Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226448695 Published March 2017
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Vaudeville Melodies

Popular Musicians and Mass Entertainment in American Culture, 1870-1929

Nicholas Gebhardt

Vaudeville Melodies

Nicholas Gebhardt

208 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226448695 Published March 2017
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226448558 Published March 2017
E-book $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226448725 Published March 2017
If you enjoy popular music and culture today, you have vaudeville to thank. From the 1870s until the 1920s, vaudeville was the dominant context for popular entertainment in the United States, laying the groundwork for the music industry we know today.

In Vaudeville Melodies, Nicholas Gebhardt introduces us to the performers, managers, and audiences who turned disjointed variety show acts into a phenomenally successful business. First introduced in the late nineteenth century, by 1915 vaudeville was being performed across the globe, incorporating thousands of performers from every branch of show business. Its astronomical success relied on a huge network of theatres, each part of a circuit and administered from centralized booking offices. Gebhardt shows us how vaudeville transformed relationships among performers, managers, and audiences, and argues that these changes affected popular music culture in ways we are still seeing today. Drawing on firsthand accounts, Gebhardt explores the practices by which vaudeville performers came to understand what it meant to entertain an audience, the conditions in which they worked, the institutions they relied upon, and the values they imagined were essential to their success.
Review Quotes
Derek Scott, University of Leeds
“In this lively and immensely readable book, Gebhardt makes a convincing case that vaudeville was responsible for instituting a set of practices and conventions that affected all areas of popular performance.”
Andrew Berish | author of Lonesome Roads and Streets of Dreams: Place, Mobility & Race in Jazz of the 1930s and ‘40s
“Gebhardt’s Vaudeville Melodies explores how late-nineteenth century American political economy—a combination of progressive ideology and corporate-administrative capitalism—forged a space for the invention of show business and the idea of the modern entertainer. Moving between the stage and the corporate office, Gebhardt’s theoretically sophisticated study is a powerful argument for a dynamic, relational understanding of popular culture. Neither a top-down nor a bottom-up phenomenon, vaudeville emerged from the interplay of performers, managers, and audiences. Deftly weaving together diverse sources—performer biographies, popular press accounts, film, and music—Gebhardt provides a new and more holistic account of the creation and development of this prototypically modern American entertainment. VaudevilleMelodies will be an essential resource for scholars of vaudeville, popular music, and popular culture generally. More than just a renewal of the scholarship on vaudeville, Vaudeville Melodies offers a brilliant analysis of the very idea of entertainment in modern American mass culture, an analysis as applicable to the early-twenty-first century as it is to the early-twentieth century.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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