“Get your coat, and grab your hat…” We’re off to Billy Berg’s nightclub in Hollywood. Sadly, it’s not to see Bird and Diz, or Benny Carter’s swinging big band. But that’s OK. Featured in this 1946 Soundie is Matty Malneck and his Orchestra, actually Milton DeLugg’s eight piece combo under Malneck’s direction.
Actually, it is a little more complicated than that. As DeLugg told me, “We were booked at this saloon, this little club called Billy Berg’s. It was at Hollywood and Vine, and he had three bands—Slim Gaillard and his bass player [probably “Bam” Brown], Harry “The Hipster” Gibson, and me. Now, that was a wonderful job, and the small band had a unique sound. I seem to recall that Billy Berg liked the sound with harp and accordion—that was something he really liked so we kept on using it. Anyway, it was the same band that you see in the film shorts. Except that Matty wasn’t there—he wasn’t on that job at all. Malneck would join, then front the combo, when we left Billy Berg’s and moved to Slapsy Maxie’s.”
“The Coffee Song” was a hit in 1946 for Frank Sinatra, a tune he would return to in the early 1960s. Our Soundie is a highly arranged piece, with a rubato second in the middle where vocalist Dorothy Claire “talks the lyrics.” In essence, while this was filmed in a Hollywood studio, we are seeing the same performance shared at Billy Berg’s.