Seventy-five years after the demise of Soundies, it is perhaps the novelty and “korn” subjects that seem the most dated. At the time, however, these performances appealed to urban and rural audiences alike, and also created variety in reels overflowing with the Swing and popular music of the day. And make no mistake: While the music may not resonate much with contemporary audiences, the underlying musicianship of the performers is solid.
Spike Jones is the best known of the Soundies novelty artists, but there were many others, including the Hoosier Hot Shots, Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritz Band, Mousie Powell, Chris Cross and Milt Britton. And then there was the Korn Kobblers.
Led by bespeckled trombonist Stan Fritz, the Korn Kobblers were the first to appear before Panoram viewers. The group was originally part of Freddie Fisher’s Schnickelfritz Band. Under the direction of Stan Fritz, the Korn Kobblers split from the “parent” group in the late 1930s. The remains of the original band stayed in Hollywood while the newly-formed Korn Kobblers worked its way East. The Korn Kobblers were publicized as the nation’s “most nonsensical band,” performing novelty numbers, country tunes and even pop standards—all in a “korny” comic manner. While performing in Cincinnati they were heard by Guy Lombardo and went on to open for him at the World’s Fair in 1940. For the next fifteen years the Korn Kobblers were an audience favorite coast to coast.
Many viewers will know the pop tune “That’s My Weakness Now” through the early Paul Whiteman recording from June 1928, one that featured The Rhythm Boys, Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke. Here it is presented in a no-holds-barred version by the Korn Kobblers.
No, not everyone will revel in this type of performance, but it is important to watch. Keep the skill of the musicians in mind, and remember that as much as I have not focused on this type of music in the past, it is an important element in the Soundies ouvre.