“You ask what this kid, this Jewish kid from the Bronx, is doing in a Latin band in Manhattan?”
So Teddy Schulman, who was performing under the name Teddy Martin, told me about his time with Maya’s Pan-American Orchestra in the early 1940s. Teddy’s interview will be printed in full in the upcoming Soundies book, but we’ll let him continue the story here.
“Well, let me tell you. You see, I was a good musician, good reader, but not enough experience yet to go with one of the big name bands. Anyway, I didn’t have any desire to travel. Now, a white musician would never play with a Negro band during this period, but there was no trouble playing with a Latin band. Especially if it wasn’t touring a lot. So, three or four of us in the band were white musicians, and the rest of the band, especially the percussion, they were Latins. We all got along famously, and the band was headed by Mr. Fraylan Maya at the La Conga in Manhattan.”
“Now, the show was called the Havana-Madrid Show, but that wasn’t the name of the club. The club was called La Conga, and our show was presented in the basement part of the club. The nightclub was located at 1650 Broadway. We were next to the Winter Garden, and across the street was the Roseland Ballroom. So there was themain nightclub upstairs, for dinner and dancing, and you go downstairs to the entrance of the Havana-Madrid Show, down the stairs next to the Winter Garden. That’s where our show was presented. Lots was happening in the club. Upstairs, Carmen Cavallaro and Noro Morales were featured, and there was an alternate band, Juanito Sanabria and His Orchestra. Downstairs it was Fraylan Maya and the floorshow you see in these films.”
I was able to send Teddy a videocassette of the four Soundies in this series. He wrote back with enthusiasm after seeing himself on screen, and said that he recalled “Paran Pan Pan” as being a popular number that the band played regularly. “This was pretty much what you saw and heard at La Conga back in 1941.”
Latin style music – Mexican, Cuban, calypso and South American – was a regular part of the Soundies bill-of-faire. This particular short, Paran Pan Pan, has always been a favorite of mine.