International Sweethearts of Rhythm

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International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Post by andrew666 on Sun May 01, 2011 9:05 am

I came across an old album at a car boot sale the other day which featured a track from the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

They were an incredibly brave group of women - the first mixed band in the United States. They knew their stuff too - and were probably one of the best swing, jump'n'jive bands of the 1940s, playing at such venues as the Apollo Theatre in New York and the Regal Theatre in Chicago.

The band had been formed thirty years earlier, in 1910, by Laurence C. Jones. He created the band and sent them on the road in order to earn some money for a school he'd created for poor white and African American children in Mississippi. in 1937, the band developed into the Swinging Rays of Rhythm.

In the 1940s, the band moved to Virginia and were now fully integrated with Latina, Asian, Caucasian, Black, Indian and Puerto Rican members. They became the International Sweethearts of Rhythm was given to the group. Anna Mae Winburn became the band leader. At the Howard Theatre in 1941, the band set a new box office record of 35,000 customers in one week. This was probably the peak of their fame.

The cute Asian girl - bottom right - woo hoo!

In 1944, following a campaign by GIs, the band toured American bases in Europe - making some of them the first black women to travel with the USO.
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm made two coast-to-coast tours in a bus. As a racially mixed band, this meant they were openly defying the racist Jim Crow laws of the Southern states. The white women in the band wore dark makeup on stage to avoid arrest. Incredible to us today, despite them being international stars, whenever the band travelled around the South, all the members had to eat and sleep in the bus because the racist laws of the day prevented them from using restaurants and hotels together.


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