Hastings and Rother U3A

DON Bray took the U3A on an unforgettable walk down Nostalgia Lane with his talk on Ragtime, Jazz and Swing.

Did you know that ‘rag time’ was started by Scott Joplin, an African-American railroad labourer? After quitting his job he went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, and this single event made ragtime a national craze by 1897. In 1898 Scott Joplin, introduced ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ and the rest, as they say, is history.

By the 1920s great social changes were happening, especially for women with Rag Time and jazz dominating the world’s music scene. Women bobbed their hair; hemlines came up to the knee. The women fell into one of three sets: Flappers, who could best be described as ‘good time girls, Sweet Young Things who were a more up market version of the Flappers, and Vamps who were older, curvier and probably married.

The Grand Hotel hosted the first dance band in 1922; Henry Hall’s BBC Dance Orchestra played from the 1920s right through to the 1960s . Among the many contributors to the social music scene were Denny Dennis from Derby who first sang with the Roy Fox band in 1937; Vera Lynn in the 1930s and 1940s and in 1943 she recorded You’ll Never Know. Dance bands throughout the 1930s and 1940s generally performed at hotels and show bands like Jack Hilton and Billy Cotton would tour, filling every seat.

This gave rise to the first professional teacher of ballroom, Victor Sylvester, whose father was a vicar in Wembley. During this period, films created new stars like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, one of the greatest song and dance partnerships ever. In 1939 Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian Bombshell added her own exotic spin and introduced the world to Brazilian music with the film Down Argentine Way, which made a star of Betty Grable. Bing Crosby, a great lover of jazz, the Andrews Sisters, Alice Faye who is reputed to be one of the first stars to walk away at the height of her career, who also introduced her rendition of You’ll Never Know in the film Hello Frisco, Hello.

Big Band or Swing was the most popular music in America, generally thought to have started on 21st August 1935 with Benny Goodman performing at the Paloma Ballroom. Glen Miller introduced American Smooth in 1939. The list goes on but must include Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, The Ted Heath Band, a famous British Band in the post war years. Undeniably nostalgic halcyon days of the dancing decades!

Monthly meetings take place at St Peter’s Community Centre (Old Town) Bexhill (usually fourth Monday in the month), 9.30am for 10.15am start until noon, (coffee served between 9.30am to 10am). For further details, Tel.01424 75268.