In the mid-1930s, jazz had become the popular American music as swing. It would become the defining music for an entire generation of Americans. (Burns).
Fletcher Henderson – Hotter Than ‘Ell
But in August of 1942, soon after America went to war, the American Federation of Musicians went on strike against major American recordings companies, ordering union members not to record for record companies, over a royalties dispute. Some of the record companies, i.e. Decca and Capitol, settled after just one year. Other companies, i.e. Victor and Columbia, held out for longer. Ultimately, the strike lasted for two years.
During that time, record companies began to record a cappella records. As singers were not part of the musician’s union and they did not have to comply with the recording ban. The records were usually vocal quartets or solo singers backed by vocalists replacing the backup role that would have been filled by orchestras Young people fell in love with the music and the singers. (Burns).
Dick Haymes & The Song Spinners – You’ll Never Know
As a result of the recording ban, big bands began to decline in popularity as vocalists began to rise. Historian Peter Soderbergh notes, "Until the war most singers were props. After the war they became the stars and the role of the bands was gradually subordinated" (139).
Another argument for jazz’s decline in popularity was that its trend toward art music and away from dance music made it lose social significance. “The moment jazz decided it was an art form that required listeners rather than dancers, its mass appeal was in jeopardy,” Myers writes. As jazz became more technical, it required musicians with a strong knowledge of music theory, composition, and arranging. Musicians who were unable to make it in the jazz scene went on to play blues, r&b, and jump boogie, which had more stage and sex appeal than jazz and thus were more popular.
Jazz. Dir. Ken Burns. PBS, 2001. DVD.
Myers, Marc. “Who Killed Jazz and When?” JazzWax. N.p., 30 May, 2008. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.jazzwax.com/2008/05/what-killed-jaz.html>.Soderbergh, Peter A. Olde Records Price Guide 1900–1947. Des Moines: Wallace–Homestead Book Company, 1980. Print. pp.136–137.