Our clip today is not a Soundie, but rather a very close relative, a first cousin if you will. And without question, it is one of the strangest entertainment sources that you have never heard of, one where the story might be more interesting than the film clip.

In 1946, a postwar recession was underway. A disastrous 30% “cabaret tax” was applied to any venue that serve food and drink, and where music was provided for dancing. Many returning veterans settled in either the suburbs or more rural parts of the country. All of this combined to make it extremely difficult to book big bands in any but urban “danceterias.”

Enter stage left the Amusement Research Corporation and their Telo-View Portable Theater. While the story of this venture is told in detail on my website (https://www.jazz-on-film.com/flo-petty-his-orchestra-and-the-telo-view-portable-theatera/), here it is in a shortened version. The idea was to film 2 1/2 to 3-hour dance programs, each featuring well-known big bands. This would provide the basis for an evening of entertainment away from the big cities. The sponsor of the event would rent a Telo-View Portable Theater which projected the sound and image on a 9’ x 12’ screen, although smaller sizes were available. No comedy, no dance, no novelty antics. Presented on the screen was just the band performing, and the reality was that most people would be dancing, not watching the screen.

While a number of bands were announced as ready to make the films, only one made it to the Tel-View screen, a dance program featuring a short-lived band led by one Flo Petty. Petty was a postal worker in New York City, and his band was credited as comprised of former vets, which is probably somewhat of an exaggeration. Surprisingly, the orchestra was integrated, and I wonder how this played in areas removed from large urban centers. The trumpet player, Harlem-based Harvard Davis, was a long-time friend of mine, and his recollections of the Flo Petty orchestra can be found both on my web page noted above and in my Soundies book. Two other African-Americans were in the band, trombonist George Wilson and pianist Lester Fauntleroy. While the band is a bit stiff, especially in this up-tempo number, the musicians are all professionals, and their version of Vincent Youmans’ “I Want to Be Happy” would have gotten the dancers out onto the floor.

I suspect this film clip has not been seen in close to 80 years. I hope you enjoy its rediscovery here in the World of Soundies.