The 1940’s: Creating Bombs & Beats

In the years after World War II, popular music tastes changed nationally and in Detroit as well. While some fans picked up on the modern jazz trend, the general public went in a different direction. Mainstream audiences moved away from sophisticated big band swing music and began to prefer individual singers, usually of a smooth pop-jazz style.

However, whites with a southern background continued to listen to the raw sound of country music, while black audiences gravitated toward the grittier, more urban rhythm ‘n’ blues.  

The Detroit blues scene found a resurgence during the 1940’s, with the second wave of the Great Migration, bringing artists such as John Lee Hooker to Detroit to work in factories of the Arsenal of Democracy.

It was the emergence of local record labels in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s which helped the blues scene to flourish, compared to the 1920s, when blues artists generally emigrated to Chicago to record their music. Some small labels, including Staff, Holiday, Modern, and Prize Records, only existed for a brief time, while other labels experienced greater success. The most prominent of the Detroit-based labels from this era was Fortune Records, and its subsidiary labels Hi-Q, Strate 8 and Blue Star, which ran from 1948 to 1970.

Detroit has produced some of the most famous gospel singers in past decades. In the 1940s, Oliver Green formed The Detroiters, who became one of the most popular Gospel groups of their era

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