Precisely how Joe Tarto’s tuba became Cliff Edwards’ backing on “My Best Girl” isn’t certain. Barring some unknown corner of twenties pop or avant-garde polka, vocal with tuba accompaniment has never been a very popular format:
Still, it’s easy to believe this partnership developed through the strength of Tarto’s musicianship. His big, dark tone pads all those octaves between him and “Ukulele Ike” without ever overpowering the singer. Things never turn thin or lopsided. The bassist’s steady beat also provides Edwards with a firm footing, which he in turn uses as a springboard as well as a foil for his own vocals and “effin’.” Edwards just sounds better with something solid to push against. Most soloists do. The musicians who play “between the beats” get plenty of attention in jazz history, but they all needed a beat to play between in the first place! Respect the beat, respect the beat makers.