Music and Song · Parties and Visits · Vintage Entertainment

Add the Foxtrot to Your Dance Routine

Two Twenties couples dance the foxtrot. Pencil sketch of head and shoulders.

If you only learn one dance from the Twenties, make it the foxtrot. It’s simple, it offers lots of variety, and it goes with everything. (Kind of like that little black dress or your favorite tux). Adding the foxtrot to your dance routine helps you glide through a Twenties party.

Because of the dance’s popularity, almost every song in 4/4 time billed itself as a foxtrot. Some were slow and others fast, but as long as the beat is correct you can foxtrot to it all. Marking “a new foxtrot” on the front of sheet music guaranteed some sales. Piano players often wanted to provide danceable music for evening guests. Foxtrot also guaranteed that you wouldn’t go home with a dirge. It also labeled the song as current with the times, since everyone was dancing the foxtrot. (At least, it seems that way from the music that survives.)

Learn to Dance the Foxtrot Online

This Youtube video shows many different ways the foxtrot appeared through the Twenties. In a little over six minutes you can see the basics as well as some fancy foxtrot footwork, all from vintage clips.

Long, long, short-short… long, long, short-short. This step sequence helps to create the signature swaying movement that characterizes the foxtrot. However, you can start by simply taking one step after another: walk, walk, walk, walk. This video playlist shows you the basics and beyond, in 26 very short clips from the Sway Ballroom Dance studio.

If you need to learn to foxtrot in a very small space, try this video. In it a dance instructor leads you through a slow foxtrot in a very tight living room.

On the other hand, if you prefer more traditional instruction, this introduction by May I Have This Dance takes you from the beginning to a foxtrot promenade that glides you around the room.

Adding the foxtrot to your dance routine means you never have to sit along the wall at a Twenties dance party. Whether you gather with a few close friends for dinner and dancing at home, or attend a Twenties bash at a large venue, you will be well prepared with a good foxtrot. And if you’d like a few songs to trot to, you might want to check out this post on Twenties music hits.

Music and Song · Vintage Entertainment

Music Hits of the Twenties: 1921

1921 Victrola phonograph advertisement. Victrola sits in a room next to curtained windows and a low table.
A popular 1921 Victrola model that sold for $150.

How did people listen to the music hits of 1921? Only city dwellers listened to the hits on a radio station in the early Twenties. Unless, that is, an enterprising youngster in the household fell in love with radio and rigged up her own wireless for everyone to enjoy. Even then, only one person could use wireless headphones at a time.

If you wanted to actually listen to music in 1921, the phonograph was your best bet. With a phonograph and a stack of recorded disks (what we today call a record player and records), an owner could listen to classical, popular music, or opera. However, a phonograph could be expensive. In 1921 a Victrola cost a purchaser anywhere between $25 and $1500. Victrola advertised heavily, and they became a household name in phonographs.

If you didn’t have a phonograph or a wireless, several options existed. Most people consumed their music via the piano. Companies produced sheet music for all the hits (and some not-so-hits) and you bought it at the local store. Sometimes you found sheet music in a sheet music store, but by the Twenties you increasingly found it at your corner general store. If the store carried many miscellaneous items, it probably also carried sheet music.

Some of the Year’s Greatest Hits

This year we listened to Marian Harris sing I’m a Jazz Vampire. Here are the lyrics. This song shows all kinds of promise for inclusion in Twenties-themed parties through the year.

Paul Whiteman, who called himself the King of Jazz, scored yet another hit with an Irving Berlin melody, Everybody Step. This foxtrot appeared in a 22-scene stage production called Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue. The Music Box Revue opened at the Music Box Theatre in October of 1922 and ran for nine months. Irving wrote the music.

Eddie Cantor sang “I’ll tell the world I love you, Don’t forget your promise to me, I have bought the home and ring and everything” in Margie. This site offers lyrics and a little more about the song and its creators. Even if you don’t follow 1920s music, Margie is a song you may recognize when you hear it.

Ain’t we got fun?

Ain’t We Got Fun? was featured in the musical revue Satires of 1920, which opened in California in August of 1920. After that this foxtrot took on a life of its own, appearing in vaudeville, on various artists’ recordings, and even appears in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The song takes a devil-may-care look at a life of poverty, with lyrics like:
Landlords mad and getting madder
Ain’t we got fun?
Times are so bad and getting badder
Still we have fun
There’s nothing surer
The rich get rich and the poor get laid off
In the meantime, in between time
Ain’t we got fun?

And a chat about 1921 music wouldn’t be complete without that timeless gem, I’m Just Wild About Harry. This song is part of almost every 1920s revival. “He’s sweet, just like chocolate candy/ And just like the honey from the bee./ Oh, I’m just wild about Harry/ And he’s just wild about/ Cannot live without/ He’s just wild about me!

So the next time you want to trot or jitter or sway to the hits of the Twenties, give some of these a try. You also might be interested in an earlier post where I talk about about vintage Forties music and how to locate it online.

Vintage Entertainment

Tuning into the Forties

Where do you look for music from the Forties? Thankfully, the tunes from the wartime years were popular enough that they find airplay in various places. Whether you want to access music through your computer, an app on your phone, or even an Amazon Alexa device, you’ll be swinging in no time.

When I clean, create, or cook, I sometimes like to listen to music. Songs from the Twenties, Thirties, Forties, and Fifties get me moving. They turn my time into productive play as I sing to the timeless tunes or dance around the kitchen.

Red and green vintage radios sit silent on a shelf among other less colorful specimens.
You could be listening to wartime music on one of these.

1940s Radio, UK Style

Often I want to turn on a radio station and listen to the music without fiddling with my computer to restart various playlists. On those days I turn to The UK 1940s Radio Station. Each day, the station presents a full roster of programs featuring music from the Twenties through the Forties. Most of the time, due to the time difference between the UK and the US, I find myself tuning into From Stateside. Jay Lawrence broadcasts From Stateside from his “underground bunker” on the East Coast of the US, and each program features discussion and music from a “current” movie, radio show clips, and popular music of the era.

If you have an Alexa device in your home, you can listen to UK 1940s Radio directly. Currently, Alexa responds in one of two ways. Tell Alexa to play The UK 1940s Radio Station. If that doesn’t work (and it doesn’t work for me), tell Alexa to play TuneIn Radio. She will then ask you which station you want. Then tell her UK 1940s Radio, and it should link through TuneIn.

At our house, we have Alexa hooked up through our thermostat. (Don’t ask. It’s a convoluted story.) You should see the looks that guests give us when they hear 1940s music and radio shows coming from the thermostat! The glances and comments are worth the oddity of talking to the thermostat every day.

The UK 1940s Radio runs on advertising and donations, and it costs £400 to keep the station on the air each month. That’s about $520 USD, give or take a bit for exchange rate fluxuations. If you love what they do, consider donating a few dollars to keep it on the air. They take donations through PayPal.

With YouTube You Can Sing for Hours

If you feel like browsing, you can search using the term Forties Music Playlist. The search will give you lots to choose from. Want something catchy right now? Listen to over an hour of music with the G.I. Jive collection. Or, if you have more time, you can spend two hours with The Songs and Music of WWII list and lose yourself in Big Band hits and popular tunes.

Also on Youtube, you can listen to three hours of 40s Big Band, Jazz, and Swing with the Deep Jazz channel’s compilation. And if the country music of the 1940s makes your heart sing, check out this list of hits.

Spot Vintage Music on Spotify

Spotify has lots of options for Forties music. In addition to listener-created playlists, Spotify offers a couple channels on its own. Nestled under Artists, two selections look promising: 1040s Music and Music of the 1940s. If you get tired of these, do give some of the listener-created playlists a try. They range from 1940s jazz to a mix of news clips and music called ::London: Swingin’ the Blitz//1940s Radio Hour::.

So whether you want to cut a rug in the kitchen or belt out a beloved tune in the sitting room, you’ll find plenty to peruse in the preceding paragraphs.