This Soundie is as corny as they come, but somehow the combination of a fun novelty song, a strong musical presentation by the Jesters, and a creative “song-story” on screen makes for a very entertaining three minute short.
It is important to understand that this Soundie was one in a reel of eight. Variety was an essential part of each weekly release, and in the release of January 26, 1942, Panoram viewers were treated to two big band numbers (Cab Calloway and Charlie Spivak) and a lighthearted performance by Candy Candido with Ted Fio Rito and his Orchestra. Anita Boyer sang a patriotic number, Dick Todd crooned a pop hit of the day, Marcella Hendricks starred in another popular song, and Gwen Williams headlined a polka piece. Clearly, a comedy number would fit in well, in this case as the 8th film on the reel.
The Jesters, not to be confused with the “doo-wop” vocal harmony group of the late 1950s, was a very popular nightclub, radio and recording act of the 1930s and 1940s. The trio was composed of Guy Bonham, string bass; Dwight Latham, mandocello; and Wamp Carlson, accordion—although Johnny Gart recorded the soundtrack in place of Carlson, probably to allow Carson to be nearer the mike for his vocal contribution.
The combo was formed as the Jesters Trio in 1923, soon after the three graduated from high school. Their earliest regular radio appearance appears to have been on the Light Up and Listen program, transcribed by NBC in the early 1930s. Soon after they were featured as the Tasty Yeast Jesters on a radio series of the same name. Radio work continued throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, and it was during this period that they began recording for Decca Records. During the summer preceding their first Soundie session, the trio appeared in a number of B features for Universal and Columbia. The Jesters continued to appear in public, adding early television to their accomplishments, until 1950.
The song “She Lived Next Door to a Firehouse” dates from 1931, and a number of sources suggest that the song was often sung in barrooms with bawdy and risqué lyrics. Here the subject is sung in a much more acceptable manner by the trio. (Some additional lyrics were provided by two Minoco employees, Giska Turkisher and Charles Abbott.) The “song-story” that accompanies the vocal presentation has some funny moments, and the Soundie was popular enough that it was reissued as few years later.