There are still mysteries to uncover in the World of Soundies, and here is one that I think we have solved. There’s no printed documentation, but my ears, and those of some very well-versed jazz historians, hear George Barnes, one of the finest guitarists that jazz has known, in this Soundie. This fact is so identified for the first time here!

First, a little background information. In the summer of 1942, just before the beginning of the musicians’ strike and recording ban, the Soundies home office closed down production in Los Angeles and moved it to Chicago. This was meant as a cost cutting measure, but it was short-lived, with less than 40 shorts produced in the Windy City. The bottom line was that production facilities were limited, as was the pool of talent that producers required.

In addition to some touring combos, and bands/performers who were working locally, producers relied a great deal on WGN and NBC radio, and two programs that featured a great deal of music, The Breakfast Club and National Barn Dance. From the latter came the very popular Dinning Sisters, Lou, Jean and Ginger. Here they perform a tune by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen that was sung by Bing Crosby in the feature film Road to Morocco. The song was titled “Ain’t Got a Dime to My Name,” but it was shortened to “Ho Hum” for this Soundie.

The production files note that the small group accompanying the Dinning Sisters was led by Jack Fascinato. Fascinato was a studio pianist who worked at WGN, and for this recording session he brought along an unidentified guitarist, string bassist, and drummer. None is seen on screen, but the guitarist is featured throughout. In fact, in the introduction he plays a full 12-bar blues chorus before heading into Jimmy Van Heusen’s melody.

I initially shared this film with jazz guitarist and music historian Nick Rossi, a gentleman who has an amazing ears for our music. Nick listened carefully and agreed with me that here we have a previously unknown performance by guitar great George Barnes. To quote Nick, “My ears say it’s Barnes. I re-listened to his late 1930s blues recordings and there are definitely a couple of the same licks mixed with a couple of runs which, to my ears, are fairly garden-variety George Barnes-isms. The tone too reminds me of George during this period. He did not go into the US Army until mid-December 1942, so he most definitely was working in/around Chicago, on the radio, and with both the Dinning Sisters and Fascinato. Barnes WAS on a Standard radio transcription backing the Dinning Sisters in 1942 with Jack Fascinato! So, I am sticking with George for the time being.”

So, a wonderful Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen, superb vocal work from the Dinning Sisters, and jazz solos and obligatos from George Barnes … all this make this a Soundie worth revisiting.