From Bill Haesler, the Australian jazz scholar, and courtesy of Denis King, I learned that Harry Oakley has posted on YouTube a four-minute selection from the trumpeter Sylvester Ahola’s home movies, taken in the 1920s. They are cheerful sketches of musicians mugging for the camera, and in some cases doing vaudeville bits. But few of young men we see here are identified or perhaps identifiable. I wonder if these faces are known to my readers? (I find it delightfully ironic that there’s a sign for ROOSEVELT FIELD in this selection: it was famous as a Long Island airstrip — remember Charles Lindbergh? — before it became a shopping mall. I’ll drive past it today!)
From Harry: Trumpeter Sylvester Ahola was a keen filmer and began his hobby in the 1920’s when amateur filming was still a novelty. Ahola filmed much that interested him but we have selected the footage which shows a number of his fellow musicians from different bands of which he was a member. Alas, with only a few exceptions, we have been unable to identify these men and we invite everybody to help us find out who they are. Ahola himself can be seen a few times; rowing a boat, with his camera in his hand (obviously filmed by someone else with another camera although it is possible that he owned two), playing his trumpet, doing a short dance and with an elderly couple, probably his parents. In the scenes with the guys in striped jackets we have identified Adrian Rollini and Tommy Felline – both from the California Ramblers of which Ahola was, very briefly, a member. This footage was shot on the roof of the Newark Branford Theater in March 1927. After leaving the California Ramblers Ahola joined Bert Lowe and his Orchestra (not to be confused with Bert Lown), and several members of this band were also filmed. We have added an appropriate soundtrack; a long version of “The Pay Off”, played by the California Ramblers in 1927.