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Black History Museum Presents "Virginia Jazz: The Early Years"

Johnson's Happy Pals at Savoy Ballroom courtesy of Richmond Jazz Society
Johnson's Happy Pals photographed at the Savoy Ballroom in 1929. Image courtesy of the Richmond Jazz Society. 

The Richmond Jazz Society's multi-media exhibit called "Virginia Jazz: The Early Years" will be presented at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia from January 16th until the end of June. Expanded since its first run at the Valentine in 2018, the show sheds light on 38 Virginia artists who have made significant contributions to the development of Jazz.

In this interview, Richmond Jazz Society Executive Director and exhibit curator BJ Brown discusses the impetus for the exhibit and touches on a few of the highlights. These include the stories of Roy Johnson’s Happy Pals, a territory band popular in the 20’s and 30’s that was based in Richmond; lyricist Henry Sterling Creamer, a one-time vaudeville singer and dancer and Broadway impresario who wrote lyrics for some timeless jazz standards  and Jimmy Roots, the music director for Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the patriarch of a family of talented jazz and gospel musicians.