February 13, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Jubilee
On May 26, 1942 the War Department of the United States created the Armed Forces Radio Network also known as AFRS. The AFRS was one of many initiatives to boost the morale of service personnel during WW2.
It started out being headquartered in New York but very quickly moved it’s base of operations to Hollywood. Shows were broadcast on shortwave radio and recorded transcription discs were sent to outposts around the world. The programs were written by the best writers and featured top name entertainers, all donating their services to the war effort.
There were several AFRS programs that all had a specific approach including Command Performance, One Night Stand, Mail Call, Jill’s Juke Box, Downbeat, Spotlight Bands and Jubilee.
Jubilee was unique in that it showcased exclusively African American entertainers aimed at African American service personnel. In the beginning, shows were done live on Monday nights at NBC studios at Sunset and Vine. They were done in front of a live audience, recorded and edited into half hour shows. All the great local artists as well as travelling groups took part.
This includes Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Lena Horne, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Benny Carter, Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and many others.
The jovial emcee was Ernie Bubbles Whitman whose jive talking commentary became synonymous with Jubilee.
Many of these programs happened between 1942 and 1944 while commercial records were not being made due to a strike between the musicians union and the record companies.
Fortunately all 300 plus of the programs have survived and are important historical documents.