The Cats and the Fiddle are one of the all-time great vocal harmony groups. Founded in the wake of the success of groups like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, the Cats and the Fiddle performed as a string band, using a unique lineup of instruments to accompany the smooth vocals.

As you can see in this hyper-energetic clip touting the powers of a certain leafy green, “Killin’ Jive,” the group could put on a show as well as they could sing. In this 1938 clip from the film The Duke Is Tops, one of the group’s first songs, Jimmy Henderson used a Martin tiple (10-string cousin of the ukulele), Ernie Price looks to be using a Martin tenor ukulele, Austin Powell on tenor guitar, and Chuck Barksdale on standup bass.

The quartet adds some exciting shtick to the fantastic music. Dig how they crowd bassist Barksdale during his solo, break it down real quiet, then bring the swing back. A really dynamic performance.

They most definitely do not make music like they used to.

The film that this clip appeared in, The Duke Is Tops, is now in the public domain and the entire film is available here.  The Cats & The Fiddle start up at 46:30.

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