Why is Labor Day celebrated?

We all love that day off from school or work, that long weekend to go to the lake house, have a barbeque and visit with relatives, but let’s face it, most of us don’t really know why Labor Day is celebrated, or the history behind the holiday.

Labor Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in September, honors and recognizes the American labor movement and the role of laborers in the development and achievements of the country. The holiday originated in the late 1800s, after the Industrial Revolution, when trade unions were growing steadily. Unionists thought that there should be a day to recognize labor, so the first parade was organized in New York City, and it became an official holiday in 1894.

You may be wondering, what kind of music did people listen to back then, in the late 19th century? Well, we’ve compiled a short list of historical tunes that are sure to impress your friends and family at your Labor Day celebration!

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – 1894

With its lyrics about rising early in the morn to go work on the railroad, this American folk song embodies the spirit and history of Labor Day. Railroading was a career that many young men took up at around age 18 to 20. They began as shop laborers with the possibility of being promoted to the positions of skilled mechanic, brakeman, freight conductor and passenger conductor. And not only did the explosion of railways create jobs, but it also transformed many sectors of the U.S. economy, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and finance. 

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – 1872

This African American spiritual song was originally composed in 1865 by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman, who had probably been inspired by the sight of the Red River, where he worked alongside. The river may have reminded him of the Jordan River and the Prophet Elijah, which are referenced in the song.

A minister at the Choctaw boarding school heard Willis singing the song, so he transcribed the lyrics and melodies, and sent it to the Jubilee Singers of the historically black Fisk University in Nashville, who popularized the song in the early 1900s.

While Strolling Through the Park One Day – 1884

Originally written and published by vaudeville performer Ed Haley, this tune has been featured in many films and was sung by Judy Garland. Interestingly enough, a few bars were also sung by the NASA astronauts when they landed on the moon with the Apollo 17 mission. I was strolling on the moon one day…” 

Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico

The oldies are neat and everything, but after the novelty wears off, they’re probably not the type of music you want to listen to for hours on end. After the collective ride down American memory lane, maybe it’s time to change the playlist up and play something a bit more modern, like this 2020 jazz rendition of Crystal Gayle’s country hit!

If you’re looking for more jazzy country tunes to play at your Labor Day party, our new album Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available in our store and on all major music platforms now. And if you’d like to book one of our wonderful musicians for your event, please contact us today. 

What is the National Day of the Cowboy?

Created in 2005, the National Day of the Cowboy celebrates the role and contributions that cowboys and cowgirls have made to America’s history and culture. The NDOC organization even gives out awards to individuals and organizations that promote and preserve pioneer and cowboy history! The day is observed on the fourth Saturday in July, so that means this year, July 24th will be the day to put on your boots and saddle up!

Cowboys began appearing in the heartland and wild west after the Civil War. Working mostly as ranchers and ranch hands, cowboys raised cattle and horses, and herded them across the plains to slaughterhouses. And since the western frontier was still widely unexplored at the time, it was a lawless land that swirled with riches, adventure and violence. Amid this backdrop, the mythical, stoic image of the cowboy became popular. 

Now you may be wondering how you can celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy. Well, you could put on a cowboy hat, go to a rodeo, and then come home and listen to these country western songs that we picked out for you. Find a partner, say howdy and have a hog-killin’ time square-dancing the night away!

Roy Rogers – Don’t Fence Me In

Known in his heyday as the “King of the Cowboys,” Ray Rogers acted and sang in over 100 Western films. This 1944 tune, which he sang with his wife Doris Rogers, became known across the country and for generations to come as the cowboy theme song. Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above…

Marty Robinson – The Streets of Laredo (Cowboys Lament)

Derived from a traditional Irish folk song, titled “The Unfortunate Rake,” this cowboy ballad was named one of Top 100 Western songs of all time and has become a folk music standard. In the song, a dying cowboy tells his story to another cowboy in Laredo, Texas.  

Gene Autry – Back in The Saddle Again

Nicknamed the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry personified the honest, brave and true hero, and he was a significant pioneer in the history of country music. “Back in the Saddle Again” was first released in 1939 and became Autry’s signature song because who wouldn’t want to be transported to the land where the longhorn cattle feed on the lowly gypsum weed?

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Always On My Mind

This bittersweet, remorseful ballad, made famous by the outlaw country star Willie Nelson, is given a jazz treatment in this brand-new version. Including a lovely flute solo from Aaron Heick, this rendition really pulls at your heartstrings. Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died…

If you’re looking for more country tunes to celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy, check out our newly released album, Cryin’ in My Whiskey, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms. And if you’d like one of our talented musicians to perform at your event, please contact us today! 

What songs were popular during World War II?

In honor of D-Day—the decisive Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control—we’re going to take a look at the type of music and the songs that were popular during WWII. 

With the advent of the radio in the 20s and 30s, American music was very accessible to everyone, so when the United States went to war in 1941, swing and jazz music provided comfort to families at home and soldiers abroad. Unlike the militaristic and patriotic songs of World War I, popular music during WWII centered around romance and strength. Now, let’s listen to some of the songs that boosted the morale of our veterans!

Glenn Miller – Chattanooga Choo Choo

Written by Mack Gordon and composed by Harry Warren in 1941, this song was originally recorded as a big band/swing tune and was featured in the movie Sun Valley Serenade. The tune opens with the trumpets and trombones imitating a train whistle and the whole band sounding like a train rolling out of a station. 

Next, we get a dialogue between a shoeshine boy and a passenger. The passenger describes the route from New York through Baltimore and North Carolina until finally reaching Chattanooga, where he plans to settle down for good with a woman he knew from earlier in life. With the fun instrumental imitations of a train’s “choo choo,” it’s no wonder that this became the first song to receive a gold record for selling 1.2 million copies!

Johnny Mercer – G.I. Jive

Johnny Mercer wrote and performed this song in 1944 with the intention of making something that the soldiers would like, and boy did it hit it on the head! This tune became the biggest hit of all the songs that revolved around soldier life during World War II. Roodley-toot, jump in your suit, make a salute! 

When the Lights Go On Again – Vaughn Monroe

This hopeful and calming song, which reached number one on the charts in 1943, looked forward to the time when the boys are home again all over the world and rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above. A time when a kiss won’t mean “Goodbye” but “Hello to love.” This song really shows the power of music to raise one’s spirits and to unite people from all around the world. 

King Cole Trio – Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You

This love song was originally written in 1929 but became popular in 1944 with the recoding from the King Cole Trio. IT reached #1 on the Harlem Hite Parade, which charted the top songs in the Harlem district of New York City. And now, the classic tune has been reimagined by the legendary WJ3 All-Stars! 

If you’re looking for some more modern renditions of classics from the 20s, 30s and 40s, look no further than Lovers and Love Songs, WJ3 All-Star’s most recent release. The album is available inn our store and on all major music platforms!

Which songs should you play at a graduation party?

Graduation parties can be a challenging terrain when it comes to music and playlists. You want to play tunes that the graduate, usually from a younger generation, can enjoy, but you also want to play music that the guests, usually older relatives, will also enjoy. Basically, you want some classic tunes that’ll put everyone in a good mood and possibly generate conversation. Well, look no further because we got you covered with this list! 

Gene Krupa & Buddy Rich – The Monster

This 1956 song from the jazz drummer duo Krupa and Rich really showcases how lively, fun and upbeat jazz music can be. And the tune is completely instrumental, which is perfect for party conversations. The vibrant drums will fade nicely into the backdrop of the party, energizing everyone without anyone even realizing it! 

Bill Withers – Lovely Day

We all know Bill Withers’s most famous song, Lean on Me, which is usually a staple at graduation parties, but what about mixing it up and playing this 1977 hit Lovely Day? It’s a very lowkey, relaxed song that can help everyone, from all walks of life, wind down and get in a good mood. I know it’s going to be a lovely day! 

The Lovin’ Spoonful – Do You Believe in Magic

Thanks to the 2005 rendition, from Disney stars Ally & AJ, people from all generations are familiar with this classic tune, which peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965. And no one will be able disagree with the message of the lyrics—that music has the magical power to make you happy and free your soul!

Islands in the Stream – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers

This lovely 1983 duet from two of country music’s biggest stars has a smooth, mellow soft rock feel to it that everyone can appreciate. And did you know that the title comes from the 1970 Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name? If your graduate majored in English, be sure to quiz them on this fact!

Janis Siegel, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Whenever You Come Around

Everyone loves a good love song, especially a new rendition of a beloved favorite. In this version, the talented composer, arranger and pianist John di Martino infuses Vince Gill’s 1994 country song with a soulful, funky Booker T. and the M.G.’s feel. This tune will make you want to get a groove on with your sweetheart!
If you need some more ideas for songs to play at a graduation party, be sure to check out the newest release from Night is Alive, Cryin’ In My Whiskey. From this album comes the last track on this playlist, along with many more snazzy, jazzy renditions of country classics, like Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind and Crystal Gayle’s Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. And if you’d like to book one of our wonderful musicians to perform at your event, please contact us today.

Women’s History Month – Fierce Female Musicians to Listen to this March

From Beyoncé to Doja Cat, HAIM to Billie Eilish, there are plenty of fierce women streaming the radio waves today, but what about the famous female musicians of the last century? What about the women who paved the way for our current generation? 

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating some of the most powerful women in music history. This playlist will make you proud to be a woman, or proud of all the women in your life. 

Bessie Smith – Ain’t Nobody’s Business If Do

As a female singer in the 1920s, blues legend Bessie Smith couldn’t achieve fame simply through her voice, she had to make a reputation through her live performances—dazzling the audience with jokes, sketches and elaborate costumes. Despite these efforts, Smith was still often shunned by the black middle class, who had a negative perception of the blues. 

This song feels like Smith’s response to all that pressure and criticism. “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If Do” is a 1920s blues standard with a vaudeville jazz-style arrangement and lyrics that emphasize freedom of choice: There ain’t nothing I can do or nothing I can say / That folks don’t criticize me / But I’m goin’ to do just as I want to anyway.  

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm – Jump Children

Founded in 1937, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was the first integrated all-women’s band in the U.S. They toured throughout Europe and made a name for themselves as the most prominent all-female group during the Big Band era of the 1940s.

“Jump Children” was one of their most famous songs, and the playful lyrics are surprisingly empowering: When you’re feel’n low and you don’t know what to do, / Just stay in the groove; / Let nothing bother you… I may be small, but baby have no fear, / I can climb a hill without shifting gears. 

Ella Fitzgerald – I Got Rhythm

This playlist would be incomplete without including a track from the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz, the legendary Lady Ella. We all know and love Ella Fitzgerald and for good reason—her timeless, flexible and impeccable voice won her 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. But despite her success, Fitzgerald, like most black women in jazz, dealt with her fair share of prejudice. This song—Fitzgerald’s version of the 1930 jazz standard “I Got Rhythm” showcases her strong spirit that persevered through turmoil.  

Janis Siegel & John Di Martino – Break it to Me Gently

Speaking to the tender pain of losing a lover, this song was originally released in 1961 Brenda Lee. In this new rendition, Grammy-award-winning vocalist Janis Siegel brings a softer, jazzier touch to the rockabilly pop hit. This song can be found in Night is Alive’s latest album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which combines the best of country and jazz. 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available right now in our store and if you would like to book one of our lovely musicians for an upcoming party or event, contact us today.

What is the Role of Women in Jazz Music History?

As in many fields, women have unfortunately been overlooked in the history of jazz. In particular, composers, bandleaders and instrumental performers have received much less recognition than their male counterparts. We are here to change that. Women have made massive contributions to the many eras of jazz history and absolutely deserve to be celebrated! And what better time to honor their achievements than during Women’s History Month?

The Jazz Age of the 1920s

We are all familiar with the Jazz Age, the roaring 20s, The Great Gatsby, the Prohibition and the speakeasies, but did you know that this was also a very pivotal time for women in America? At the end of World War I, women took on a greater role in the workforce, which gave them more independence and led to the emergence of the liberated flapper persona. And the Nineteenth Amendment was also ratified in 1920, which was a landmark achievement for women’s suffrage. The concepts of equality and freedom were gaining popularity, opening up opportunities to women, especially in entertainment.

Bessie Smith came out with her first hit single in 1923, “Downhearted Blues,” which was actually written by two women, pianist Lovie Austin and blues singer Alberta Hunter. The lyrics at the end of the song, I got the world in a jugI’m gonna hold it until you men come under my command, present an image of a strong, defiant women who refuses to be downtrodden upon any longer. Smith, nicknamed the “Empress of the Blues,” performed songs that spoke to the difficulties of the black experience in America—poverty, racism, sexism and the ups and downs of love—which insisted that the lives of black women mattered and deserved to be the subject of art. Smith was the first African American superstar and inspired countless other famous female singers from the 20th century, such as Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Big Mama Thornton and Janis Joplin. 

Swing & Big Bands of the 1930s

In an age when women were expected to perform music and to look attractive onstage, instead of making music, female instrumental performers and composers were not common. But those who did achieve jazz careers had a lasting impact, especially on the swing music of the 1930s. 

Blues pianist Cora “Lovie” Austin grew up in Chattanooga and was actually childhood friends with Bessie Smith. She played piano and performed in vaudeville before using her talents in composition and arrangement to create four songs that Bessie Smith would record in 1923. Then, she led her very own band, the Blues Serenaders, who developed their own unique sound. 

Lovie Austin was the greatest influence of pianist Mary Lou Williams, a musical prodigy from Pittsburg who taught herself to play the piano at age three. At only age 12, Williams performed on the Orpheum Circuit, and at 13, she played with Duke Ellington. Later, Williams became known as the Lady Who Swings the Band because she wrote and arranged many songs for Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and others. And as the arranger and pianist for the Twelve Clouds of Joy, Williams made massive strides in developing the Kansas City swing sound of the 1930s.

World War II

Many male jazz musicians were drafted during the Second World War, so all-female bands took their place, like The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Founded in 1937, this 17-member ensemble included Latina, Asian, White, Black, Indian and Puerto Rican women, making it the very first all-female integrated band in the U.S. The International Sweethearts played swing and jazz music all around the nation and helped to shape the Big Band era.  

How Night is Alive is Promoting Female Musicians

In Night is Alive newest release, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” Grammy-award-winning jazz vocalist Janis Siegel delivers a stunning rendition of Patsy Cline’s number-one country hit, “I Fall to Pieces.”  Cline was one of the first women to break into the male-dominated country and western music scene and she is considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century. Siegel said that she wanted their rendition to reflect more of the devastating emotion, the poignant helplessness of the lyrics. “I think we’ve all been to this dark hidden place,” Siegel said. “When the one you love doesn’t love you.” 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available in our shop right now and on all major online music platforms.

4 Tunes to Make You Smile on the International Day of Happiness

The weather may be swinging between rain and sunshine, but that doesn’t mean our moods have to be up and down. The May flowers are right around the corner, and with widespread vaccinations, the world should (hopefully, fingers crossed!) being opening up very soon. So, basically, there’s no reason not to smile this Sunday on The International Day of Happiness! 

The International Day of Happiness is celebrated around the world on March 20th and was originally founded by the United Nations in 2012. It’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself—whether that be with a slice of cake, a glass of wine, a bubble bath or a get together with friends—and unwind with these lovely tunes. 

  1. Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland – Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy

With the lyrics, so long sad times… you are now a thing of the past… let’s sing a song of cheer again and forget your troubles, c’mon get happy, this amazing duet, which aired on The Judy Garland Show in 1963, is a beautiful tune to usher in the post-pandemic era of parties, hugs and kisses. 

Another fun fact is that the standard “Happy Days Are Here Again,” originally written in 1929, was popular during the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, which makes it even more fitting for the historical moment we’re currently going through. During the Repeal, there were signs saying, “Happy days are beer again!” 

  1. WJ3 All-Stars – Jitterbug Waltz

What better way to get excited about going back out in public and dancing than with this revival of the iconic tune, “The Jitterbug Waltz.” Originally composed and recorded by Fats Waller in 1942, and recently released by Willie Jones III and his All-Stars in 2020, this heartwarming melody will bring you back to life after months of being cooped up inside.  

  1. Brook Benton – Hotel Happiness

Just like the singer Brook Benton, I’m pretty sure that we’ll all about ready to check out of Hotel Loneliness, leave our teardrops in that old lonely room and make our new addresses at Hotel Happiness! This fun song, first performed in 1963 and featuring The Merry Melody Singers, feels like it was made to celebrate The International Day of Happiness.

  1. Lorca Hart Trio – Duke and Billy

Add a spark of rich and royal purple to your life with this new and original track from the Lorca Hart Trio’s 2020 album “Colors of Jazz,” also featuring Ralph Moore. This song represents a pleasant conversation between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, two American jazz stars that collaborated for nearly thirty years on many widely influential compositions, such as “Take the A Train” and “Lotus Blossom.”

If you enjoyed “The Jitterbug Waltz” and “Duke and Billy,” then you might want to check out the albums, Lovers and Love Songs and Colors of Jazz, both recently released by Night is Alive. These albums are available right now in our store. And if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for an upcoming party or event, contact us today.

What Do Country and Jazz Have in Common?

What Do Country and Jazz Have in Common?

You’d be surprised, but these two genres actually have some similarities

When you think about jazz, you probably think about the greats jamming in clubs or at festivals way back before we all knew about the coronavirus. Jazz is horns, drums, pianos and strings. lt’s also smooth, sultry, deep, moody and sometimes celebratory. When you want to relax and unwind after a crazy day, you pour yourself a glass of your drink of choice, find a cozy spot and lose yourself in all of your favorite swinging and bopping tunes.

When you think about country music, you probably hear fiddles, banjos, guitars and lyrics that talk about heartbreak, hometown pride or just kicking back and having a good time. It’s hard to paint country music as just one thing. Now, there are so many different subgenres. So for those who swear that they don’t like country music, if they dig a little deeper, they’ll probably find something that will get their heads nodding and their toes tapping.

The differences between these musical styles are quite obvious. Jazz reflects the urban experience, while country gives you a taste of rural life. Jazz tends to be more instrumental with intricate harmonies. Country music spotlights vocals and the melodies are pretty straightforward. But despite the noticeable differences, country music and jazz music have a few common threads.


They both originated in the South

Many people consider New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz. It’s believed that jazz music was born from the African dance and drumming traditions of former slaves back in the 1880s. Around this time, a number of brass bands started popping up. Those brass bands and a growing interest in syncopated music gave way to ragtime and ragtime gave way to New Orleans-style jazz.

Early recordings of country music date back to 1910, but the genre started garnering more attention in the 1920s. The first recordings were of Southern Appalachian fiddle players. Once it started to gain traction in the U.S., country music was referred to as a “Southern phenomenon” when it was introduced to the world. 


African traditions influenced both

As mentioned earlier, jazz was rooted in the traditions of former slaves. While the current landscape of country music doesn’t appear to be very diverse, when the genre originated, it embraced the sounds and styles of various immigrant cultures. But instruments like the banjo were actually an African influence. The banjo is a derivative of a West African lute. Lutes were constructed from gourds that slaves brought to the U.S. Not only did they play a significant role in slave music, but they also became popular in Southern culture — mainly through minstrel shows and blackface performances. As for country music, it’s believed that many of the early songs came from black sources. They were either field songs, spirituals, hymns or taken from black songwriters.

How jazz and country came together

Despite the genre becoming more segregated, there were times when country artists did collaborate with jazz musicians of color. One example is a 1929 collaboration between Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” and Louis Armstrong called “Blue Yodel Number 9.”

Country and jazz also got another chance to mingle thanks to the creation of a new subgenre — Western swing music. This fusion of country and jazz became popular in the Southwest and Bob Willis was known for adding horns and jazz musicians to his Texas Playboys which allowed them to diversify their sound. So instead of just playing country fiddle standards, the band could handle rhumbas and big band tunes as well.

Ray Charles took on country music in the 60s with his album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.” Charles didn’t do this on a whim. He grew up listening to country music and even played in a country band when he was a teenager. He appreciated the genre and it paid off because the album did quite well.

Willie Nelson jumped into the world of jazz with his 1978 album, “Stardust.” The album featured covers of songs by Hoagy Carmichael, George and Ira Gershwin, and Duke Ellington. Nelson’s neighbor at the time, Booker T. Jones of Booker T & the MGs, produced “Stardust” and served as music supervisor and arranger as well.

How Night is Alive is bringing country and jazz together

It’s no secret that Night is Alive Producer/Managing Director Kathy Salem loves jazz music. However, country music has her heart as well. So it was only natural for her to come up with a concept that melds together her two loves.

“Crying In My Whiskey” brings these two genres together in a way that still preserves the essence of the nine country tunes featured on the album. The musicians who retell these stories are John di Martino (piano), Janis Siegel (vocals), and Lonnie Plaxico (bass). Saxophonist Harry Allen is also featured on one of the tunes.

The album showcases country hits like “Always On My Mind,” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” “I Fall To Pieces” and “Where Do I Put His Memory.”

Stay tuned for the album release date and more from Night is Alive!
www.nightisalive.com/albums