Curated by
The Ponderosa Stomp Foundation

Swing Out: Great Depression and World War II Tour

While the Great Depression limited the number of concerts New Orleanians could support, the Astoria Hotel with its Tick Tock Tavern, the Gypsy Tea Room, and the Rhythm Club featured the city’s and the country’s finest big bands in the 1930s and early 40s.

Black benevolent societies continued to sponsor traditional brass band parades, and the San Jacinto Club and Autocrat Club hosted events with bands playing the latest swing arrangements. Young musicians in the neighborhood, including Dooky Chase and Earl Palmer, would incorporate these sounds into their own playing.

South Rampart Street’s heyday was earlier in the century, but in the 30s: piano professors still played in honky tonks, Morris Music blasted jazz records on the street, and legendary music teacher Osceola Blanchet conducted generations of students at McDongh No. 35 High School.

Some local young women made names for themselves as artists in this period: the Boswell Sisters took their rhythmic sensibility from New Orleans to the national airwaves, and their former classmate, clarinetist Dixie Fasnacht, opened the first location of her groundbreaking gay-friendly nightclub. Others hustled through the Depression earning pennies per dance at halls like the Alamo.

The City of New Orleans opened the Municipal Auditorium in 1930, with money allocated just before the economy crashed. The federal government’s Works Progress Administration added a new concert venue, City Park Stadium, in 1937.

A few years later, New Orleans opened some of the first federally-funded housing developments in the country, including the Magnolia, Lafitte, Calliope, and St. Bernard, which would influence the city’s music for generations to come.

When World War II brought servicemen and contractors to the French Quarter with cash in their pockets, nightclubs like the Famous Door and the Paddock Lounge helped build Bourbon Street’s reputation as a must-see for tourists.


Read more about developments in New Orleans music during the Great Depression and World War II.

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