1930s Magazines · 78 RPM Recordings · Blog posts · Songs

Rhythm Fan Clubs of the 1930s.

Popular Music And Dancing Weekly, March 16th, 1935

The vast majority of people in this isle of ours are musically inclined, but few enthusiastically so; for instance, how many people understand what is termed “Hot”‘ Rhythmic music ?

I am afraid that the very name gives a misconceived idea—music at a terrific speed with hardly any melody. Needless to say, that is not “Hot” Rhythm.

During the past eighteen months I have found a growing enthusiasm for the study of this type of music, hence the formation of a Rhythm Club in North Middlesex, where sessions are held regularly once a week throughout the year. Since the actual formation of this club there have now been opened no less than seventy similar clubs throughout the British Isles.

The idea behind the Rhythm Clubs is to study all forms of rhythmic music, through the medium of the gramophone. What actually happens is this : upon joining any such club the member hands to the Club Librarian a list of his own personal collections of records, from which future programmes can be built.

The Director of Programmes then commences the evening’s session, which, to give a typical example, might be specially given for those who wish to see the progression from what is known as “commercial,” or popular, music to the present day “modern” rhythm.

As each record is played, the programme director gives his comments, and after playing, the members then debate upon the points raised by the commentator, and thus begin their studies of this most intriguing subject.

Until I had read this article I never knew that us Brits had set up these Rhythm Clubs, where men and women would meet to listen to their collections of “hot” 78s (probably what most people would call jazz today) and talk about the recordings. I have avoided using the term “song” because not all of these recordings, or numbers, would have had lyrics sung by a singer. Maybe it comes across as nerdy to some modern day people, but I like the idea of group listening, and learning about the artistry of these great musicians.

Today, listeners of British dance band music (and American dance/jazz music) is considered quite “niche” and is somewhat of a hobby to a few listeners in that some like to collect 78s (shellac records) from the era; collect music magazines and sheet music of the songs (as I do), and have a general interest in the 1920s and 1930s. I suppose the nearest thing we have today to the Rhythm Clubs are Facebook groups, and the excellent magazine Memory Lane.

https://www.memorylane.org.uk/index.html

The listener according to the writer, from attending these clubs and spending time studying the recordings would over time find:

.. that his hearing gradually becomes more acute. When this comes to pass he will find great enjoyment in participating, with increasing confidence, in that popular club item known as a ” Detector Programme,” in which members are asked to name artists or bands, by listening to the style and method of execution as portrayed upon the records. This is not as easy as it may seem; just try it yourself.

Here is a suggested list given in the article for someone to try. I expect that how a modern listener would categorise or describe each recording might be slightly different than how someone back in 1935 would’ve done it.

Here are the recordings :

It is noticeable that all the recordings are made by Americans except the first one which is Ray Noble’s New Mayfair Dance Orchestra in London, with South African national Greek/Lebanese vocalist Al Bowlly. Duke Ellington was very popular in London at this time. It’s not difficult to see why either!

The whole article in can be downloaded here as a pdf:

2 thoughts on “Rhythm Fan Clubs of the 1930s.

  1. I never tire of ‘It don’t mean a thing’.
    It’s nice to imagine that I would have been an enthusiastic member of one of those clubs!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Sigh- I know what you mean. I long to meet a group of people locally who’d like to start a 1920s/1930s social group/club. Instead I have to connect with people online.

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