This article examines the laboring culture of African American jazz and blues musicians in Chicago in the 1920s. It explores the musicians' efforts to forge an occupational identity in the context of race and class tensions in the Chicago job market as well as their experiences in both the day jobs needed to pay the bills and the performance jobs in clubs, theaters, and recording studios. The author draws from the memoirs and songs of Earl Hines, Mahalia Jackson, Willie “the Lion” Smith, and Big Bill Broonzy, among others, to uncover the impressions of musicians' working conditions in Chicago during the “golden age” of jazz.

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