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The years following World War II brought new broadcasting stations to a divided Germany, government regulated radio stations in the East and state regulated stations in the West. Radio broadcasts were a significant cultural source for the Germans in times of reconstruction. Broadcasting stations played much of the familiar Tanz- und Unterhaltungsmusik, reminiscent of earlier times of happiness and prosperity. However, with changes in a new generation’s musical tastes the demand for swing bands declined. Radio stations began to rework their in-house “dance bands” into “jazz bands.” The West Deutscher Rundfunk (WDR), and other broadcast stations, employed jazz musicians full-time.
This thesis investigates the development of the WDR Big Band as follows: Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the state of jazz and swing music at the end of World War II in Germany. Chapter 2 examines the decline in popularity of swing bands after World War II in Germany and its causes. It examines the transitional years from “dance bands” into “big bands” by studying the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) dance band in Cologne. These changes lay the path for the change to “big bands” during the 1960’s. The final chapter presents an analysis of the stylistic changes that the KTUO band made to transform into a big band during the 1960’s. It will touch on the collaboration between the KTUO band and the WDR broadcasting station and will then examine the early years of the new WDR Big Band. I will consider personnel choices and stylistic practices of the WDR Big Band. Further, I will study the later years of the WDR Big Band to the present, including changes in direction and collaborations with American artists. Finally, the third chapter also provides conclusions of this investigation and implications for future research.
Advisor: Pamela F. Starr