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From Juke Joints to Jazz Jams

The Political Economy of Female Club Owners

Appears in IASPM@Journal vol.8 no.1

The history of jazz and blues is tied up with the spaces owned and curated by female proprietors. Early jazz making was supported by enterprising women who would host lawn parties at their residences in New Orleans. The blues developed in places known as juke joints, which were and are still often women-owned spaces in the southern United States. Nevertheless, while histories of jazz and blues tend to focus on the musicians and composers of the respective genres, the venues have largely gone unstudied. If venues have been discussed, they are primarily the larger spaces owned by men. The work of club owners is unique, as they also act as club managers and are frequently curators of the music being presented. Club ownership as an occupational category is largely marked as male, with the places and spaces of musical production often seen as being hostile to women. This paper seeks to examine the work of female club owners and reveal the hidden political economy of places and spaces of jazz and blues.

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