Jazz music was booming in the 1930s and 1940s in the United States. Jazz in the West, specifically, “played a crucial role in producing and shaping jazz during the 1920s and 1930s, decades critical in the formation of the swing style,” writes Stowe in Jazz in the West. (p. 53) Big bands of the swing era took an inherent role in the West’s embodiment of the popular culture, crossing national boundaries. The audience of Western jazz followed and listened to most of the same bands popular with the rest of the public. (Stowe, p. 53) These bands followed touring patterns laid out by earlier popular culture forms, including the theatric vaudeville. (Stowe, p. 55)
Western jazz differed from jazz in other parts of the country. The racial attitudes of those in the West were one of these differences. According to Stowe, “The northern Midwest was relatively free of racial discrimination, while the Southwest exhibited virulent racism.” (Stowe, p. 61) African American and White swing-era bands were both surprisingly popular with White listeners. (Stowe, p. 63) The venues touring bands played “varied widely in the West, as elsewhere, and depended largely on the fame and drawing power of the group.” (Stowe, pp. 66-67) Municipal ballrooms, dance palaces, dime-a-dance halls, restaurants, and nightclubs were popular establishments, although urban ballrooms were the most desirable places to play. (Stowe, p. 67)
Carl Ravazza, a White violinist and vocalist from California, and his orchestra played several times in Utah, a state situated in the Western United States’ jazz scene. The San Francisco Examiner reported on July 29, 1968, that Carl Ravazza was popular among college students in the 1930s. This remained true during the 1940s. The Utah Chronicle, the University of Utah newspaper, advertised Ravazza at Jerry Jones’ Rainbow Randevu on September 22, 1938; January 19, 1939; April 9, 1941; and April 18, 1941. The Rainbow Randevu was a ballroom in Salt Lake City that often held swing and jazz groups. Ravazza and his orchestra played at the Rainbow Randevu consecutively in 1938, 1939, 1940, and 1941.
Newspapers in Salt Lake City frequently informed Utahns of Ravazza visits. On September 15, 1938, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that “the romantic voice of the west” was to begin a two-week engagement at the Rainbow Randevu, where there would be dancing every night. The Salt Lake Telegram reported Jerry Jones saying that other popular traveling bands would follow suit if the engagement was successful. It must have been, since Ravazza’s group returned at least four additional times in the next three years. In January 1939, April 1940, and March 1941, the Salt Lake Telegram reported return engagements by Ravazza’s group.
Ravazza was popular in Utah, but also countrywide. The Utah Chronicle reported on April 18, 1940, that his famous theme song “Vienni Su” was credited with shooting him “into nationwide recognition.” This might be why the Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 29, 1940, that Ravazza was to stay in Salt Lake City and perform an additional three days. The newspaper noted that Ravazza had played the week before “to record crowds, which demanded a return engagement of the popular maestro.”
Jazz music was booming in the 1930s and 1940s in both the East and West. In the West, swing bands traveled from state to state on tour. Carl Ravazza and his orchestra toured the Western United States regularly, especially Salt Lake City where he visited at least four times. Advertisements in the Utah Chronicle showed jazz bands visited Utah quite frequently. These engagements were part of the Salt Lake City scene, where people from all walks of life would enjoy music and dancing. The social events provided an opportunity for Utahns to come together and participate in the entertainment of the time.
Adelina Whitten graduated from the University of Utah in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and a minor in sociology.
“Ravazza Group To Open Here,” Salt Lake Telegram, September 15, 1938, 9.
Advertisement for Carl Ravazza and his orchestra at Jerry Jones’ Rainbow Randevu, Utah Chronicle, September 22, 1938, 3.
Advertisement for five entertainment groups at Jerry Jones’ Rainbow Randevu, Utah Chronicle, January 19, 1939, 3.
“Carl Ravazza Band Held Over Here,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 20, 1939, 20.
“Salt Lakers to Hear Ravazza Orchestra,” Utah Chronicle, April 18, 1940, 3.
“Randevu Books Ravazza Band,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 19, 1940, 24.
“Randevu Awaits Ravazza Return,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 29, 1940, 14.
“Ravazza Set For Randevu,” Salt Lake Telegram, March 17, 1941, 9.
Advertisement for Carl Ravazza and his orchestra at the Rainbow Randevu, Utah Chronicle, April 9, 1941, 5.
“Carl Ravazza Dies In Nevada at 58,” San Francisco Examiner, July 29, 1968, 41.
Stowe, David. “Jazz in the West: Cultural Frontier and Region During the Swing Era,” Western Historical Quarterly 23, no. 1 (February 1992): 53-73.