Music In the 1930's

By: Sunny Singh

Musical Trends

Music was rapidly changing during the 1930s. There was such a tremendous variety available that it is hard to narrow down on a particular genre. Historians and cultural anthropologists do agree that Big Band music was probably the most popular, along with sweet popular music. This was the time when movies were also having a large impact on American society. Talking movies were not even a decade old in 1936 - the first talking movie to be released was in 1927, entitled The Jazz Singer. An appropriate title considering that Jazz was starting to make a foothold in American culture.

Music Industry

Musicals seemed to have become an important part of the industry during the early 1930s. Musicals like Porgy and Bess, and Babes in Toyland were very popular. Their songs even more so. The leaders in this field were night club or stage performers - most actors from silent movies were not good singers and performers and so these people were hired for the positions. Other newcomers also took part in these musicals so that they could make a name for themselves. Included in these people were Jack Oakie, John Boles, Nancy Carroll and Jeanette MacDonald.

Top Hits of 1938

Alexanders Ragtime Band - Al Jolson
Ella Fitzgerald - A-Tisket, A-Tasket
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen - Janis Siegel

Types of Music

Music of the 1930s

Effect of Music

Since the country was in the throes of a depression, people needed diversion and that is exactly what they got. This was the beginning of Hollywood, the music industry and the beginning of broadcast companies, mainly the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Songs that went onto become very popular during this era were those that reflected the struggle of the average American - songs that were written as protests to the social conditions surrounding the songs author.

Bob Wills


Bob Wills' name will forever be associated with Western swing. Although he did not invent the genre single-handedly, he did popularize the genre and changed its rules. In the process, he reinvented the rules of popular music. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were a dance band with a country string section that played pop songs as if they were jazz numbers. Their music expanded and erased boundaries between genres. It was also some of the most popular music of its era. Throughout the '40s, the band was one of the most popular groups in the country and the musicians in the Playboys were among the finest of their era. As the popularity of Western swing declined, so did Wills' popularity, but his influence is immeasurable. Wills was a maverick and his spirit infused American popular music of the 20th century.

Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills' Music

This is Red Steagall's hit song from 1976 off the album of the same name. It went to number 11 on the country charts but charted higher in Texas, for obvious reasons. The narrator explains how Lone Star beer (which brands itself as the "National Beer of Texas") and the songs of classic Texas singer Bob Wills (who along with his Texas Playboys are considered the driving force of "Western Swing") have helped him get over the break-up of a relationship.
Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills' Music (Red Steagall) w/ lyrics


Q- Who popularized and changed the rules of Western swing?

A- Bob Wills

Q- How did music help in The Great Depression?

A- It distracted people of all the pain and sorrow and instead made them sing and dance along, creating a sense of happiness and joy.