||MILL TO MICROPHONE: MUSIC IN THE
Industrialization and the growth of large, modern
corporations coincided with the growth of roots music styles. Large
businesses often sponsored social clubs, sports teams, and musical
groups that performed at company functions and frequently represented
their employers at community events. Richmond's Larus and Brother
Tobacco Company featured a vocal group from the factory known as the
Dixie Spiritual Singers, and the Norfolk and Western Railroad
sponsored the Imperial Quartette, a black gospel unit made up of
workers, as well as the Sheet Iron and Pipe Shop String Orchestra.
Many of the workers in Virginia's mines and factories were rural
people who brought their music with them, and many notable musicians
formed bands in the mill villages and towns that dotted the landscape.
The development of old-time, blues, and other roots music forms
occurred in a rapidly changing, modernizing world. The alienation of
industrial work and town and city life may have increased the yearning
for traditional music, but exposure to a wider world also broadened
the musical tastes of many a Virginian. For example, Hopewell's Tubize
Artificial Silk Company, a Belgian-based rayon manufacturer, sponsored
several bands including the Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra.
Influenced by popular Hawaiian musicians such as Sol Hoopii and King
Bennie Nawahi who had already integrated jazz, blues, and popular
elements into their repertoire, the Tubize group recorded for OKeh
Records in 1929 and played on WRVA into the 1930s. The band members
adopted what was one of the first examples of "world music."
The Dixie Spiritual Singers performed on the first
broadcast of radio station WRVA in Richmond in 1925 and became
stalwarts of the new enterprise.
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