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Review: The Guitar in America, Victorian Era to Jazz Age by Jeffrey J. Noonan

Review: The Guitar in America, Victorian Era to Jazz Age by Jeffrey J. Noonan

Reviewed by Don Overstreet

Originally published in American Lutherie #96, 2008

The Guitar in America, Victorian Era to Jazz Age
Jeffrey J. Noonan
ISBN (hardcover): 139781934110188
University Press of Mississippi, 2008, $50

In the year 2008, say “BMG” and some will think of the mail-order catalog of recordings. In the year 1908, say “BMG” and many in the musical community in America would immediately think of the Banjo, Mandolin, and Guitar movement.

Jeffrey Noonan’s recent publication, (an expansion of a doctoral dissertation and echoing its academic origin), gives us a clear portrait of the life and times of a true social phenomenon that began in the last half of the 19th century and continued into the 1920s, when changing times and tastes caused it to fade away.

We can be thankful to Mr. Noonan for adding this book to the list of efforts published in recent years by writers such as Philip Gura and James Bollman, whose studies of the banjo and the life and times of C.F. Martin, Sr. have become standard references, not only for their overviews of the instruments themselves but also for illuminating the social environment in which the music became so popular. The important figures of the era are identified and given biographies while we learn about the amazing process of the creation and marketing of the instruments.

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