If I’m not able to do much else, you know I’m always good for a “new series” here at GFM. Today, I wanted to launch the Know Your Roots series to provide a forum where we can not just “throwback” but really go back to a time whereby I believe the seismic shift occurred in popular music, one which we are still heavily influenced by today.

As with in musical movement the cultural and societal influences that would eventually give rise to the musical force known as Rhythm and Blues were well in place in 1944 and no place was that more apparent that in Los Angeles and more specifically the South-Central area of the city (which as we know 40 some odd years later would give rise to another musical force, see how this history thingy works). The mass migration of Blacks from the South and South-Western states with disposable income from wartime industry jobs coupled with the landscape of music venues and after-hours clubs would prove a catalyst for a new music that would be birthed from the demise of the Big Band.

This new music would combine elements of Blues, Boogie-Woogie, Gospel and at times the tenderness of a Jazz Ballad to form what would be later known as R&B. Our song today predates that nomenclature, first used by Jerry Wexler in the pages of Billboard Magazine in 1948, by a few years. 1944’s “I Wonder” by Cecil Gant would come to be known as one of the first big “race” hits to come out of this Los Angeles scene, the song was a wartime hit and Gant was known as the “G.I. Sing-Sation”. As you consider this song, how far are we away from this root?

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.