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Monday, December 5, 2016

EXTRA! - Today only: the original "MUSIC SHORTS," through 3 AM -- Dec 5 edition, 2016

This is an EXTRA. The Guide has TWO current news editions. Just scroll a short ways down for the first one, or click to it at:

The other one is at:

NOW, to our EXTRA, what it's all about, and an opening note if you think you arrived too late to get in on this.

If you're reading this too late to watch at broadcast times, or you're reading at work with no way to start your TV recording device before you get home this evening when you can capture only part of the rather amazing lineup, it isn't necessarily game-over.

Our listings here will help you identify the best of this nearly forgotten genre, so you can make your own list and track them, one-by-one, down at your leisure. And some cable services offer a view-on-demand service of what's broadcast for a week or so following air dates.

Let's get started.



First, the background, so our youngest readers will know why this is such a big deal. You can skip down to the section titled "SCREENING TODAY ON TV" if you'd like.

Peabody here. Set the Wayback, Sherman. For waaay back. Before there was an MTV as the great phenomenon of its time. Before the era of "music videos" being ground-out like sausages to feed that cable channel's audience. Before the VCR coupled to it was the center of musical pop culture for the day.

Because long before there was video -- even before it was just analog video -- before there was any TV at all -- there was the "music short," on film, for big screen viewing between the full length movies of the double feature at the bijou.

It all started in 1928, when pretty much everything else was still in the silent era. Of course, the movies were hardly viewed in silence then. From about 1914 through 1929, every screen had a pianist or organist or, in the great movie palaces built with money from one of the big studios, a full orchestra in the pit below the screen. The blockbusters of the time had reams of full scores for each musician, not unlike a program of Symphonic music -- except there were no breaks built in, because the projectionists were expected to use little on-screen cues to synchronize the reels. That made the "flickers" -- the feature-presentation movies -- as nonstop as they are in our digital era.

Why 1928? Because 1927 brought the revolution. It brought Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer," the first great "talkie." And it wasn't just the instantly embraced ability to hear dialog matched with actors moving lips, instead of reading cue cards of stilted dialog. "The Jazz Singer" brought jazz singing. Fully orchestrated. Recorded so that each instrument could be heard and discerned as clearly as the vocals. Even attending a live concert, you couldn't sit in many places in the music hall that would enable you to have that experience. You still can't, except for today's mics and mixers and amps and speakers.

So, after the phenomenal success of "The Jazz Singer" in 1927, Hollywood instantly recognized the need for a paradigm shift to keep the theatres packed. People wanted sound, and they loved music matched with action, from seeing fingers flash over keys and horn valves to watching lips and body language of crooners. And in 1928, the music short was born.

Now remember, in 1928, most of America, like most of the world, did not live in cities, or even in suburbs. The small town movie houses employed a pianist using "lead sheets" -- and improvising from there -- to accompany the on-screen action of the silent movies. The world was necessarily rural, for food production, and for resource extraction and processing. Things still functioned, a hundred years into the Industrial Revolution, with subsidence-based economics and sale of surplus enabled by just enough advances in technology to create reliable surpluses.

Cities could not have employed everybody who found useful work in rural areas, where their work sustained the distant cities. So most people, being rural, had never experienced a symphony orchestra playing live. By the early '20s, they'd certainly seen nickelodeon film viewing machines where the only sound came from the grinding of the hand-crank. And they'd certainly heard music recordings -- which, until a short time before that, were as likely to have been on cylindrical wax as on flat discs -- but not with pictures. Certainly no moving images could accompany a needle on a spinning record.

"The Jazz Singer" changed everything. The revolution took society by storm, bringing faster change than the Industrial Revolution. The arrival of music, matched to the images as both were captured live, as the performance happened -- was THE first great revolution of the technological age.


It's not an exaggeration to call this a Christmas or Hanukkah gift from some filmographer-musicologist programming gurus. The earliest, and many of the best, of the first-ever "music shorts" are being presented today from 10:45 am through 3 am (Pacific) in a full day of shorts on Turner Classic Movies.

Dropped into the middle of it is what started it all, one of only two full-length feature films airing between the kickoff and end at 3 am. Restored and uncut, that feature is what gave birtrh to, and started the craze of demand for, the whole music short genre. It's "The Jazz Singer" from 1927, with Al Jolson's wonderful singing performances.

"The Jazz Singer," in addition to being the easily-identifiable moment of the silent-to-talkies revolution, is more: it is a look at the once-acceptable vaudeville commonality of white performers in rather grotesque "blackface" makeup, something that lasted on stages nationwide from the 1840s through the beginning of World War II. Real African-Americans couldn't do "white" stages. In theatre history, it's regarded as the incongruity similar to the era when no women could be actors, when all female parts were played by boys whose voices hadn't yet changed with adolescence. But in the realm of American racial history, the "Blackface" era is much more complicated.

In terms of the derivation of music shorts that eventually led to music videos? What's especially significant is that most of what's presented today dates from 1928, with the rest reaching from the revolution's beginning in 1927 to as far forward as 1937.

There are a few ostensibly non-music shorts, like one with Bobby Jones illustrating a proper golf swing and one with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Otherwise, it's music, music, music. Enough to make those esoterically incongruous music videos that revolutionized our time -- the MTV era, through today -- look like a cheesy imitation. Prepare to see the music video genre put to shame by its great grandparents of the music short era, as they delight for the full day -- through most of the night.

A few highlights:

* CAB CALLOWAY in "Hi De Ho," from 1937.
* THE INGENUES, an all-women band, from 1928, in "The Band Beautiful."
* HARRY RESER & HIS ESKIMOS with vocals by THE MODERNAIRES and tap dance accompaniment by the THREE YATES SISTERS, from 1936.
* MILLS BLUE RHYTHM BAND in a medley from 1933.
* BABE RUTH in a music short(!) from 1936, titled, "Home Run on the Keys."
* "Truble in Toyland" from 1935, which features "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "The Good Ship Lillipop."
* "An All-Colored Vaudeville Show" from 1935 with the tap-dancing NICHOLAS BROTHERS, acrobat troupe THE 3 WHIPPETS, singers ADELAIDE HALL and EUNICE WILSON, and music combo THE FIVE RACKETEERS.
* "Rambling Round Radio Row 4" with the FOUR LOMBARDO BROTHERS from 1932.
* "Smash Your Baggage," a comedic music short with Redcaps performing in a train station from 1932.
* "All Star Vaudeville" with everything but the dogs and ponies from 1935.
* "Voice that Thrilled the World," one of the earliest music documentaries, about the impact of "The Jazz Singer." (It's scheduled to run just ahead of the movie.)
* "The Jazz Singer," the 1927 feature film with AL JOLSON that brought the revolution.
* "Will Hayes -- Intro to Vitaphone" from 1926, in which the revolution was previewed. It made the public hungry and largely failed to alert studio execs that their silent film blockbusters with ever-larger grandiosity were headed the way of the biggest dinosaurs at the apex of their reign.
* "Don't Get Nervous" from 1929, with a lil' story line about how the singer needs to overcome apprehension about performing on camera and being recorded.
* "THE BEAU BRUMMELS" a 1928 short of the duo doing parody songs with jokes thrown-in. (It may have been the first-ever short capturing the parody song genre.)
* "BABY ROSE MARIE: THE CHILD SINGER" from 1929 is the actress from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" as a little girl. She sings three songs.
* "The Cowboy and the Girl" from 1928, with songs performed by RAY MAYER and EDITH EVANS.
* "My Bag O' Trix" from 1929 with vaudeville star TRIXIE FRIGANZA comedically singing and playing bass fiddle.
* "HAZEL GREEN & COMPANY" from 1928, with the tap dancer and the VITAPHONE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.
* "Lambchops" with GEORGE BURNS and GRACIE ALLEN in a 9-minute musical-comedy short from 1929.
* "FOY FAMILY: Chips Off the Old Block" from 1928.
* "Sharps and Flats" from 1928.
* "THE REVELERS" from 1927 singing three songs.
* "Born and Lawrence, the Country: from 1928, with JACK BORN and ELMER LAWRENCE.
* "CHAZ CHASE the Unique Comedian" from 1927, in which he eats a ukulele.
* "I Thank You" from 1928 with EDDIE WHITE singing 4 songs that include "My Mammy."
* "Why Be Good?" a 1929 musical comedy, is the only other feature-length film before 3 am.
* "DICK RICH & HIS SYNCHO SYMP." from 1928 includes "St. Louis Blues."
* "You Don't Know the Half of It" from 1929 with musical comedy by ANN BUTLER and JAY BRENNAN.
* "A Breath of Broadway" from 1928 with JACK WALDRON.
* "Ship Ahoy" from 1928, with a singing-and-dancing sailor.
* "HARRY FOX AND HIS SIX AMERICANS" from 1929. Ever wonder who the guy is (was) that you need to pay (The Harry Fox Agency) to record a cover of 'purt near anybody else's song?
* "Show Girl in Hollywood" from 1930 brings a vintage slice of movieland life with ALICE WHITE as the chorus girl who wins fame singing in the talkies.
* "HARRY WAXMAN'S DEBUTANTES" from 1928 is four songs in ten minutes by the all-female orchestra.
* "Going Places" from 1930 about two hoboes (in the first year of the Depression) who sneak into a restaurant.
* "TAJ HENRY and His North" from 1929.
* "Two Good Boys Gone Wrong" from 1929 with singers HARRY JANS and HAROLD WHALEN.
* "A Cycle of Songs" from 1928 with FLORENCE BRADY doing 3 songs in 18 minutes.
* The 3 am end cavalcade of the original and classic music shorts comes with the screening of a silent film classic -- "Don Juan," the 1926 blockbuster with JOHN BARRYMORE and MARY ASTOR.

No, we won't be getting any sleep tonight, either. But we still thank Turner Classic Movies for putting this whole thing together.

And if you can't watch all these shorts when they're broadcast? Some cable services offer a view-on-demand service of what's broadcast for a week or so following air dates. And as we said already, our listings here will help you identify the best of this nearly forgotten genre, so you can make your own list and track them, one-by-one, down at your leisure.

Any way you play it, we hope you enjoy it. This really is special stuff.


More soon.



Boilerplate? Where's the main pressure gauge? And the firebox?

What "boilerplate"? Who came up with that goofy term for the basic essential informational stuff...

Pssst — Hey, kid. Yeah, YOU: It won't be so "basic" when we add all the links for the global network of music news / music education sites that we're joining; THAT'LL be here very soon, as an ESSENTIAL COMPONENT of the Guide returning to being a MUSIC NEWS journal!

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Lawrence Wines & Tied to the Tracks.
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♪ The ACOUSTIC AMERICANA MUSIC GUIDE endeavors to bring you NEWS — and views of interest to artists everywhere — more specifically to musicians and the creative community and music makers and fans of acoustic and Folk-Americana music. That includes both traditional and innovative forms. From the deepest roots to today’s acoustic renaissance, that’s our beat. We provide a wealth of resources, including a HUGE catalog of acoustic-friendly venues (now undergoing a major update), and inside info on FESTIVALS and select performances in Southern California in venues from the monumentally large to the intimately small and cozy. We cover workshops, conferences, and other events for artists and folks in the music industry, and all kinds o’ things in the world of acoustic and Americana and accessible classical music. From washtub bass to musical spoons to oboe to viola to banjo to squeezebox, from Djangostyle to new-fangled-old-time string band music, from sweet Cajun fiddle to bluegrass and pre-bluegrass Appalachian mountain music to all the swamp water roots of the blues and the bright lights of where the music is headed now.
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