The Shadrach Boys are virtually unknown today and I think it is time to rectify that situation, at least within the World of Soundies. To put it a bit more succinctly, this is a terrific performance and not a Soundie to be missed!
The Shadrach Boys, proteges of Rudy Vallée, were two African American performers who entertained audiences in Southern California during the early-to-mid 1940s. Vocalist Johnny “Shadrach” Horace had been active since the 1920s, playing both black nightspots as well as “black and tans” … that is, clubs that welcomed both black and white patrons. Horace had a fabulous set of pipes that projected an almost classical clarity. In addition, he had the “presence” of a radio crooner, along with a genuine feel for jazz. One review from 1934 notes that Horace was a huge hit at Caesar’s, a hip Los Angeles nightspot located on Hollywood Boulevard; a slightly later review celebrates the fact that Horace closed the show “since he would be a difficult act to follow.”
Beginning in 1940, if not slightly earler, Horace partnered with pianist Robert MacGimsey as the Shadrach Boys, landing a choice engagement at Don Dickerman’s Pirate’s Den on No. La Brea. Robert MacGimsey left the act and was replaced by Ned Stanfield, who was with Horace when they reportedly appeared in Stormy Weather (1943). By the time this Soundie was produced in December 1943, the piano chair was held by Maceio (later Maceo) Williams. Williams was a graduate of Julliard and was an accomplished classical pianist, although he worked primarily in jazz. After this series of Soundies he moved to New York City where he worked and occasionally recorded. After twenty years he relocated to Reno and spent the rest of his performing career in the Nevada capital.
While Johnny Horace can be found in two Techniprocess shorts, and in a Soundies series with Johnny Moore’s 3 Blazers, this performance of the standard “Lazy River” is a favorite of mine. Just when you think that Johnny is going to take another vocal chorus, he passes the musical baton to Williams who takes an absolutely ripping two-fisted solo. This is one of those Soundies that nobody seems to know. As I said earlier, time to rectify the situation.