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Chapter Two: Dog Ditties. Rock and roll, we understand better than 1950s fans, did not transcend a sick show-business past—just offered a new chapter in the strange career of Jim Crow, aka blackface minstrelsy. Minstrel theatricality, excesses of both primitivism and sentimentality, commingled with bluesy cabaret embodiment via early race records and the jazz jukebox, arriving at a Red Scare moment when 1930s Popular Front radicalism was stifled but not quieted—R&B and rock and roll used loudness to voice a struggle that could not be coherently itemized. This is a two-minute pop song version of history, told in dog-themed numbers from “Old Dog Tray” by Stephen Foster and Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds to that Frank Sinatra embarrassment, “Mama Will Bark.”

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