“Hula Rhumba,” “Swing Rhumba,” “Rhumba Bebop” “Dude Cowboy” and “Jazz Etude” …. the Soundies producers and songwriters rarely missed an opportunity to mix genres to appeal to the widest of possible audiences. One of the earliest of those efforts was “Jitterbug Senorita” by Sonny Skyler and Leroy Holmes. Featured on screen was Vincent Lopex and his Orchestra.
In 1941 Vincent Lopez had been leading a successful hotel band for more than twenty years. Soon after this Soundie was produced, the band landed an engagement at the Taft Hotel in Manhattan that would last an astounding twenty-five years. Nice work if you can get it!
“Morty Bullman, one of the band’s saxophonists, recalled, ““I was in the band for around three years, beginning in 1940. The Lopez band had been booked to play at the Aquacade, at the New York World’s Fair. This was Billy Rose’s venture, and we were pleased to get the job. This would mean that we wouldn’t be on tour and could lead a settled life in the city. This was something rare among the big bands that had to spend lots and lots of time on the road.
After that World’s Fair closed we moved to the Taft Hotel, in the Grill Room, at 51st and Seventh, and it was another good job. No, a great job. We rarely left the place and the job paid fairly well, with little traveling, no one-nighters. And the job ended early every night, well before midnight.
We would play things at a bouncy tempo, occasionally even at up-tempo. But we were not a jazz band, although the guys would get a chance to improvise every once and a while. Mostly we played for dancing—polite dancing, if you will—and for people who were dining, or wanted to sit and talk among friends. And then there were the ballads, mostly sung by Sonny [Skylar]. It was a good band, mind you, but not really a jazz band or swing band—not at all—but a group of real pros playing music that everyone seemed to enjoy.
I don’t know if you know this, but Lopez had formerly employed two famous sisters who had been singing with the band. They were Marion and Betty Hutton. Marion went with Glenn Miller, and Betty became a famous star in the movies. During the time I was with the band, they would drop by and even sing a song or two every once in a while. But they had left by the time these films were made, and Anne Barrett, she was the gal who had taken over the vocalist job.”