1917-1922: Society Bands

The dance craze that started around World War I was to the tune of so-called society band music. Society bands had a repertoire of ragtime, light classics, and popular songs within an arranged format that allowed little or no improvisation. Both white and black jazzmen got their early training in big band playing in these society band.

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was the first jazz band to record "The Sound of New Orleans" in 1917. Between 1917-1922, many recording companies recorded white jazz bands. It was not until 1922 that record companies became convinced that African American musicians would be popular with the consumer market. Mamie Smith encouraged the production of the first race records with her early blues recordings with Okeh Records.

The Okeh Record Corporation was one of the first record companies to target the urban African American working-class. Mamie Smith became the first African American vocalist to record with this company in February of 1920. After the initial introduction of African American music (performed by African Americans), record companies such as Columbia, Paramount, and Vocalian began to seek out popular African American bands to record their works. Production of subsequent race records proved to be extremely lucrative for record companies.

These "Race Records" were created for African Americans and recorded by African American jazz musicians. Major recording areas were New York City, Camden (New Jersey), and Chicago. The majority of the records made of the African American jazz bands in the 1920s, actually differed only marginally from the recordings made of the white dance hall bands, such as Paul Whiteman's. However, there are a handful of recordings that are considered the "gems" the 1920s, including:

* Jelly Roll Morton and his Hot Red Peppers' recording from 1926-1928.

* Spike's Seven Pods of Pepper (Kid Ory) recordings of "Ory's Creole Trombone" and "Society Blues" from 1922.

* Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings from 1925-1928.

* King Oliver's early recordings (with the Dodds, Lil' Hardin, and Louis Armstrong) from 1923-24.

* Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong's 1928 recordings, including the pivotal duet, "Weather Bird."