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Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s Paperback – May 23, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Tucker, who teaches women's studies at Hobart and William Smith colleges and writes the "Jazzwomen Jam" column for Jazz Now magazine, masterfully shows how instrumental "all-girl" bands were in changing social, sexual, racial, and economic attitudes toward women. In the 1930s and 1940s, Phil Spitalny's incredibly commercially successful, all-woman "Hour of Charm" Orchestra, she contends, "introduced thousands upon thousands of listeners to the concept that women were capable of playing band instruments." The group also, unfortunately, instilled in listeners the "image of billowing dresses and cultured white womanhood"Da stereotype that "jazzier" and African American/multiracial groups like the Darlings of Rhythm and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm had to work hard to break. Tucker interviewed scores of these musicians (many still alive and swinging), attended the Sharon Rogers All-Girl Band's 1993 reunion, and documented their experiences of touring, recording, and dealing with the chauvinstic musicians' union and armed forces. Marriage to another musician, she relates, often meant dealing with violent jealousy: one woman came home to find that her husband had burned her band memorabilia in the backyard. "Only God can make a tree and only men can play good jazz," prominent jazz author George Simon wrote at the time, but Tucker proves that so talented were "all-girl" bands that most men wallowed in denial. An essential purchase for academic, public, and music libraries.DWilliam G. Kenz, Moorhead State Univ., MN
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Swing Shift is a long-overdue historical corrective and a compelling read—a thoroughly remarkable achievement.”—David Hajdu, author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn


Swing Shift is the most original, thought-provoking jazz book written in the last thirty years. Sherrie Tucker’s virtuoso performance not only tears down the bars of silence that have kept women musicians invisible, but she reveals how this silence works to uphold the race and gender mythologies that we know as the history of the ‘swing era.’ After prying open our eyes and ears, Tucker takes us on a funky, surprising, inspiring musical journey that will drive all jazzheads back to the woodshed. And if that’s not enough, as a writer this ‘girl’ can swing off the page!”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America


“Sherrie Tucker’s beautifully written and meticulously researched book on women jazz bands introduces us to a generation of awesome musicians, whose stories raise provocative questions about the impact of race, class, gender, and sexuality on dominant conceptions of jazz history. In suggesting new ways of thinking about the place of women jazz musicians in recent U.S. history, Swing Shift boldly challenges our contemporary understandings of the unruly politics of culture. ”—Angela Davis
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; 1st edition (May 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822328178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822328179
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My Grandmother was part of an all-girl band during this era, and still plays strong today. She was contacted to participate in the making of this book and thus my interest in reading the work was peaked. However, I soon realized there is so much more the book offers. Starting with a detailed historical description of the way African-American women were treated, the book moves on to cover a wide variety of trials women went through to get their music heard. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in Jazz, in history, in women's study, or in just understanding the power of music, of voice, and of struggle throughout the ages of this society.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a fascinating and unique book on jazz, gender, and race. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, Swing Shift documents the central position black and white women musicians played in the Swing Era and World War II. Sherrie Tucker combines oral histories with archival research, producing a stunning record of what history books can be and what jazz women are. Most amazing is the author's analysis of race and racism as structuring aspects of the music industry, jazz history, and contemporary accounts of the 1940s. Swing Shift is the most accomplished book on women, music, and race that I have ever read; it is a gift as remarkable, talented, honest, funny, and captivating as the women musicians Dr. Tucker researched and loves.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The introduction of the book is turgid and difficult to read; seems as though it's targeted to other academics. However, as she tells the story of the particular bands, it picks up speed and becomes very readable. Some of the rhetorical points are repeated a few times times too many for my taste, but it is an interesting story that is not much told. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to dig a little deeper into jazz history than the usual male-centric approach.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting book on a largely overlooked subject - women in jazz. It didn't occur to me how under-reported this subject was until I heard an interview of one of the writers of a chapter from one of Sherrie Tucker's other books, Big Ears.
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Format: Paperback
I generally appreciate Sherrie Tucker's ambitious topic, and the great efforts undertaken to obtain quality, first-hand narratives. As two others have also noted, though, she greatly undermines the effect by repeatedly framing their narratives - at various times before, during, and after the narratives themselves - seemingly for the sake, as another commenter notes, to enlighten us moderns on the thought processes, blinds spots, and jargon of that strange species, 1940s humans.

These "framings" are often considerably longer than the narratives themselves, and distract a great deal from the narratives. While I appreciate that academic writing marches to the beat of its own, peculiar drummer, the book nevertheless would have been both more readable and interesting had Ms. Tucker let the women who are actually the subject of the book do the hard work of enlightening us as to what their experience might mean.

The book is not thought-provoking: Ms. Tucker's gone to the trouble of doing the thinking for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These girl bands were great, and Sherrie Tucker's publication gives great information about them ! I would say this is valuable for people interested in music as well as for those interested in the World War II era !
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book discusses the women who performed in big bands during the 1940's, and explains the changes that were taking place in the roles of women. The author interviewed over 100 women who shared their experiences during this time period. The book, written by a Womens Studies and American Studies Professor, explores race, gender, and class and shows how something like playing in bands created an important chapter in the history of our country.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a very scholarly approach to the era of the all-female swing bands during WWII. As the book is careful to point out, the all-female bands were already thriving and in existence before WWII, but with the soldiers going off to war they became a sort of musical version of Rosie the Riveter. The wealth of information on the female bands contained in this book is beyond compare. I saw two major drawbacks in the book, however. First of all, one gets the impression that this is the first time the author has ever encountered people from a previous era and from a previous mindset. She seems quite shocked that they prefer to be called All-Girl bands rather that her more politically correct, All-Woman bands. In fact, she goes into great detail for several paragraphs about how it must be reflective of a different mindset and so forth. Secondly, due to her prolonged belaboring anytime there is a quote or comment or hint of something that she doesn't consider in accord with modern thought, the voices and experiences of the women themselves are not brought to the forefront. They all sound like women with fascinating stories to tell. But she doesn't let them tell it. What the author does is dwell on sociological issues, racial issues, feminism issues, and other academic type issues rather than tell the story of the All-Girl bands. I found this to be a prime example of why so often academic works are an unbelievably tedious read. I would love it if a more popular version of this book were to be issued.
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