DownBeat - September 2010

30 November 2010 02:17

English | PDF | 92 pages | 14.4MB

About Down Beat
A History As Rich As Jazz Itself

There are many roads to jazz, as any collection of fans will demonstrate. But for many of those fans, whose age today can fall anywhere between 10 and 80, that road has been paved with issues of Down Beat magazine.

Over the decades it has instructed, recommended, criticized, praised, condemned, advocated and, in the aggregate, honored the most dynamic American music of the twentieth century. Millions have been led to records and artists on the strength of a Down Beat review, news tip, or profile. It has shaped young tastes in need of guidance and challenged older ones in need of a wake-up call. In the 1930s, before any important book on jazz had yet been written, Down Beat collected the first important body of pre-1935 jazz history. It became a monthly, then semi-monthly, a diary of the swing era as it happened, then tracked the progression of bop, pop, rock, freedom, fusion, and nineties neoclassicism, all from the perspective of the musician. Hard to believe it began by selling insurance.

You Can't Sell 'em Both

Albert J. Lipschultz was neither a full-time musician nor a professional journalist. He had no interest in leading a band, acquiring power, or editorializing on the affairs of the world.

Al Lipschultz had only one interest. That was selling insurance. After washing out as a saxophone player in Chicago during the years of World War I, he looked for better opportunities. Soon he found one that let him use his contacts in music. Starting in 1921, he began to cultivate an insurance clientele of working Chicago musicians. He took a special interest in savings plans and annuities that promised musicians a monthly retirement income.

Lipschultz was not the only Chicagoan to take an interest in the welfare and financial security of musicians, however. There was James C. Petrillo, president of Local 10 of the American Federation of Musicians and one of the most commanding and aggressive-some would say reckless-figures in the American labor movement. The fact that the thirties was to be labor's moment at the moral center of American politics gave him even greater power. Anything that concerned musicians concerned Petrillo.

In the early thirties, as Lipschultz concentrated on building his insurance business, he began to see an opportunity that offered benefit to both himself and his customers. There was a need, he felt, for a musician's newspaper beyond the house organ of the AFM local. So in the summer of 1934, as the Century of Progress Exposition swung into its second season along Chicago's lakefront, Lipschultz took a small office on the eighth floor of the Woods Theater building on Clark and Dearborn, setting himself up as president of "Albert J. Lipschultz & Associates," publisher. He called his new magazine Down Beat, and it went on sale, all eight pages, in July 1934 for 10 cents an issue.


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