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Ku Klux KultureAmerica and the Klan in the 1920s$
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Felix Harcourt

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226376158

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226376295.001.0001

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That Ghastly Saxophone

That Ghastly Saxophone

(p.123) 7 That Ghastly Saxophone
Ku Klux Kulture

Felix Harcourt

University of Chicago Press

This chapter looks at the Ku Klux Klan in the context of American music history, arguing that the idea of the 1920s as “Jazz Age” is a pernicious cultural myth. Many vocally hated jazz, with Klan members particularly highlighting both the white supremacism and anti-Semitism central to much of this criticism. Those same Klan members also engaged in widespread cultural appropriation, retooling popular songs – including jazz and blues ‘race records’ – into propaganda for the Klannish ideology. While Klan members recorded these songs at Gennett Records, similar ideas were being commercialized and incorporated into novelty songs from Tin Pan Alley. Klan members formed jazz bands even as they propelled the career of old-time fiddlers like John Carson and the development of the hillbilly music genre.

Keywords:   Ku Klux Klan, music history, Jazz Age, anti-Semitism, cultural appropriation, Gennett Records, Tin Pan Alley, hillbilly music, race records, John Carson

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