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In with the In Crowd - Popular Jazz in 1960s Black America

In with the In Crowd

Popular Jazz in 1960s Black America

By Mike Smith
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781496851147, 228 pages, 35 b&w illustrations, May 2024
Paperback : 9781496851154, 228 pages, 35 b&w illustrations, May 2024

Table of contents

Introduction: Where’s Nancy?
Chapter One: Who’s Afraid of Eddie Harris?—Why the Story of Jazz in the Sixties Is Almost Always Misrepresented
Chapter Two: Serenade to a Soul Sister—Nancy Wilson and the Popular Jazz Divas
Chapter Three: “The Sidewinder”—The Groove That Launched a Thousand Clones
Chapter Four: 33s and 45s—The Record Labels That Put the Sounds in the Grooves
Chapter Five: The “In” Crowd Goes to the Club—Bars, Taverns, Nightclubs, and the Live Scene
Chapter Six: “When You Go, Let ’Em Know That Daddy-O Told You So”—Black Radio and the DJs That Spread the Sounds
Chapter Seven: Pulling out All the Stops—Organ Jazz, the Quintessential Sound of Sixties Jazz
Chapter Eight: Mean Greens, Fried Neckbones, and Home Cookin’ at the Greasy Spoon—Black Cultural Identity and Popular Jazz
Chapter Nine: “Why Am I Treated So Bad?” . . . “Compared To What?”—Popular Jazz and Civil Rights
Chapter Ten: How Did We Forget, Why Did We Forget?—The Revising of the Sixties Jazz Narrative
Appendix A: 1960s Popular Jazz Listening Guide


An overdue amendment to the conventional history and study of jazz


Most studies of 1960s jazz underscore the sounds of famous avant-garde musicians like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler. Conspicuously absent from these narratives are the more popular jazz artists of the decade that electrified dance clubs, permeated radio waves, and released top-selling records. Names like Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis, and Jimmy Smith are largely neglected in most serious work today. Mike Smith rectifies this oversight and explores why critical writings have generally cast off best-selling 1960s jazz as unworthy of in-depth analysis and reverent documentation.

The 1960s were a time of monumental political and social shifts. Avant-garde jazz, made by musicians indifferent to public perception aligns well with widely held images of the era. In with the In Crowd: Popular Jazz in 1960s Black America argues that this dominant, and unfortunately distorted, view negates and ignores a vibrant jazz community. These musicians and their listeners created a music defined by socialization, celebration, and Black pride.

Smith tells the joyful story of the musicians, the radio DJs, the record labels, and the live venues where jazz not only survived but thrived in the 1960s. This was the music of everyday people, who viewed jazz as an important part of their cultural identity as Black Americans. In an era marked by turmoil and struggle, popular jazz offered a powerful outlet for joy, resilience, pride, and triumph.


"With energy and zeal, In with the In Crowd goes a long way toward correcting and completing the written history of jazz from the mid-twentieth century."

- Keith Hatschek, author of The Real Ambassadors: Dave and Iola Brubeck and Louis Armstrong Challenge Segregation

"Smith will open a lot of eyes to an entire subgenre of ‘soul jazz’ that just got lost in the shuffle, especially when Motown was king. But no matter how much jazz a listener has lived with over a lifetime long or short, every reader can learn a lot from In with the In Crowd."

- Richard J. Salvucci, All About Jazz

"Mike Smith’s In with the In Crowd addresses the fascinating—and puzzling—near-absence of popular jazz artists from conventional histories of jazz. Underlying the entire work is a deep familiarity with and profound love of these artists and their music, and a desire to correct and expand the familiar historical narrative."

- Jonathan Bellman, area head of academic studies in music at University of Northern Colorado