The music of the Swing Era – big band or combo, instrumental or vocal, hot or sweet – was music played for dancing. Yes, there were concerts in the 1930s and ‘40s, but sitting and listening was largely an exception to the rule. A dear friend, Arthur Newman, attended the legendary Benny Goodman concert in Carnegie Hall in January 1938. Yet, he recalled little of the event, telling me that he was too excited about the dancing to follow at the Savoy once the concert ended.
The featured dancers in this Soundie are billed as “Tops and Wilder,” an error on someone’s part. Thomas “Tops” Lee and Wilda Crawford had won the annual Harvest Moon Ball contest in 1939, after which they joined Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. But when they were consistently late for rehearsals, the group’s leader, Frankie Mannie, fired them. As “Tops and Wilda” the two were then booked as a stage act and could be seen at such venues as the Apollo Theater, Club Zanzibar and Savannah Club, all in Manhattan. The two were working together as late as 1950 and are noted as being in a Black stage revue that toured the South.
The music is provided by a strong “second tier” big band led by composer (“Rosetta”) and arranger Henri Woode. Big band trumpet player Harvard Davis told me, “Woode led the kind of band where you could always find a spot if you were a strong musician. It was the type of band where you could work if you were between jobs in the bigger, better paying name bands.” And the band swings mightily! The rhythm section is led by drummer Arthur Herbert, and we hear solos by ex-Louis Jordan trumpeter Kenneth Roane, and Ted Barnett, an underrated tenor saxophonist who had spent time with Lucky Millinder and Benny Carter.
Produced in the spring of 1946, Mistletoe, probably a Henri Woode arrangement, was part of a half-hour featurette titled Love in Syncopation. Four musical numbers were culled from the film and released as Soundies, a cost-cutting measure used with increasing frequency in 1946.