Humanities (HUMN) 285

History of Popular Music I: Blues to Big Bands, 1900-1940 (Revision 1)

HUMN 285 course cover

Temporarily closed, effective October 4, 2016.

Delivery Mode: Individualized study with video component*.
*Overseas students, please contact the University Library before registering in a course that has an audio/visual component.

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: None.

Precluded Course: HUMN 285 is a cross-listed course—a course listed under 2 different disciplines—with MUSI 285. HUMN 285 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for MUSI 285.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Humanities Home Page

HUMN 285 is not available for challenge.


HUMN 285 and HUMN 286 survey the history of North American popular music from the ragtime era to the end of the 1960s. This course concentrates on the period between the two world wars and takes the story of popular music up to the swing era of the late 1930s. HUMN 285 examines the evolution of musical styles and places such musical forms as blues, jazz, and hillbilly music in their social contexts.


  • Unit 1: The Sources of Blues and Jazz
  • Unit 2: The Folk Tradition and Hillbilly Music
  • Unit 3: Jimmie Rodgers
  • Unit 4: Country Blues
  • Unit 5: Classic Blues, Jug-Bands, and Barrelhouse Piano
  • Unit 6: Jazz in the Twenties
  • Unit 7: Bix Beiderbecke
  • Unit 8: Country and Western in the Thirties
  • Unit 9: Urban Blues in the Thirties
  • Unit 10: Jazz in the Swing Era


To receive credit for HUMN 285, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent) and a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Exercise Essay Final Exam Total
20% 30% 50% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Collier, James Lincoln. 1978. The Making of Jazz: A Comprehensive History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Malone, Bill C. 3rd ed., 2010. Country Music U.S.A. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Oakley, Giles. 1978. The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Oliver, Paul. 1972. The Story of the Blues. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Porterfield, Nolan. 1979. Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Shapiro, Nat, and Nat Hentoff, eds. [1955] 1966. Hear Me Talkin' to Ya. Reprint. NY: Dover.

Other Materials

The course materials include audiotape lectures and a student manual. A radio program, The Long Weekend, is broadcast on CKUA Radio throughout Alberta.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1.