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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A-Coco-Wika-No, A-Coco-Wika-Shay: The Chimes and Zindy Lou

I should include a warning that listening to "Zindy Lou," may cause an uncontrollable urge to repeat the phrase, a-coco-wika-no, a-coco-wika-shay for an indeterminate length of time.

"You can always trust a vocal group with a guy named 'Pookie' in it, and The Chimes are no exception." ~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Women's Names"

It's difficult to locate much information on The Chimes, not least because there were several other groups called The Chimes around the mid-`50s, plus the personnel who made up The Chimes - Charles Jackson, David Cobb, Pookie Whooten and John Talbert - played it fast and loose on whatever they were calling themselves on any given day, as they specialized in backing vocals for other singers when they were with Specialty Records. "The Champs," is what they were called when they backed Tony Allen on his first hit, "Nite Owl."  Reports have it that they also released one single on the Jade label as the El Reyes. Three of the four Chimes would go on to form The Lions in 19 and 60, and later reformed as The Resonics.

A song with an irresistible hook, "Zindy Lou" was written by Eddie Smith and Johnnie Moore and released on the Specialty label in September 19 and 55 as the B-side to another Chimes' song worth searching out,, "Tears On My Pillow."

Friday, July 24, 2009

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: July 24 19 and 59 - The Kitchen Debate

Says Mr. K., "The Soviets will overtake America and then wave, 'Bye-bye'."

You never know what's going to become grist for the Dreamtime Theme Time Radio Hour mill.  Coincidentally, today is the 50th anniversary of the great kitchen debate between Nixon and Khrushchev, which Our Host mentioned during the "California" show and we blogged about in great detail a week or so ago.

The argument inside the model home which gave the kitchen debate its name was not captured on tape, but above a clip from a news conference on the same day shortly after the two had locked horns. In fact, the "kitchen debate" was an ongoing series of impromptu exchanges between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, on July 24, 19 and 59. Clips of the kitchen debate were aired on American T.V. the next day, July 25th, angering the Soviets, who thought they had an agreement with Nixon that the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. would broadcast the debate simultaneously. Two days later, the debate was released on Moscow television.

You'll hear a reference to the "American Ampex color video tape recorders" in the clip, which is what captured this last portion of the kitchen debate.  Although the newsreel is in black-and-white, you can see a small clip of the color recording - and a very nattily dressed K. - here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Gene says, 'You can swing, you better come with us." ~ Anita O'Day

"This is the story about a woman who wanted to be a jazz singer, and refused to let anything stop her. It's the story of Miss Anita O'Day. We can hear most of you say, 'Anita who?"" ~ Harry Reasoner, 60 Minutes, 1983.

"Gene says, 'You can swing, you better come with us." ~ Anita O'Day

I'm not sure who the hell would say, "Anita who?"  Certainly nobody I would know or love, or would want to know or love for that matter.

The 2007 documentary Anita O'Day - The Life of a Jazz Singer is finally available on DVD.  If you have any love at all for the lady whose autobiography - High Times, Hard Times -  Mr. D. recommended not once, not twice, but three times on Theme Time Radio Hour, you'll want The Life of a Jazz Singer.

You'll want that autobiography, too, if you haven't read it.  Since I'm on a recommendation kick, you also want Jazz on a Summer's Day, another indispensable documentary about the 19 and 58 Newport Jazz Festival where, looking like she had just arrived from a lawnside cocktail party, Anita's take on  "Sweet Georgia Brown" is one of the finest performances ever captured in jazz.

As High Times, Hard Times relates, Anita O'Day's life was a jazz life. She lived hard, worked hard, loved not wisely, fought addictions, was often broke, and occasionally had too much money for her own good. As Roger Ebert noted in his review of Life of a Jazz Singer, as remarkable as O'Day's life was (she passed away at age 87 in 2006, shortly after her last interview for the documentary), more remarkable was the fact that she survived it.

One of the reasons that Our Host might admire Anita O'Day, is, like him and like Frank Sinatra, she was a serious musician who spent a lot of time thinking about the mechanics of music. "I had very little tone," she mentions in both autobiography and documentary. "when Al {Lyons] asked me why I didn't have a uvula, I thought he was talking dirty." Turns out a careless doctor had sliced off her uvula during a tonsillectomy when O'Day was seven, and she had to figure out a workaround when she found she couldn't do "proper" jazz phrasing... even though she didn't know why.

But she learned.

Bob Dylan played Anita O'Day six different times over the three seasons of Theme Time Radio Hour, including "Ten Cents a Dance" in the "Dance" episode, "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine," in the "Tears" show,  "Let Me Off Uptown" ("New York"), "Johnny One Note" ("Number One"), "Skylark" ("More Birds"), and "I Can't Get Started" ("Beginnings, Middles, and Ends"). Obviously, he knows something.  Go take a look at Anita O'Day - The Life of a Jazz Singer to find out what.

Friday, July 17, 2009

K's Shoe Redux

Dreamtime's already received some interesting emails on our K Blows Top! post of Wednesday, including a nice note from author Peter Carlson, who wrote the book that inspired our title and article, the original (and highly recommended) K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist. Mr. Carlson writes the he's "a big fan of Dylan and his radio show" and goes on to say about the controversy over whether the shoe-banging actually happened or not...

"... it was reported in newspapers the next day by people who did see it and then K admitted in his memoirs... [But] it has become a mythic event and so it's not surprising that people deny that it happened."

We also received a lengthy and fascinating email from a correspondent who writes that he was the T.V. Director at the U.N. at the time...
"...The U.N. TV signal was fed to closed circuit monitors within the International facility, to a pool of outside subscribers, as well as an in-house instant kinescope setup, supervised by a kinescope director. From what I have been able to determine, the kinescope cameras were not rolling when the shoe incident took place...

...CBS- (or WCBS) News had nevertheless booked a daylong feed and their VTR machine(s) recorded Mr. K's parliamentary transgression. That very evening, sitting at home, I watched a Special Event broadcast on Channel 2, WCBS-TV, wherein the shoe banging was repeated several times, almost ad nauseam
Our correspondent goes on to note that as we recorded in our post and as Peter Carlson writes in K Blows Top, all visual evidence of Khrushchev's shoe-banging - including that WCBS tape - seems to have been lost. To avoid confusion and emails , I'll again point out that the image above, which circulates on the Web as a still from the incident, is a Photoshopped fake.

Finally, our correspondent provides a correction to an error: "You report that 'Many in the Soviet delegation were embarrassed, although they all dutifully banged their shoes along with their Premier'. That is incorrect. They – and other Iron Curtain-country delegates did however bang their fists in unison w/ Mr. K. But that was during the Harold Macmillan and Dag Hammarskjold incidents, earlier in the session."

Never know what you'll get when you do a Dreamtime post. As always, I appreciate the emails, comments, and corrections. It's what makes Dreamtime a joy to write.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

K Blows Top!

"To me, the first lesson of being subversive is, don't tell people you're being subversive." ~ Eddie Gorodetsky, The Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2000.

"I've always believed that the first rule of being subversive is not to let anybody know you're being subversive." ~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Trains (Part 1)," March 14, 2007


Our Host: Oh, we have a first-time caller. Am I supposed to pick up Line 1?

Lamont: Hi Bob!

Our Host: Hello, caller. What's your name?

Lamont: My name is Lamont Dween.

Our Host: Where ya calling from, Lamont?

Lamont: I'm calling from Silver Lake, California.

Our Host: Well, that's good. We're doing our California show today.

Lamont: I know you are, I've been listening.

Our Host: Uh-huh.

Lamont: I got a question and I got a request. I was wondering if you could play "Whittier Boulevard" by Thee Midniters?*

Our Host: We're going to look for that record for you. What's your question?

Lamont: Isn't there a famous Nikita Khrushchev quote about automobiles from the Cold War?

Our Host: Why, yes there is, Lamont. I believe it was in 19 and 56, during the famous kitchen debates. Nikita Khrushchev was speaking to Nixon and he said to him,

"Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will strangle your cities with traffic. We'll draw you into fighting useless wars. We'll send in developers to ravage your land and replace your individual farms with corporations. We will force your citizens into the slavery of credit card debt. We'll send gangsters into your schools to sell your children drugs. We'll replace each of your meals with empty junk food. One way or another, you'll see who comes out on top."

Our Host: Thanks for your call Lamont, and keep listening.

Our Host: Well, it wasn't any empty threat at all, almost a quarter of the land mass in Los Angeles is taken up by auto-mo-biles. This one's for you, Lamont...
[Musical Interlude - "Whittier Blvd." - Thee Midniters]

* Lest anyone think I've gone typo-blind, Thee Midniters did spell the article preceding their name with an extra "E." This was not because they were especially religious or old-fashioned, but because they were wary about having their asses sued off by another band frequently mentioned on Theme Time, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. According to Wikipedia, the conceit started a minor craze of similar misspellings among East L.A. bands, including Eddie Serrano and Thee Enchantments, Thee Headcoats, and Thee Hypnotics.

[Later in the show]

Our Host: Tex is holding up a sign. Got a caller on Line 2. He says it's Lamont? But I think we already talked to Lamont. Lamont, is that you?

Lamont: Yeah, it's me again, Lamont. Thanks for playing "Whittier Boulevard" for me.

Our Host: You're welcome.

Lamont: Boy, it's rilllly heavy what Khrushchev said.

Our Host: Yeah, wasn't it?

Lamont: I can't believe they don't teach that side of the Cold War at school.

Our Host: Well, that's the educational system at work.

Lamont: Did anyone record what Nixon's reaction was?

Our Host: You bet they did. Nixon took a step back, took a deep breath, looked Khrushchev straight in the eye with the power of millions of citizens behind him and said,

"Oh no, you won't."

Our Host: The two squared off, neither willing to give an inch. According to reports, someone banged their shoe on the table, but it's unclear which of the two.

Lamont: Wow! It's like you always say Bob, the show is not only entertaining but informational.

Our Host: Well, we try, Lamont.

Lamont: Thanks again, Bob. Keep rockin' in the free world!

Our Host: All right. ~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "California," October 10, 2007


K Blows Top!

I recently finished Peter Carlson's wonderful book about Nikita Khrushchev's bizarro road trip across the United States in 19 and 59, K Blows Top. Whether you lived through that era or not, I highly recommend K Blows Top as a delightful history of a time that seems to get both stranger and more familiar as it recedes away from us.

During the height of the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev wrangled an invitation to visit the U.S. from an unenthusiastic Dwight D. Eisenhower. Taking a two-week jaunt across the country, the Mighty K. insulted and was insulted by a variety of local pols, hobnobbed with Hollywood luminaries including Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, visited farms and auto plants, and shook hands and kissed babies as if he were running for President himself. He was also barred from Disneyland, and sometimes threatened to start an atomic war when he was tired or in a bad mood.

The closest equivalent today would be if North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il suddenly appeared in New York City and set off on a whistle stop tour of America, sampling corn dogs and having a brew at the local watering hole with the boys while holding the occasional news conference to point out that he had rockets capable of hitting California and might just use them.

Washing Machines, Da! Rockets, Nyet!

K Blows Top reminded me of Our Host's equally surreal recounting of the kitchen debate during the "California" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour, a history lesson which I doubt was taught in either the Rhode Island or Minnesota school systems to producer Eddie G. or deejay, Mr. D.

For those not familiar with the background, there was indeed a kitchen debate between the two which took place three years later than Our Host stated, in 19 and 59, in a "typical American tract house" set up for a trade fair in Moscow. During the pair's tour, Nixon led Khrushchev into the model house's kitchen, extolling the benefits of its modern appliances. An unimpressed Nikki K. replied "We have such things" and, typical for the Soviet leader, decided to take Nixon's remarks as a grave insult to the Soviet people as a whole.

The two squared off on Communism versus Capitalism for several more minutes, covering everything from who built the better washing machines (point to the U.S.) to rocketry (point to the U.S.S.R,, which had recently hit the moon with an unmanned rocket. Ours, in contrast, kept blowing up), to who was making ultimatums to whom (point to no one since both sides were).

There was no discussion of the Soviets drowning our cities in consumer goods or credit card debt.

However, Nikki the K. did (kind of) make the "history is on our side" remark during a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow on November 18, 19 and 56. The actual quote reads: "Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in." which was translated by Western reporters who knew how to write a good lead into, "We will bury you!" ("Мы вас похороним!")

Khrushchev always claimed the translation had been mangled, once relating that he had meant that America's working class would bury capitalism, another time saying that he had been referring to a Marxist joke, "a capitalist would sell the shovel to dig his own grave." But "We will bury you!" is the quote the Chairman is remembered for.

Banging of the Shoe

Khrushchev is also remembered for his "banging of the shoe" which Our Host obliquely refers to in his second conversation with Lamont. The incident - or maybe "performance" would be the better term - didn't happen in either 1956 or `59, but in October 19 and 60, and didn't involve Richard Nixon but instead the full General Assembly of the U.N.

A pugnacious K., inflamed by the Gary Powers' U-2 affair and wanting to impress Third World nations with the U.S.S.R.'s commitment to stand up against that ol' debbil imperialistic America and its running dog lackeys, flipped out when a Filipino delegate suggested that maybe the Soviets, for all their fuming about imperialistic colonialists could themselves be considered "the greatest colonial power in the world." And howza 'bout that Hungary and Czechoslavkia, anyhoo, Nikki? How do you like dem apples, huh?

Reaction: K. blows top.

"Enraged, Khrushchev jumped up again, his face beet red," Peter Carlson relates in K Blows Top. "He had something in his hand and he waved it like a club. It was his right shoe, a tan loafer. For a moment, Washington Post reporter Murrey Marder thought Khrushchev was going to throw it at the podium. But he didn't. Instead, the premier sat down and began banging the shoe on his desk. His first blows were mere taps, but then he pounded harder and harder, louder and louder. Soon the other delegates were turning around, craning their necks to see who was making such a racket."

Khrushchev never explained what had inspired him to bang the shoe, but it became a signature gesture, forever after to be associated with Nikki the K. Many in the Soviet delegation were embarrassed, although they all dutifully banged their shoes along with their Premier. The U.N. was officially outraged. The media was alternately amused and frightened in their reports, given that this, this, this seeming buffoon prone to throwing temper tantrums also had a nuclear arsenal at his disposal.

As Carlson notes, "...the phrase 'Khrushchev banging his shoe' conjures up such a vivid mental image that many Americans believe they watched the event on television." I'm one of those Americans. Even though I was only eight years old at the time, I can close my eyes and see Khrushchev - in fuzzy black-and-white - slamming that shoe on the table. What I'm actually seeing is a fantasy image, maybe brought on by the dread of being fried to a radioactive krispy kritter at the tender age of eight by this guy who looked like somebody's grandfather.

Carlson goes on to point out that not only was there no video of the banging of the shoe, there's not even a still photo of the banging. (the photo above, which circulates on the Web as from Look magazine, is a Photoshopped fake). The closest thing we have to a photo of the shoe banging is a UPI picture of the shoe quietly sitting in front of Khrushchev's U.N. nameplate.

There's some controversy about whether there even was a shoe-banging incident. In a 2003 editorial in The New York Times, William Taubman expresses doubt that it ever happened. "According to [a Times reporter], Taubman writes, "Khrushchev leaned over, took off a slip-on shoe, waved it pseudomenacingly, and put it on his desk, but he never banged his shoe." And a photographer from Life, who was covering Khushchev's visit, notes, "...I can assure you that every camera in the booth was trained on Khrushchev, waiting for him to use the shoe. He only put it on again and left. None of us missed the picture — which would have been a serious professional error. The event never occurred."

Shoe-banging or no shoe-banging? Proof is lost in the mists of history.

Speaking of the the mists of history, just what did Eddie Gorodetsky and Bob Dylan mean by their fractured retelling of the kitchen debate? It wasn't the first or the last whopper Our Host would tell on Theme Time Radio Hour. In various shows he opined that all the presidents except Jimmy Carter were Freemasons, that Alexander Dumas wrote Airport 79 - The Concorde, and made the very debatable claim that Ronald Reagan was a "friend of the black man."

As far as the Krushchev/Nixon alternate world history goes, I think it probably has something to do with the two quotes I used at the beginning of this article, as well as Eddie G.'s fondness for jokes with their punchline in the middle, exemplified by The Aristocrats and The Big Orange Head story.

Or maybe I'm just thinking too much.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Morgus the Magnificent

Our Host: Mac Rebennack is a New Orleans native. He's probably better known as "Dr. John." And on this record from the late Fifties he pays tribute to the local horror movie host that he used to watch, Morgus the Magnificent. He was a quintessential Mad Scientist. He was assisted by his executioner sidekick, Chopsley, and performed well-intentioned experiments that would often go wrong and blow up in his face.

[organ music]

Morgus: Who are these idiots to criticize and can't see my genius to recognize? It was I, Morgus, who performed the first organ transplant! But, being the appendix, they turned down my grant. Hah-hah!

[organ music swells]

Our Host: Here's "Morgus the Magnificent," by Dr. John, the ghoul who steals the show on TV.

~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Halloween" on "Morgus the Magnificent"

A post over at io9 on the many "Creature Feature" hosts that dominated the UHF channels from roughly the late `50s to around the early `80s got me thinking about one of the most infamous of the crew - at least in the New Orleans market - "Morgus the Magnificent," created and portrayed by New Orleans actor Sid Noel.

Under a variety of names, "Creature Features" were blocks of horror movie -- usually B or even lower-quality - programming shown on local television stations. Around the mid-1950, Hollywood realized that they were sitting on a treasure trove of retired films from the `30s and `40s that were doing nothing except turning to mush in their vaults. So they licensed the broadcast rights to local TV markets who needed something to fill late-night slots, and, in stroke of genius, only sold the films as a package. Want Frankenstein? Then you were going to get Curse of the Zombie Woman too, buddy.

Vampira essentially started the horror host genre in 1954 in Los Angeles, creating the model that ghouls from Zacherley, through Morgus, to Mistress of the Dark, Elvira would copy. Spooky garb, cheesy sets, bad jokes... even worse movies.

Outside of his other accomplishments, Morgus is noteworthy for being the first horror host to get his own film, 19 and 62's The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus, beating out Elvira by some 25-odd years, as well as being the first to be saluted by a rock-'n-roll number. 19 and 59's "Morgus the Magnificent" on the Vin label was credited to Morgus and the Three Ghouls, the "Three Ghouls" not only including Mac Rebennack (a.k.a. "Dr. John"), but also Frankie Ford and Jerry Bryne, backed by The Huey Smith Band. While he did mention the Mac Rebennack connection, Our Host missed the opportunity to note that of the other two ghouls Ford - "The New Orleans Dynamo" - would later have a mega-hit with "Sea Cruise," covering Huey Smith's original, and Jerry Bryne, Mac Rebennack's cousin, already had a hit under his belt with the 1958 rocker, "Light's Out." While Morgus is named as the leader and lead singer of the Three Ghouls, Sid Noel had nothing to do with the single outside of lending his name. "Morgus" on the recording is actually the voice of Frankie Ford.

The real "Morgus the Magnificent," Sid Noel, did go into the recording studio once, in 19 and 56, when he covered a popular novelty number, "The Flying Saucer." "Flying Saucer" was the first of a short-lived AM Radio record craze of the `50s, the so-called "break-in" record, which featured an interviewer asking questions with the responses being clips from popular songs of the day from performers such as Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard.

"What did you think when you first saw the flying saucer?"

"Good golly, Miss Molly!"

As one might guess, the attraction of break-ins quickly waned, as many of the musicians' labels sued about the unauthorized use of their music. Sid Noel got around that problem by hiring a local band, The Hawks, who did their own version of the original numbers. In their interest of completeness, here's Dickie Goodman's and Bill Buchanan's original "The Flying Saucer" Parts 1 and 2.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Someone Ought to Wave the Flag - George M Cohan and Bob Dylan

Above a <1-minute audio clip of Bob Dylan and the Cowboy Band playing a snippet from George M. Cohan's Yankee Doodle Boy (more popularly known as Yankee Doodle Dandy) yesterday, July 4, in the Year of Our Lord 2000 and 9, which I will suspect will be grist for a blog post by our friend over at RightWingBob.

And below, a fascinating, if politically incorrect, 9-minute clip from the little-known The Phantom President of 19 and 32. What makes this film especially unique is that it features the original song-and-dance man and Yankee Doodle Boy born on the 4th of July - George M. Cohan - who was trying to move from a sagging theater career into film with The Phantom President.

Watch Cohan's blackface routine in this clip and it's easy to see where Jimmy Cagney got his spot-on phrasing and moves for Yankee Doodle Dandy, the movie.

Cohan would make but one more movie in 1934 (Gambling), that - like Phantom President - would meet with indifferent public reaction. He'd return to Broadway and revive his career in his last successful show, the Rodgers & Hart hit of 19 and 37, I'd Rather be Right, where he'd play a dancing FDR. Yankee Doodle Dandy, the movie, by the way, re-creates a scene from I'd Rather be Right in its opening sequence.

Stick around through the entire 9-minute clip, and you'll also catch appearances by Jimmy Durante and Sidney Toler. Toler is probably best-known for playing the lead in the equally politically incorrect Charlie Chan series. An entire generation has grown up without knowing anything about Jimmy Durante, which is their loss. The Ol' Schnozzola was a Runyonesque one-of-a-kind who for a period of time was one of the most popular performers in the U.S. I'm old enough to remember his TV show, and was always delighted as a kid when an old movie would air on one of the UHF stations and feature Durante. These days you'll still occasionally see/hear a Durante cartoon impersonation on The Simpsons or Family Guy, although I suspect most of the audience doesn't have a clue that it even is an impersonation.

Outside of not being that good - Cohan plays a surprisingly unsympathetic character - one of the reasons that The Phantom President is seldom seen anymore is the blackface, of course. As regular readers of Dreamtime know, I'm fascinated by the medicine and minstrel show genres, which have a history stretching from the 19th century to Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Blackface routines in movies of the `30s and `40s, and even somewhat unbelievably into the `50s, were more common than you might expect.

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would appear in blackface in 1939's Babes in Arms and 19 and 41's Babes on Broadway. Jimmy Stewart in 1939 for It's a Wonderful World. Shirley Temple in 1935's The Littlest Rebel. Fred Astaire put on the cork in 1936's Swing Time. Bing Crosby appeared in blackface in 1942's Holiday Inn, the precursor to the better-known White Christmas, released in 1954, and which also included a minstrel show number, but which, happily, was not done in blackface. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin donned blackface for the original Ocean's 11, released in 19 and 60. The Black and White Minstrel Show was a popular British television series with a 20-year run into the `70s that presented traditional American "Deep South" songs - often performed in blackface.

Among Jefferson Airplane fans there's a story that Grace Slick deliberately put on blackface in 1968 for a Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour appearance, fueled by the fact that Slick closed her performance with the Black Power salute, and occasionally appeared on stage wearing a Hitler mustache. But video of the Smothers Brothers segment shows Slick looking more like she had had a very bad session at the tanning salon rather than doing a deliberate blackface turn. Slick later noted in an interview that the makeup hadn't meant to be political, more of a statement antithetical to her white-bread appearance after she had been given unsupervised access to the makeup table, but she did regret not doing the full "Al Jolson with the lips."

For obvious reasons most of the films I noted above aren't broadcast widely anymore. You can occasionally find a bootleg edition of The Phantom President on eBay. If you share my fascination in the old time minstrel shows and the very strange - and very racially insensitive, it should be noted - art of blackface, you may also be interested in a film I've mentioned before: Yes Sir, Mr. Bones, a 54-minute movie from 19 and 51, which contains the only known footage of the legendary blackface singer and comedian Emmett Miller in action.

The movie is available as 1/2 of Showtime USA, a DVD that also contains Square Dance Jubilee, featuring Spade Cooley. As a commenter noted on the Amazon page, Yes Sir, Mr. Bones is probably as close as we're likely to get to a reconstruction of an actual minstrel show, from the opening "end man" comedy routines, featuring Miller, to the "olio" including sentimental ballads performed by an "Irish Thrush," to an amazing softshoe on sand routine, to the closing burlesque numbers. The movie supposedly takes place in a show biz retirement home; a young boy wanders in and the residents - thanks to the magic of imagination - recreate a minstrel show.

If you're offended by blackface material - some of it very crude, by the way - you don't want to watch Yes Sir, Mr. Bones, as one of the audio commentaries puts it right at the beginning. If you're interested in it as a historical document - especially of Emmett Miller - you do.