I have already posted several entries about Whitey Smith, the man who “taught China to dance”. Smith was an American jazz bandleader in Shanghai in the 1920s who later wrote a memoir I Didn’t Make a Million about his life in that city, before he moved to Manila during WWII. While working in the Majestic Ballroom, he came up with the idea of incorporating Chinese folk music into his repertoire and thus helped to kick off the jazz age in China. His song “Nighttime in Old Shanghai" is one example (though not the best) of his efforts to localize American jazz for the Shanghai audience. Others include his song “Wedding Song” and “She Wonders Why”. I’ve put these up on youtube and posted about them in another entry.
Whitey was not the only one to incorporate Shanghai into the songs and dances of the Jazz Age. Other American composers, songwriters and singers did so as well. Here is a list of songs from the early Jazz Age that incorporated Shanghai and also involved some “Chinese” rhythms (as interpreted by American jazz musicians) into their foxtrots. These are mostly drawn from Archives.org. You can go to the website to listen to them, and if you don’t mind the scratches and hisses, you can hear the sounds of early jazz!
It seems that after the mid-1930s there was a hiatus in the use of Shanghai as a theme for popular songs. Perhaps the war made Shanghai a less romantic and appealing topic for Americans. The next song I found, called “Shanghai”, was a big hit in 1951 and was recorded by many singers and orchestras. Here are two examples: