In the United States, sing-along radio programmes became common in the 1930s. These programmes aired locally, regionally, and nationally, and they took various approaches to audience participation. Although categorized as radio participation shows, sing-along programmes were unique in that they prompted scripted musical participation by home listeners during the course of the broadcast. This article examines the most successful sing-along programme, Gillette Original Community Sing, which broadcast on the CBS network in 1936 and 1937. Participants were encouraged to imagine themselves as part of a numberless mediated community that included both audible singers in the studio audience and unheard singers spread across the continent. This community, however, was clearly bounded in terms of race. A detailed analysis of the Community Sing repertory reveals that the African American experience—as imagined primarily by white songwriters and often using blackface dialect—was the third most common song topic. By singing these songs, especially in the proximity of minstrel sketches, home listeners participated in mediated blackface performances that addressed racial anxieties and constructed white identity.
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- Journal title
Music and Letters
- Date submitted
22 February 2023
- Digital Object Identifier (DOI) URL