Gushee, Lawrence 1931- (Lawrence A. Gushee, Lawrence Arthur Gushee)

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Gushee, Lawrence 1931- (Lawrence A. Gushee, Lawrence Arthur Gushee)


Born February 25, 1931, in Ridley Park, PA. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1952, Ph.D., 1963; also attended Haverford College, the University of Dijon (France), and the Manhattan School of Music.


E-mail—[email protected]


Musicologist, educator, musician, writer. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, faculty member, 1976-1997, professor emeritus of musicology, 1997—. Previously taught at Yale University, 1960-67, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1967-1976. Has performed as a clarinetist with the New Golden Rule Orchestra.


Guggenheim fellowship (two).


(Editor) Aureliani Reomensis Musica Disciplina, American Institute of Musicology, 1975.

Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to books, including Musik und die Geschichte der Philosophie und Naturwissenschaften, edited by Frank Hentschel, E.J. Brill; Gattungen der Musik in Einzeldarstellungen: Gedenkschrift Leo Schrade, edited by W. Arlt and others, 1973; Essays on Medieval Music: In Honor of David G. Hughes, edited by G.H. Boone, 1995; In the Course of Performance, edited by Bruno Nettl, University of Chicago Press, 1998; and Mister Jelly Roll, by Alan Lomax, University of California Press, c. 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including American Music and Black Music Research Journal.


Lawrence Gushee is a musicologist and jazz clarinetist whose academic interests include the theory of medieval music and jazz. Much of his writing has concentrated on the history of black American jazz musicians. In Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band, the author examines the history of the Creole Band, a vaudeville-era seven-piece band that toured the country, primarily the Midwest, between 1914 to 1918. According to the author, it was the Creole Band whose performances on vaudeville stages throughout America introduced the general public nationwide to the authentically American Jazz style that had developed in New Orleans at the beginning of the twentieth century.

"In this unusual and excellent book, Lawrence Gushee traces the activities of an important band during the late 1910s, as it makes its way across North America on vaudeville circuits," wrote Thomas Brothers in a review of Pioneers of Jazz in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. The author relates how this African American band's vaudeville routines were deeply based on minstrel shows and many of the plantation clichés of American show business at the time. Nevertheless, writes the author, it was the music that formed the centerpiece of the band's performance and that so enthralled both audiences and reviewers. In fact, the band's performances were so good that it was allowed to perform in shows that were essentially made up of only white performers.

Gathering information from a wide range of sources—from newspapers, family scrapbooks, and contracts to official documents, photographs, police reports, and interviews—the author explores the link between New Orleans music and the jazz craze that swept the United States and the world in the 1920s. Firmly establishing the group's central role in jazz history, the author quotes the reactions of both critics and numerous members of the band's varied audiences. The author also follows the various band members' careers after their four years of touring as the Creole Band. He documents how band members, such as cornetist Freddie Keppard and string bassist Bill Johnson, went on to contribute significantly to jazz of the 1920s, including making numerous recordings. For example, Keppard made several recordings in the mid-1920s, including some under his own name as the Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals and several with Doc Cooke's Orchestra.

Noting the importance of Gushee's book, Brothers also commented in the Journal of the American Musicological Society: "Early jazz in general has been neglected by musicology, and its manifestation through vaudeville even more so." Brothers also wrote in the same article: "By devoting such splendid attention to this topic, Gushee works against ideological biases that have conditioned a great deal of jazz-history writing."

In his book, the author discusses in depth all the members of the Creole Band and their individual contributions. He also analyzes their music both as a band and as individuals. In addition to documenting the career of the Creole Band and its members, Gushee's book also provides a look at the world of entertainment at the time, especially the world of vaudeville. The book also includes numerous illustrations, photographs, detailed notes, and explanations of the origins of jazz.

Noting that Pioneers of Jazz "brims with elaborate details based on his extensive research that uncovers a vast amount of previously unexplored material," Floyd Levin went on to write in his review in Popular Music and Society that Gushee "also modifies many earlier published inaccuracies. Every detail is authenticated, with fifty pages of interesting footnotes and an expansive index that helps to explore the copious research." Writing in the Library Journal, Harold V. Cordry noted that Gushee's "meticulous scholarship is enriched by the author's obvious personal passion for the music."



American Music, fall, 2006, Edward Green, review of Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band, p. 367.

Choice, October, 2005, R.D. Cohen, review of Pioneers of Jazz, p. 301.

Coda Magazine, September-October, 2005, John Litweiler, review of Pioneers of Jazz, p. 24.

Journal of the American Musicological Society, fall, 2006, Thomas Brothers, review of Pioneers of Jazz, p. 747.

Library Journal, April 15, 2005, Harold V. Cordry, review of Pioneers of Jazz, p. 89.

Popular Music and Society, May, 2006, Floyd Levin, review of Pioneers of Jazz, p. 272.


Phono, (March 13, 2008), author profile.

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign-School of Music Web site, (March 13, 2008), faculty profile of author.