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Today In Charleston History: March 21

1917 – Music

From the Musical News, London: 

A song, “How Sweet Is Life” by a student, Mr. Edmund T. Jenkins, showed the composer to be possessed of a vein of melody, not original as yet, and of a style which needs unifying, but his effort was full of promise, especially in the matter of orchestration. The song was well rendered by Miss Marjorie Perkins.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Jenkins (who was called “Jenks”) was the son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston. He grew up playing with the Jenkins Orphanage Band, but longed to play “serious music.” He took piano lessons in Charleston and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta.

In 1914 the Jenkins Band was invited to perform at the Anglo-American Expo in London and Jenks performed with the band until the outbreak of World War I closed down the Expo. Jenks was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied composition.     

1921 – Music

Ethel Waters had her first recording session for the Pace & Handy Music Company. She recorded two songs –  “Down Home Blues” and “At The Jump Steady Ball.” The songs were composed by her Charleston friend, Tom Delaney, formerly a member of the Jenkins Orphanage Band. Also, two other former members of the Jenkins Band, brothers Bud (trombone) and Gus Aiken (trumpet), were part of the recording.  A twenty-three-year-old former chemistry student named Fletcher Henderson played the piano for the session.

“Down Home Blues” became a hit so Pace & Handy paired Waters and Delaney together and sent them out on tour, Waters on vocals and Delaney on piano.   

To learn more about Charleston’s role in American music … read Doin’ the Charleston. 

doin' the charleston

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