The stories and music of black school swing bands of the 1930s and '40s, showcasing three of the era's most famous bands.
During the 1930s and 1940s, many black schools in the U.S. fielded traveling swing bands to keep their doors open during the Depression. Narrator Tonea Stewart profiles three of the era's most famous bands in "Swingtime," an hour-long showcase of the Bama State Collegians, the Prairie View Co-eds and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
Stewart artfully weaves the era's music around interviews with surviving band members, scholarly commentary and archival sound from now-deceased band members, including the great Erskine Hawkins. The traveling ensembles influenced mainstream music on a grand scale. Harlem's top jazz orchestras pulled talent from these bands, whose members made enduring contributions to American culture. Hawkins' "Tuxedo Junction," for example, became the anthem for American GIs in World War II.
"Swingtime's" music goes beyond the iconic — "Tuxedo Junction," "In the Mood," "Take the A Train," "Henderson Stomp" — to include lesser known gems like "Vi Vigor," composed for International Sweethearts of Rhythm saxophonist Vi Burnside. And the program draws listeners in as band members describe what it was like for them as teens, many from poor homes, to travel the country as stars of swing.
"Swingtime is produced by Artemis Media Project and Kathie Farnell, and distributed nationwide by PRI.