmichael's Collegians — Hoagy Carmichael: First Of The Singer-Songwriters (JSP, 2009)
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Mental Strain At Dawn
Jack Purvis — 1928-1935 (Jazz Oracle, 2003)
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Indiana
Eddie Condon — Eddie Condon (Timeless Historical, 1996)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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