The Talents Of Horace Heidt

Unlike most of the entertainers I’ve written about, swing-era bandleader Horace Heidt’s talents didn’t depend on his own musical abilities. Although he could play piano, he usually left the keyboard to others. And he was never really known as a composer or arranger, like so many of his contemporaries. But he did have two things going for him. He had the ability to enlist talented young performers in his band, and he knew what the public liked. As a result, for a decade or so beginning in the mid-1930s, his orchestra —  Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights —  was one of the most popular ‘sweet’ bands around.

The California-born Heidt actually began his musical career way back in the 1920s, after an injury knocked him out of his plans to play football. His first band was named the Californians, and managed to slowly build a following in the Berkeley area before eventually widening its fan base by appearing in other locations, including the vaudeville circuit and New York.

By the early 1930s, Heidt and his band — now called the Musical Knights — had worked their way into an appearance at the prestigious Drake Hotel in Chicago. It was there that lightning struck in the form of a radio broadcast that featured a clever promotion — giving a cash prize, live on the air. The Pot O’ Gold radio show became so popular over the next few years that it even generated a 1941 movie of the same name. It starred Paulette Goddard and Jimmy Stewart, who at one point joined in with the guys on harmonica. (Dubbed by Jerry Adler.)

Heidt’s band, featuring talented singers like tenor Larry Cotton, whistler Fred Lowery, the King Sisters, and future movie star Gordon McCrae, along with instrumentalists like Bobby Hackett, Jess Stacey, and Frankie Carle, would have dozens of hit records. Among them were songs like “Gone with the Wind,” “Ti-Pi-Tin,” and “The Man with the Mandolin.” The band also had a big seller with “The Hut-Sut Song,” an addictive tune that would become a sort of symbol of the pre-war culture.

By the close of World War II, the band’s popularity was beginning to wind down and Heidt began spending most of his time tending to his investments, eventually becoming very wealthy. He died in 1986 but a few years back his son, Horace Heidt, Jr., led a band and carried on his musical tradition for a while.

hhcdHorace Heidt & His Musical Knights – “This Must Be Love”

5 thoughts on “The Talents Of Horace Heidt

  1. I want to record a song that is probably called “I’m Breathless” and I can’t find it anywhere! I’ve checked lyric search engines and they always lead me to the HutSut Song which, of course, isn’t it. I remember a lot of the lyrics, but not all… “If I had a dictionary, I would use the customary/Compliments and phrases when I want to sing your praises…” The bridge is: “You take my breath away. My castles are all in a heap. You’ve got me right where I want you. Baby, you walk in my sleep.” I need HELP!!!


  2. If I had a dictionary I would use the customary compliments and phrases when I want to sing your praises but I’m up to here in trouble my adversity is double and to make the matters worse, I’m breathless!

    When I try to be poetic you are never sympathetic as it is I do my best and hope and pray I pass your test but up to now I’m in the soup my heart it does a loop-the-loop on top of all of that, I’m breathless!.

    You take my breath away —my castles are all in a heap. I’ve got you right where you want me — baby, you walk in my sleep.

    I take you for a little walk you wind up doing all the talk you leave me on the porch and then I wind up with the torch for every single time that I’m inclined to tell you what is on my mind, I’m darned if I don’t find, I’m breathless!

    Betty, my 82 year-old-mind came up with those lyrics for “I’m Breathless”. I can’t guarantee that they are all correct but I think they are close. At my age, I can’t even remember what I did yesterday but, for some reason, those words came back to me!


    1. I’M 84 and my sister would be 82, we use to sing that song together, we loved trying to sing it as fast as we could and see who could finish first, quite a tongue twister. As far as the words are concerned Gene, I think you’re pretty close. We always sang “When I take you for a walk, then I’m the guy that likes to talk, I leave you on the porch and then I wind up with a torch, and every single time that I’m inclined to tell you what is on my mind, be darned if I don’t find I’m breathless. My grand children just giggle when I sing it. Thanks for the memories guys and taking me back to 1942.


  3. I hope Betty sees this, Gene. It’s pretty amazing. (Hopefully she triggered the little “notify me” choice you’re given when posting a comment.)


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