Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Juneteenth Jamboree: Gladys Bentley & Louis Jordan

Happy Juneteenth!

A little late this year, after another week of overworking, but its time for some Juneteenth celebrating! Last year, I did a post going into the history of Juneteenth. You can find that by clciking on the Juneteenth link at the bottom of this post, and it has links to some other interesting websites related to Juneteenth.

This time, I am briefly going to introduce two pieces of Juneteenth blues that I came across while reading Music You Never Forget: The Juneteenth Jamboree by Fred Bals. The article introduced me to the life and career of Gladys Bentley. She was a well-known singer in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s, headlining at such infamous venues as as The Clam House and the Ubangi Club, before moving to California, where she performed until her death in 1960.
"Perhaps the most famous gay-oriented club of the era was Harry Hansberry's Clam House, a narrow, smoky speakeasy on 133rd Street. The Clam House featured Gladys Bentley, a 250-pound, masculine, darkskinned lesbian, who performed all night long in a white tuxedo and top hat. Bentley, a talented pianist with a magnificent, growling voice, was celebrated for inventing obscene lyrics to popular contemporary melodies. Langston Hughes called her 'an amazing exhibition of musical energy.'"

- Quote from Hidden from History : Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past by Eric Garber.

Next, in full this time, is the song as recorded by 'King of the Jukebox' Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five in 1940 for the Decca label. The song was, and still is, mislabeled as "June Tenth Jamboree," apparently because no one at Decca knew what Juneteenth was. Not a fate Louis Jordan himself would have to worry about. Jordan was a highly popular musician with both black and white audiences, one of the first"crossover" artists, having at least four million-selling hits during his career. He also performed comedy and acted in many films, while also starring in two of his own. Many r&b artists look upon him as a pivotal figure in the emergence of r&b.

Two artists, who despite the prevailing prejudices against race and sex, forged their own careers on their own terms!

Gladys Bentley - Juneteenth Jamboree (excerpt)

Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - 'June Tenth' Jamboree (Decca 1940)


Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D. said...

Juneteenth is America's 2nd Independence Day.

Together we will see Juneteenth become a National Holiday in America!

Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)

Rob Whatman said...

Thank you, Reverend Myers, for visiting my Juneteenth post. I support you in your campaign for its recognition as a nationally observed holiday, and I hope the significance of Juneteenth will be recognised around the world.

fhb said...

A little late, commenting myself, Rob, but wanted to express my appreciation for the plug. I'm no longer writing for gather, but you can find my articles - inluding the one on Juneteenth - on the Dreamtime blog/podcast, as well as my new music video blog, A Series of Tubes.

Thanks again!