Between 1941 and 1946, many vocal harmony groups, both black and white, male and female, made Soundies. Among the best are the Mills Brothers, Delta Rhythm Boys, Kim Loo Sisters, and Six Hits and A Miss. But the first to find its way to the Panoram screen, one of the finest, was the Charioteers.

The Charioteers was organized at Wilberforce College in Ohio in the early 1930s. From a college combo to full-fledged professional radio singers was a short step for the quartet, and the Charioteers were appearing regularly on the radio by the middle of the decade. The group, under the direction of Wilfred “Billy” Williams, originally sang gospel music, but when they signed with the Columbia label in the late 1930s, they moved to pop-oriented music, although the group’s gospel roots were never far in the background.

Billy Williams would remain the first tenor voice and primary soloist throughout the quartet’s existence. They had their own radio series during the 1930s and were regulars on Rudy Vallee’s Royal Gelatin Hour. Slightly later, the quartet was heavily featured on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall, an engagement that lasted until the late 1940s.  

The Charioteers were featured in a number of short subjects during the 1930s and 1940s and appeared on early television. The Charioteers disbanded in 1950, although Williams continued with a new group, the Billy Williams Quartet.

The Charioteers 1941 series of Soundies was set up by their manager, Jean Goldkette, and the contract called for payment of $400 for four shorts. Today we feature one of their best!“Swing For Sale” was written by two important songsmiths, Sammy Cahn, who provided the lyrics, and Saul Chaplin, who wrote the music. (We’ve encountered the two before in a discussion of the hit song Bei Mir Bist Du Schon.) The Charioteers featured William “Billy” Williams, 1st tenor; Edward Jackson, 2nd tenor; Ira Williams, baritone; Howard Daniels bass. The group accompanying the vocalists includes trumpet player Bobby Effros, guitarist Tommy Gottuso and drummer Sandy Weiss. The piano chair is held down by Jimmy Sherman, the group’s regular accompanist during this period; he appears in other Soundies in this series but is hidden by the quartet in this performance.

Dig the unique vocal sound of the quartet, with a large number of solo opportunities for the singers, and the liberal use of scatting. This is jazz singing pure-and-simple, although the gospel origins can be heard as well. This Soundie is one to return to often.