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PBS To Air Special About The Roots Of Music Videos

February 14th, 2007 8:30pm EST
SoundiesRare 1940s Music Videos Of Legendary Jazz, Swing, And Big Band Artists Unearthed And Restored In "Soundies: A Musical History"

Before MTV, there were 'Soundies.' First appearing in 1941, these three-minute "music videos" played in famous nightclubs and restaurants everywhere, featuring many of the legendary musicians of that era and of all time. For the price of 10 cents, audiences enjoyed artists such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway all viewed through a special machine called a 'Panoram,' or movie jukebox. Not only were these unique classic film clips precursors to music videos, but they also capture the social history and popular culture of one of the most exciting and influential eras in America. Soundies: A Musical History, Hosted By Michael Feinstein, a delightful collection of these musical treasures, airs as part of the March 2007 pledge drive (check local listings) on PBS.

Hosted by Michael Feinstein, four-time Grammy nominee and one of the premier interpreters of American song, the program also contains interviews with some of America's most famous musical and cultural icons, including Wynton Marsalis, Les Paul, George Duke, Hugh Hefner, and film historian Leonard Maltin.

By the end of World War II, more than 1,800 Soundies had been made. Now, many of the best performances are available, for the first time, on PBS, meticulously restored to pristine quality. This musical compilation of Soundies traces the history of this revolutionary viewing device and how it helped launch the careers of musicians as diverse as Doris Day (who made her first film appearance in a Soundie), Liberace and Nat King Cole. The next time someone mentions MTV as the cultural phenomenon that "invented" music videos, PBS viewers can note that the giants of jazz, big band and swing set the stage some 40 years before with Soundies a genuine musical innovation.

Soundies: A Musical History will be airing in March on PBS; please check your local listings and contact your PBS affiliates for air dates and times.