The first jazz record was issued in the U.S. when Nick LaRocca’s Original Dixieland Jazz Band released "The Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step''.
The Bolshevik Revolution.
The United States enters World War I.
The Chicago Defender announces its "Great Northern Drive", urging blacks to flee the South - an exodus that is already under way.
begins to experiment with frozen food, a process not perfected until 1949.
A winter storms paralyses the Memphis region; the Mississippi River freezes over when temperatures drop far below zero.
Harahan Bridge, the second railroad span over the Mississippi in Memphis, opens roadways
for automobile traffic are added later.
The first jazz releases on cylinder helped to delay the final demise of this format. Leopold Stokowski, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, began recording for the Victor Company at the
Camden, New Jersey studios.
MARCH 26, 1917 MONDAY
Rufus Thomas is born and
was always quick to make sure that you knew he was a city man first and foremost. In one of his earliest in-depth interviews he told Peter Guralnick, "I was born in Mississippi just below Collierville, about five miles from the Tennessee line in a little place called Cayce: its not on anybody's map. That was March 26 1917, (though
his social security records say March 27), but I grew up in Memphis. I been here since I was a year old. I don't know anything about
country life, to tell you the truth''.
Rufus Jr. was the
youngest child of Rufus and Rachel Thomas, coming up behind his sisters Elizabeth, Willie, Eva, and Dorothy and his brother Morris. He did admit that he mould sometimes go with his mother to visit relatives in the country and that he even picket a little cotton there as a teenager. ''But that was not a life I wanted to know'',
he told forcely some seventy years later. "No, I was always a city boy, there was always something going, on there for me to take an
interest in. My father worked in several different production plants around Memphis and my mother worked in domestic, but they both had other interests. My father was musical, where I got that side from, and my mother was a church woman''. He told Peter Guralnick his mother had, "what we call mother wit, that deep seated intelligence
that you don't get out of books. That was how I came up''.
Taking his parents' music and wit as inspiration, Rufus soon emerged as someone to remember from the crowd. His father played harmonica and did a
little country dancing, and it was the latter that appealed to Rufus. He made his performing debut on stage at the Grand Theater on
Beale Street in an elementary school play - hopping on stage like a frog. By the age of ten, he was struck by the tap-dancing ability of a schoolmate, Edward Martin, and he
soon started copying and then surpassing his friend. He told researcher Rob Bowman: "I don't know where the drive came from. All I know is that I wanted to
be a tap dancer. So I continued to work, at it, mixing what I had seen with some steps of my own. During those days there was no such
thing as dancing schools for blacks''.
In the ninth grade,
Rufus moved to Booker T. Washington High School, and he told about his meeting with his mentor, Nat D. Williams: "He was a professor, history teacher, at High School there, and I was involved with him in one thing or another since the first of the 1930s. After he was my teacher in school, he was my teacher on the stage and later
on he was my teacher in radio. He was the first black disc jockey in the mid-South and the emcee at the amateur shows on Beale Street
in the Palace Theater. Nat Williams was an unusual man, and a good mentor for the young Rufus. Williams had been to University in Nashville at Tennessee A&I and had worked in New York before he returned to Memphis to teach at Booker T. Washington. There he became involved with Maurice Hulbert in producing a high
school show known as the BTW Ballet - it had started out in the 1920s as a highbrow performance put on to raise money for the newly-formed black
high school, and did literally put on ballet performances.
Within a few years the Ballet had broadened its range, with song and tap dance and comedy, and Williams decided he could accommodate Rufus's homegrown
dancing talent. Rufus told John Floyd that this ''was when things really began happening for me. I had learned the craft, and the first
rehearsal at school Nat D. said to me, What's your name, you want to be in the Ballet?' and I said 'yeah'. He said let me see your smile, so I had a funny little grin on
my face. and he said, 'you got it. I was put into the musical vaudeville shows, which was a minstrel show''. Rufus later reflected with disc jockey and writer, Louis
Cantor, on the difference in his black version of the vaudeville minstrel shows, where he appeared complete with burnt cork on the face
and painted lips. ''With folks would put on white put on red lips to protest. or at least I like to think it was to protest'', he rationalized.
Nevertheless Rufus remained proud of the Ballets. which by his day had moved from the school premises into the Palace Theater and then to the Ellis Auditorium downtown. He joked ''the old Ballet was sophisticated and pretty. We had no sophistication and we
were ugly but we had some kinda show''.
Rufus was soon voted the most talented youngster in his school. He told John Floyd: ''I used to wear the big pants and the big shoes, and the big tie that would hang
almost to the floor. I was hot stuff I was so sharp I could stick up in concrete''. On account of being such a 'character' Nat Williams
chose Rufus to help him with comedy routines. ''He chose me out of a bunch of kids to work with him. Nat was the straight man and I was the comic''.
DAISY THEATER (BEALE STREET BLUES MUSEUM) (See: Historic Memphis)
- 1917, Sam Zerilla, an Italian immigrant and a clarinetist with John Philip Sousa's band, built the Pastime Theater, the first movie house
for blacks in Memphis. Sam also built the Daisy Theater, located at 329-331 Beale Street, which showed mostly films. In 1929 it premiered the short, St. Louis Blues,
which starred the great blues singer Bessie Smith.
Smith, dressed in fancy furs, drove up in a limousine with W.C. Handy. In a scene more reminiscent of Hollywood, they stepped from their car onto
a red carpet which took them past an enthusiastic crowd into the theater. The facade is Moorish in character with a ribbed interior
some which stretches upward toward a one-half circle of lights. Originally, each side of the building contained small stores, one a candy shop and the other a shoe shine parlor.
The interior still has the original balcony and wall embellishments. Patrons entered the theater on either side of the stage which faced the rear.
The Beale Street Blues Museum, this museum does a reasonable, if detached, job
of telling the street's music history. There are plenty of obscure photos, vintage posters, and personal belongings, along with displays
on Ethel waters, Victoria Spivey, and other often-overlooked female blues singers.
Influenza epidemic kills 500,000 in United States, over 21 million people worldwide.
The underside of the migration; bloody race riots in a number of Northern cities, including Chicago.
Commercial air travel begins.
Brunswick was founded and acquired Vocalion in 1924. In 1927 Vocalion started a 5000 Country series and Brunswick a 100 Country series. After being acquired by Warner Brothers created the Melotone label in 1930 and was bought out by ARC. Both the Brunswick and
Vocalion labels ended in February 1933.
Electrical recording was in the experimental stage.
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra produced the first million seller with Japanese Sandman coupled with Whispering and began a major new popular music craze that boosted the
record industry throughout the decade.
Garrard Engineering, a subsidiary of the British Crown jewellers, commenced manufacture of precision clockwork gramophone motors.