Al Lentz

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A big seller in the Roaring Twenties, bandleader Al Lentz is fading steadily into what could be total obscurity during whatever the '20s decade winds up getting called in the subsequent century. Some…
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A big seller in the Roaring Twenties, bandleader Al Lentz is fading steadily into what could be total obscurity during whatever the '20s decade winds up getting called in the subsequent century. Some scholarly historical texts literally practice leniency with the spelling of his surname, as when writer Bruce Bastin refers to him as "Al Letz." Forgiveness is there for anyone so enamored with this artist's song titles that other details such as spelling might have been overlooked. Descriptions of the Lentz outfit in action suggest that the entire audience danced so hard and fast to keep up with the music that not only spelling but other aspects of learned behavior might have fallen by the wayside. Lentz and any compatriots who could keep up foreshadowed the later hardcore scene with ultra-fast tempos, short songs, and the lyricist rushing through situations equal parts ridiculous and anxiety-ridden.

"How Could Red Riding Hood," "Elsie Schultz-En Heim," "Sam the Old Accordion Man," and "Hello Swanee Hello" would be enough to thrust the band into the hokum closet -- that, however, is a space into which such a big band just wouldn't quite fit. Fine instrumentalists moved through the Lentz orchestra, including violinist Mac Ceppos in the mid-'20s. The rendition of "Hello Swanee Hello" retains a certain presence on the nostalgia scene due to its inclusion on a compilation entitled Shake That Thing: America's Top Bands of the 20's. A wider range of Lentz material suggests something akin to rock opera potential, titles fitting together into a suggestive saga climaxing with the 1927 admission of "If I Didn't Know Your Husband, and You Didn't Know My Wife," preceded needless to say by "There's a Little White House on a Little Green Hill," "Oh Doris! Where Do You Live," "Love in My Heart," "When I Ring Your Door Bell," and "'Deed I Do," in approximately that order.