Celebrating the African American Roots of Barbershop Harmony
The thought of Barbershop Harmony or Barbershop quartets brings to mind four guys in straw hats and sleeve garters… and they are always white.
However, recent music scholarship has shown that barbershop harmony is actually rooted in the African-American music tradition of the 19th century. Barbershop harmony originated with African American quartets in the late 19th and early 20th century, along with Blues and Jazz, which share the same musical foundations.
Largely lost to musical history is that so many jazz greats, like Scott Joplin, Sydney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, W. C. Handy, and even the great Louis Armstrong, sang in barbershop quartets on street corners as young men.
The harmonies and rhythms they and others developed served as a basis for what followed: Jazz, Blues and modern Gospel.