WRFG Route 66 – 66 Notes #1

WRFG’s Route 66 celebrates a time when blues, jazz, and R&B blended
together, often in the same song. The focus is on the the Jump Blues and
Early Rock’n’Roll Eras (1940s to mid-1950s) and on how those styles
and artists have evolved over the years.

Listen Sunday from 7:00 to 9:00 A.M. Eastern (U.S.) on Atlanta’s
. Your independent community radio station is streaming
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Contact: john.askins@wrfg.org

66 Notes #1
April 28, 2023

I’ve completed a big overhaul of the Route 66 music library with the goal of bringing you the most authentic jump blues era listening experience possible without slipping into DJ Gene’s space.

The first thing I did was weed out all the songs that had piled up in the digital library that never got played or just weren’t worth playing to begin with. Then I spent several evenings going through online issues of Cash Box magazine from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s in search of hidden treasures.

Let me explain, Cash Box was a trade magazine for the coin driven entertainment industry. I’m talking about pinball machines, various games of chance, and jukeboxes. And they published weekly playlists for the Top 10 jukebox songs in cities across the U.S. and Canada.

Why? Because before record industry discovered the growing teen market in the 1950s and Top 40 radio smushed everything together, the jukebox ruled the roost. And, since the most popular songs “on the box” varied widely from city-to-city, juke box owners wanted to keep up on new songs that were raking in the most coins.

The first Cash Box R&B chart was called “Hot in Harlem” and was just one of dozens of “Hot In…” charts in in the June 24, 1946 issue. But, as the magazine became more sophisticated, they separated the charts out into genres including pop, “folk, country, and western,” and R&B.

By 1947, Cash Box’s R&B charts expanded to include the jazz and blues clubs in Los Angeles, southside Chicago, Dallas, and New Orleans. In the 1950s, more cities were added including Atlanta and Saint Louis.

I went through the weekly charts for those cities during the lockdown and found tons of great music that never reached the national Billboard R&B chart.

So, what did I miss? A lot.

Turns out the charts on the now-defunct site I used weren’t entirely accurate and the hobbyists who compiled the charts ignored most of the reporting cities! Plus, I just plain overlooked some good tunes because I wasn’t familiar with the artists.

When I looked at the actual PDFs of Cash Box, I found charts from more than a dozen towns I’d never seen before including Savannah, Macon, Memphis, Newark, and Charlotte.

I even found one chart for Edmond, Oklahoma. That one really surprised me because present-day Edmond is one of the least woke towns on the planet.

So, how many “new” songs did I add to the library?

I’ll tell you next time.

Thanks for listening!

John A

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