From 1889 to 1895, the fire that would ignite almost every American popular music style was sparking. These were some of the worst years in American race relations, yet they witnessed the emergence of ragtime and the birth of an African American popular entertainment industry. Out of Sight is the first book dedicated to this signal period of black musical development.
It is a landmark study, based on thousands of music-related references mined by the authors from a variety of contemporaneous sources, especially African American community newspapers. The citations are organized and explained in a way that clears a path through the dense landscape of this neglected period in black music history. Accompanying the text are 150 halftones, also excavated from period sources, offering a broad pictorial canvas of African American music during the years before ragtime's commercial ascendancy.
Out of Sight examines musical personalities, issues, and events in context. It confronts the inescapable marketplace concessions musicians made to the period's prevailing racist sentiment. With detail never available in a book before, it describes the worldwide travels of jubilee singing companies, the plight of the great black prima donnas, and the evolutions of "authentic" African American minstrels. With its access to newspapers and photos, Out of Sight puts a face on musical activity in the insular black communities of the day.
Drawing on hard-to-access archival sources and song collections, the book is of crucial importance for understanding the roots of jazz, blues, and gospel. It is essential for comprehending the evolution and dissemination of African American popular music from 1900 to the present. Out of Sight paints a rich picture of musical variety, personalities, issues, and changes during the period that shaped American popular music and culture for the next hundred years.
Lynn Abbott is an independent scholar living in New Orleans. His work has been published in American Music, 78 Quarterly, American Music Research Center Journal, and The Jazz Archivist. Doug Seroff is an independent scholar living in Greenbrier, Tenn. His work has appeared in American Music, Black Music Research Newsletter, Blues Unlimited, and Record Exchanger, among others. A leading expert on black gospel quartet singing for twenty-five years, he has written chapters published in anthologies and many scholarly essays for a wide variety of journals.