To the swing fans, bobbysoxers, jitterbugs, alligators, and hepcats of the 1940s, the music of Lenny Herman would have been strictly off the cob. (Meaning corny.) My guess is that many of our group members will find this Soundie to be hopelessly dated. And yet…

Low-key, rhythmically gentle dance music was a very important part of the musical scene in the 1930s and ’40s. Hotel bands and small combos that played what was called the “businessman’s bounce” were immensely popular. Lenny Herman and his “Biggest Little Band in the Country” was a popular New York band attraction for nearly fifteen years, playing dance music at venues like the Hotel Astor, Edison, Roosevelt, Waldorf-Astoria, and New Yorker.

We’ll let his string bass player, jazzman “Bunky” Jones, talk a bit about the music. “There was a time when Lenny’s ‘Biggest Little Band’ was certainly in some demand. Lenny sang as well as played the accordion. His group did not play the type of music that I would seek out. I was into jazz and swing, and hotel bands did not hold any attraction for me. Sometime later Lenny moved to Nevada for the work. I joined him because I needed the income, and Lenny always worked!  Musicians I knew wondered why I worked with Lenny. Well, as long as a band had good musicianship and was fun and worked regularly, well, I was willing to give it a try. That was true of the group. While I never really got into the music, there was a real professionalism to the combo that I respected and, yes, we did have fun together.

“Under the Bamboo Tree” is a song that film lovers will recall from Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), performed by Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien. Unlike the rest of the wonderful score, this song was an oldie, written in 1902. Lyrics were by Bob Cole, with the music by J. Rosamund Johnson. It should be noted that the piano has an electric organ attachment and that three of the band members double on ocarinas. Dance Rene Russell was described in Billboard as a “show gal,” appearing in supporting dance roles in various Broadway revues. And the performance? Yes, corny as they come, but pleasant enough if you give it a chance.