“Black & White Depression-Era American Roots Music: How Time, Place, Need, and Culture Shaped the Contrasting Sounds of the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Buffalo Ragged Five”

By Jerry Zolten.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Depression-Era America, two religious performing groups - one Black, one White - found their way into the fledgling American "roots" music recording industry. Both entities considered themselves "spiritual entertainers" and both had designs on professional careers. Their backgrounds and styles could not have contrasted more. One group succeeded, one did not. This paper offers an account of the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Buffalo Ragged Five with a focus on how time, place, economic need, and cultural context - including racism - shaped the sound and career path of each. The Dixie Hummingbirds would go on to become Grammy-winning icons in the genre of African American gospel. The Buffalo Ragged Five would leave a legacy that lived on primarily within family and community.

Keywords: American “Roots” Music, Media as Cultural Disseminator, African American Gospel, American Southern Gospel, Cultural Shaping of American Musical Styles, American Folk Music History

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 10, pp.115-124. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 547.544KB).

Dr. Jerry Zolten

Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and American Studies, Arts and Humanities, Penn State University - Altoona College, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA

Jerry Zolten, an Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and American Studies at Penn State Altoona, in addition to his academic work, is a musician, producer, and author. He spearheaded the return to professional performance of the Grammy-winning African American gospel group, the Fairfield Four, also producing two of their CDs. He is the producer of several syndicated Public Radio programs, most notably Chimpin' the Blues co-hosted with celebrated cartoonist Robert Crumb. Zolten is the author of Great God A'Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music, published in 2003 by Oxford University Press. Currently he is developing a second book on African American gospel and writing about the Beatles as recording artists for a forthcoming anthology on the Beatles from Cambridge University Press.


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