While this appears to be “just another band short,” there is more to the story than that – not uncommon in the World of Soundies.
If you peruse the music trades of the late 1930s and early ’40 – Billboard, Metronome, Down Beat and a few others – one band appears in print far more often than its contemporary reputation might suggest: Johnny Long and his Orchestra. Reviews, bookings, advertisements, biographies and such abound for this little-remembered bandleader. (To complicate matters a bit, there was a black bandleader with this name, but we are speaking of the white, left-handled violin player who led a very successful dance band for many years.)
Long began his career as a bandleader in 1933, leading a Duke University dance orchestra initially billed as the Freshmen. As noted above, he played the violin left-handed, this due to an injury as a child: Long was bitten on the right hand by a pig.
Upon graduation, Long and a large number of band alumni continued playing together professionally, performing mostly in North Carolina. In 1940 the band recorded a breakthrough hit tune, “In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town,” which featured a glee club within the band. Playing relaxed and melodic music, Long was perfect for nightspots that preferred the music “light and polite.” The band recorded regularly for Decca and appeared in short subjects and feature films. Such was the band’s popularity that it was invited to play at President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1941.
Long was popular enough – one might guess inexpensive enough as well – that he was featured in 18 Soundies produced at three separate sessions. The earliest session was produced for Phonovision, which shelved its product after minimal exposure and then sold their “library” to Soundies during the recording ban. “The Long and the Short of It” (pun intended, I am certain) is a bouncy rhythm tune by Roy Jacobs, who also penned the hit “Outskirts of Town”.
The Long and Short of I is a straight-forwardband piece without any extraneous visuals. The vocal is by Helen Young and trumpet player Irv “Swede” Nielsen. Nielsen was brought up front to sing the rhythm tunes and novelty numbers for the band. While not a jazz band, Long carried some good soloists at the time, and we hear short jazz statements from H.L. Shockey on trumpet and probably King Walker on clarinet.