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Night Lights Classic Jazz

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm

The Sweethearts were a racially-integrated, all-female, and all-swing big band, taking their pathbreaking act on the road during World War II.

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International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Photo: Flickr

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm making a record for the Victor label in the mid-1940s.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, considered today to be the most renowned of the 1940s “all-girl” bands, emerged in the late 1930s from the Piney Woods School, a foster-child institution for African-American children in Mississippi. The “International” part of their moniker was inspired by the Chinese, Hawaiian, Mexican, and Native American heritage of some of the members.

By 1941 the Sweethearts were playing the Apollo Theater in Harlem and garnering rave reviews in the African-American press; the advent of World War II, which led to the propagation of numerous all-girl bands, only lifted the Sweethearts’ profile even higher. Their hard-swinging sound won them fans such as Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, and Louis Armstrong, and in 1945 they toured Europe, playing for military audiences who had followed them through Jubilee broadcasts. We’ll hear some of those Jubilee broadcasts as well as some of the rare studio recordings that the band made.

Books About The Sweethearts And Other Women Jazz Artists

  • Sherri Tucker’s Swing Shift
  • Watch the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in 1946:

    Music Heard On This Episode

    Bugle Call Rag
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — International Sweethearts of Rhythm (LP) (Rosetta, 1944)
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    Central Avenue Boogie
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — International Sweethearts of Rhythm (LP) (Rosetta, 1944)

    Notes: With Anna Mae Winburn on vocals.

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    Galvanizing
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Hot Licks (Sounds of Yesteryear, 1944)
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    Diggin' Dirt
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Hot Licks (Sounds of Yesteryear, 1944)

    Notes: Also identified as "Diggin' Dykes."

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    She's Crazy With the Heat
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — International Sweethearts of Rhythm (LP) (Rosetta, 1946)
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    Slightly Frantic
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — International Sweethearts of Rhythm (LP) (Rosetta, 1944)
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    Blue Lou
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Big Band Jazz: the Jubilee Sessions (Hindsight, 1944)
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    Tuxedo Junction
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Big Band Jazz: Jubilee Sessions (Hindsight, 1944)
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    Swing Shift
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Big Band Jazz: Jubilee Sessions (Hindsight, 1944)

    Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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    Vi Vigor
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — The Women: Classic Female Jazz Artists 1939-52 (Bluebird, 1946)

    Notes: Featuring Vi Burnside on tenor sax.

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    Don't Get It Twisted
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — The Women: Classic Female Jazz Artists 1939-1952 (Bluebird, 1946)
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    Jump Children
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Hot Licks (Sounds of Yesteryear, 1945)

    Notes: Anna Mae Winburn on vocals.

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    One O'Clock Jump
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Hot Licks (Sounds of Yesteryear, 1944)

    Notes: With the Armed Forces Radio Orchestra.

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    Gin Mill Special
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Hot Licks (Sounds of Yesteryear, 1944)
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    That Man of Mine
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — Hot Licks (Sounds of Yesteryear)

    Notes: With Anna Mae Winburn on vocals.

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    Lady Be Good
    International Sweethearts of Rhythm — International Sweethearts of Rhythm (LP) (Rosetta, 1944)
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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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