A Couple of Sweet Bands
Most of the big bands were influenced by jazz, but there were holdouts. The Knott’s record collection has a few examples. Guy Lombardo and Freddy Martin both had what were known as ‘sweet bands.’ Lombardo’s tag line was “the sweetest music this side of Heaven.”
Here Lombardo’s band features twin pianos on Zev Comfrey’s “Stumbling”:
Guy Lombardo may be forgotten, but one of his performances can still be heard once a year. His band performed “Auld Lang Syne” on the first coast-to-coast radio New Year’s Eve party in 1929. The performance became a tradition, and will no doubt be heard when the ball drops in Times Square later this year.
Freddy Martin, known as “Mr. Silvertone”, was a fixture on the hotel music scene in the thirties and forties. He was known for adapting classical works into dance numbers. Here his band performs “Piano Concerto in B Flat” by Tchaikovsky as a foxtrot: https://archive.org/details/78_piano-concerto-in-b-flat_freddy-martin-and-his-orch-tschaikowsky-ray-austin_gbia0186567b The original recording from 1941 was popular enough that lyrics were written for it. When re-released with words in 1946 as “Tonight We Love”, it earned a gold record for selling a million copies!
Freddy Martin seems to have had a sense of humor. In 1947, under the pseudonym Felix Figueroa, he recorded “Pico and Sepulveda”. Pico and Sepulveda is an intersection in Los Angeles. The lyrics consist almost entirely of street names strung together. The recording was rediscovered in the 1970s and became the opening theme to the Dr. Demento show. Later, in 1982, it was used again as the soundtrack of the cult film Forbidden Zone. It’s worth a listen:
It’s not exactly sweet dance music, but Freddy Martin and Felix Figueroa would be proud.
Freddy Martin (1941)
B: “Piano Concerto in B Flat”