Born and raised in an Italian-American neighborhood in South Philadelphia, Guiseppe [Joe] Venuti (1903-1978) met guitarist Eddie Lang when he was ten years old. The two soon became fast friends and musical collaborators. After falling in love with jazz, Venuti and Lang started a band while in high school, and pioneered the use of the violin and guitar as jazz instruments while playing in the clubs and dance halls of Philadelphia.
"In addition to being the first great jazz violinist, Joe Venuti was something of a prankster. In perhaps his most famous prank, Venuti called twenty-six tuba players in Hollywood and told them he had a gig lined up. There was no gig. (Tommy Dorsey said 37 to meet at Hollywood and Vine) He just wanted to see what would happen when they all arrived at the same time. Unfortunately, for Venuti, the musician's union made him pay compensation to each musician who showed up for the event. Venuti was also famous for having pushed a piano out a window, and filling up Bix Biederbecke's bathtub with Jello. What may have started out as one of his pranks became one of his musical innovations. To play chords on the violin, Venuti tied his bow around his instrument to bring it into contact with all four strings, and thus enabled him to play rich chordal passages of music." (from the notes to the second video here)
This is the only live performance by the duo that I can find. Pity it is so short but they look like natty dressers - I love those 'custard cream' jackets!
Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang - Wild Cat (1930) "King Of Jazz" 7:07
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