Various Artists

Beat the Band to the Bar

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This sampler of irreverent hot novelties, jazz burlesques, and big-band sendups recorded between 1930 and 1954 opens with a cheerful ode to thirsty musicians (its title a satire on the "eight to the bar" boogie-woogie craze) by Sam Donahue & His Orchestra. The next six tracks form an 18-minute medley of jazz and dance band themes served up by Richard Himber and either his Essex House Orchestra or his Rhythmic Pyramids Orchestra, with occasional vaudeville and pop parodies provided by vocalist Stuart Allen. Bandleaders and performers referenced in this medley are Henry Busse, Wayne King, Benny Goodman's Quartet and Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey, Clyde McCoy, Carmen and Guy Lombardo, Ted Lewis, Horace Heidt, Glen Gray, Rudy Vallée (with Vallée actually present), Skinnay Ennis and Hal Kemp, Paul Whiteman, Bob Crosby, Artie Shaw, Larry Clinton, Eddy Duchin, and Count Basie. Although these six sides were recorded between December 1937 and February 1939, the effect is that of one extended "Parade of Bands." Now that the listener is completely limbered up, the producers of this compilation pour on a titillating blend of knuckleheaded novelties and teasing takeoffs. Setting up a precedent for animated Popeye cartoons, Carson Robison and Hoagy Carmichael sing "Barnacle Bill the Sailor" backed by a wild little group that included cornet geniuses Bubber Miley and Bix Beiderbecke, ribald fiddler Joe Venuti, and young clarinetist Benny Goodman, who sounds for all the world like he's marching in a Navy band. Both Tommy Dorsey and Charlie Barnet lambaste various conventions in big-band gimmickry and Bud Freeman emits 80 seconds of superbly mangled music for V-Disc on behalf of the war effort. While authentic jazz musicians get their licks in, most of these recordings feature pop musicians poking fun at jazz-inflected pop music. Backed by Vaughn Monroe's orchestra, Ziggy Talent does a fine job with "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long" and Woody Herman keeps saying clever things like "hasta la pizza" during "Pancho Maximilian Hernandez," a rather racist spoof of Mexican politics that came across a bit less offensively when Ray McKinley tried it on. There's something marvelously unsettling about the sentence "We're awfully sorry we shot him -- he was the best president we ever had." Finally, Ozzie Nelson wins the prize for one of the longest titles ever squeezed onto a 78-rpm record label with "I'm Looking for a Guy Who Plays Alto and Baritone, and Doubles on Clarinet, and Wears a Size 37 Suit."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:28
5 2:34
8 2:47
10 2:57
11 3:24
12 2:54
13 2:29
14 3:27
15 2:54
16 2:39
17 2:53
18 2:49
19 3:09
20 2:29
21 3:02
22 3:05
23 1:19
24 2:41
25 3:14
26 3:00
27 2:36
blue highlight denotes track pick