I am a real fan of the sound of harmonica bands, although I am the first to admit that said sound may be an acquired taste. Hopefully nobody would argue that the artistry involved here is quite amazing.
Borrah Minevitch led one of the finest harmonica ensembles for more than a decade, and the Harmonica Rascals appear on record and film … and in four Soundies produced at two different sessions during the early 1940s. Bill Waldman, a member of the Rascals during this period, noted that Minevitch was not a particularly agreeable person, but that the “paycheck was reliable, most of the others in the group delightful fellows.” The Rascals, Waldman noted, was composed of eight to ten musicians, usually including a Little Person, African American and “a large harmonica player.”
Minevitch’s first Soundies session was produced in February-March 1942. Unlikely a great majority of Soundies, the soundtrack was not recorded for the film shorts per se. Rather, production file documents state, “Film sound tracks will be dubbed from the artist’s own transcriptions of the material…” The photography for the two 1942 Soundies was completed on two separate days. The Harmonica Rascals appear on screen in the first film, My Shawl, but not in the short featured here, Boxcar Rhapsody. Bob Waldman notes, “Richard Hayman probably did the arrangement, but with the exception of Minevitch, all of the musicians on screen are sideline actors or musicians, but none is a member of the Harmonica Rascals.” This is a mystery that will not be unraveled at this late date, and it does not affect the wonderful music. The melody is from “Caucasian Sketches” by famed Russian composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
Knife throwers were a regular on the Panoram screen, and here one unidentified performer provides the visual interest.