Classically trained in violin performance, Eddie South was born in 1904 in Louisiana.
South was an extremely talented classical violinist who studied in America and European cities such as Paris and Budapest 1. When South returned home to Chicago, IL, he was met with the segregation of the thirties. This forced South to transfer his classical skills over to jazz. This conversion allowed him to form his own band 2; during his playing, he utilized melodies, which he developed from his time spent around Romani People. This skill of interpreting several different styles of music is what stands out in several recordings of his spreads from Europe to Cuban music from his tours in the southern states of the USA 3. This style of music is what cemented South as one of the most prominent jazz violinists of his time. These achievements, however, were not without criticism; due to his classical upbringing, jazz critics found his music to be “formal” and to lack swing 2. Because of segregation, which lasted until the sixties, the South was not able to join any orchestras because the spots on them were reserved for white male players. Jazz was the only sector of music where African Americans were semi-respected for their playing ability and musicianship.
Through time, there has slowly been more diversity being gained in the orchestra as more diverse ensembles are assembled. However, African Americans are still largely not represented properly within the orchestra 4. Diversity is something classical music has been struggling with since its formalization hundreds of years ago. The diversification of the music has helped spread the music to several different cultures; however, it has not been picked up yet in mainstream music compared to the “cannon.”
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. “Eddie South’s Alabamians,” accessed September 27, 2023, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/112577.
Gottlieb, William P. Portrait of Eddie South, Café Society (Uptown), New York, N.Y., Ca. Dec. 1946. 1946. Photograph. December 1, 1946. https://loc.gov/item/gottlieb.08001 (Accessed September 27, 2023)
1 “Eddie South, Jazz Violinist Born.” African American Regestry. AAREG, https://aaregistry.org/story/eddie-south-a-jazz-violinist-trailblzer/. (Accessed September 27, 2023)
2 “Eddie South.” All About Jazz. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/musicians/eddie-south April 18, 2008. (Accessed September 27, 2023)
3 Pelote. (2007). Eddie South and His International Orchestra: The Cheloni Broadcast Transcriptions — Recorded in Hollywood, 1933. ARSC Journal., 38(2), 294–295. https://bridge.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/openurl?institution=01BRC_INST&vid=01BRC_INST:SOC&atitle=Eddie%20South%20and%20His%20International%20Orchestra:%20The%20Cheloni%20Broadcast%20Transcriptions%20–%20Recorded%20in%20Hollywood,%201933.&aulast=Pelote,%20Vincent&volume=38&issue=2&spage=294&pages=294-295&issn=21514402&title=ARSC%20Journal&sid=EBSCO:Music%20Index:27801770&genre=article&date=20070901 (Accessed September 27, 2023)
4 “Anti-Black Discrimination in American Orchestras.” League of American Orchestras. https://americanorchestras.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Anti-Black-Discrimination-in-American-Orchestras.pdf. (Accessed September 27, 2023)