Vaudeville Melodies

A new book by Birmingham School of Media professor Nick Gebhardt explores the transformational nature of vaudeville.

Vaudeville Melodies, released through University of Chicago Press, explores how late nineteenth-century American political economy, progressive ideology and corporate-administrative capitalism forged a space for a new kind of entertainment. From the 1870s until the 1920s, vaudeville was America's most dominant form of popular entertainment, shaping and influencing the music industry as we know it today.

The book introduces the performers, managers and audiences who turned disjointed variety show acts into a phenomenally successful business. Gebhardt shows us how vaudeville transformed relationships among performers, managers, and audiences, and argues that these changes affected popular music culture in ways we are still seeing today. Drawing on firsthand accounts, Gebhardt explores the practices by which vaudeville performers came to understand what it meant to entertain an audience, the conditions in which they worked, the institutions they relied upon, and the values they imagined were essential to their success.

Vaudeville Melodies is released on 5 April 2017.