While curiosity might have killed the cat, let me pique your curiosity a bit:  how about a single-note banjo soloist from 1941 in the style of Charlie Christian? That should be enough!

      Gunther Schuller points to the Larry Clinton orchestra as personifying the best (professionalism) and worst (somewhat cliched arrangements and performances) of the Swing Era.  However, when one remembers that many bands from the period, black and white alike, were not jazz bands per se, but rather dance bands that also played jazz, one’s evaluation of Clinton’s music might be more favorable. 

       Clinton himself was a talented writer and arranger, and his band was always filled with fine musicians. He was on the music scene for many years, providing arrangements for others (Casa Loma, Bunny Berigan, Jimmy Dorsey), and leading a popular orchestra that recorded regularly for Victor. In “The Dipsy Doodle” and “My Reverie” Clinton has some of the bigger selling records of the period.

       In 1940 the Phonovision Corporation was formed to produce three-minute jukebox shorts, released under the moniker Phono-Vue, as competition in the burgeoning visual jukebox derby.  SOUNDIES was ultimately the winning format, and the sixty-four Phono-Vue shorts sat on the shelf until the 1942-43 recording ban, when they were purchased and released by the SOUNDIES organization.

       The Larry Clinton band of 1940 was a particularly strong organization. In 1992 I spoke with Butch Stone, the baritone sax in the band: “These films were made when I was with the band, before I joined Les Brown.  Was with Les for many years, as you must know.  I was never a strong jazz soloist, preferred doing section work and singing, but there are a lot of guys here who could solo well. Johnny Austin was a fine trumpet player, later went with Jan Saviit. Also Fran Ludwig, the tenor man, who was a friend of mine in the band, good get-off man. That’s my buddy Steve Benoric who does the alto solo on Dipsy Doodle.   Hank Wayland was a fine string bass player, was with Benny [Goodman] earlier, later went into the Hollywood studios, and Charlie [Carroll] was an underrated drummer.”

       Butch failed to mention the band’s fine jazz trombonist, Miff Sines, and the rhythm guitarist, George Rose, who briefly was featured on jazz banjo. His solo here is quite telling, combining a foundation laid by Eddie Lang with the innovation of Charlie Christian; there are a couple of phrases here lifted directly from Christian’s recorded work with Goodman.

       “The Dipsy Doodle” was a Clinton composition, a riff-based tune that appealed to dancers. Thankfully the performance is an instrumental and we are spared the rather ghastly lyrics. All in all, a fine performance that shows the band at its best.