Jazz Babies Concert #5: The Song Pusher

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Jazz Babies Concert #5: The Song Pusher

Suzie Q Ferguson, Song Pusher.
Meet me in Dreamland,

Sweet dreamy Dreamland,

There let my dreams come true.

Song pushing wasn't illegal, although maybe it should have been. 'Song pluggers' sometimes organised events that look a lot like those flash mob videos you see on Youtube, where people break out into pretend-'accidental' music performances. The idea was to popularise a song and make it a hit. Remember, they didn't have radio until 1920.

In this video, Suzie Q Ferguson, the world's most terrible tour guide, goes back in a time machine and gets a job as a sheet music demonstrator in a shop. Sheet music demonstrators played the song for you, so you could decide whether to spent 10 cents on the music. Sight-reading, also a skill.

Sheet music demonstrating was an honourable profession, and often the stepping-stone to greater things. Some remarkable people worked as sheet music demonstrators: George Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg, Jean Schwartz, composer of A Yankee Circus on Mars... Irving Berlin was a song plugger, but he couldn't have been a sheet music demonstrator: he could read a note of music, and played everything in the key of F-sharp. (He used a transposing piano.)

Watch how Suzie finesses the situation with typical 21st-century insouciance. It would help if you practised more and tweeted less, Suzie.

Click here for the video, or watch the embedded version in your Pliny-skin page.

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