Fine Tooth Comb by Jim Boston | Script Revolution

Fine Tooth Comb

Inspired by a videotape, a teenager in 1994 Davenport, IA forms her own band with the hopes of playing at the local Dixieland jamboree, the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival.



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It's October 29, 1994...the Saturday before Halloween.

At home in Davenport, Iowa, 15-year-old SHAUNDRA HAYES gives herself a treat by watching a VCR tape of highlights from the city's annual Dixieland celebration, the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival. It isn't long before this tactful young New Orleans native breaks out her trumpet and plays to the music...and attracts her father MARSHALL and mother DARLENE, husband-and-wife insurance agents.

When Shaundra declares she'd like to "git up on that stage at LeClaire Park and play like that," Darlene asks: "What's stoppin' you?"

Shaundra runs with the idea when she invites 16-year-old best buddy and church pianist MICHELLE LITTLEFIELD, who plays at her pastor father LARRY'S Cork Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church, to become the first member of Shaundra's new Dixieland band.

The otherwise-bashful Michelle gives it a "yes."

But the following Monday, when Michelle takes the idea to fellow North High School student KELLEY WAKELEY and Shaundra follows suit at her own school, West High, the whole thing goes over like a falling pumpkin...right down to the teasing by some of Shaundra's CLASSMATES.

So Shaundra places an ad in the "Quad-City Times" and sets up auditions and times. The auditions prove fruitless until a couple of latecomers click with Shaundra and Michelle: Banjo-playing 15-year-old CYNDY VAN ALSTYNE, a shooting guard on West High's girls' basketball team; and trombonist LYNNE PASQUARIELLO, an adventurous 14-year-old girl who attends Central High School.

When another tryout session yields no newcomers, Lynne and sarcastic, wishy-washy Cyndy drop out...with Cyndy telling Shaundra: "Call me back when you get some more people."

While the Hayeses shop at a supermarket, Darlene pitches to Shaundra the idea of auditioning...younger candidates: "Hey, it worked for the Jacksons, huh?"

Two 13-year-old Young Junior High School students answer the bell: Best buddies POLLYANNA CONLEY and SUSAN analytical drummer and a friendly-yet-competitive bassist, respectively. When Susan and Pollyanna prove to be a musical force, Cyndy and Lynne come back to the band...a band that goes on to include a studious, people-loving 10-year-old named HEIDI NEUHAUS.

With Heidi providing a poison-mean saxophone, Shaundra's band is now complete.


The following Sunday after Heidi's arrival, 12-year-old MISSY WAITES waits outside the Hayeses' house after church...and talks her way into auditioning with Shaundra's band.

Result: Cocky, brassy multiinstrumentalist Missy becomes the band's clarinetist...and proves to be a revelation.

Once 1995 gets under way and the band rehearses as an octet, the young Dixielanders name their outfit Fine Tooth Comb, after a line in "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey." That February, the band debuts during a meeting of the local chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society...and brings the house down while making Missy's organist parents, ALLEN and DONNA, who run the local organ club, proud.

A month later, after Fine Tooth Comb performs at Good Times Pizza, Shaundra gets the long-awaited call from the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society.

When Shaundra tells her fellow Combers Bix '95 is a no-go for the band, she tries to encourage her devastated bandmates to "git sharp so we can git 'em to want us in '96." And Susan challenges Michelle, Lynne, Pollyanna, Missy, Heidi, and a wanting-to-quit-again Cyndy to find the group other places to play.

FTC lands a rousing gig at Cork Hill AME's jubilee, then later that week, the band celebrates by going to Good Times Pizza to watch the Spartans, Shaundra's favorite Dixieland band and fixtures at the Bix Festival, play. But the young musicians are staggered to learn that the Detroit-based outfit died in a plane crash in Chicago en route to the Quad Cities.

Missy saves the night by talking her fellow Dixielanders into playing the pizzeria gig meant for the Spartans. And it works out nicely.

Still, that July, Shaundra's the only Fine Tooth Comber digging the music at the Bix Fest. Lynne and Susan, meanwhile, take part in the festival's seven-mile run. But when the Bix Society's VANCE KESTENBAUM approaches Shaundra with the opportunity of Fine Tooth Comb replacing the Spartans in the 1995 Bix lineup, the surprised bandleader rounds up the other seven members...and the young Dixielanders wow the audience and create "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight."

Submitted: October 12, 2019
Last Updated: October 9, 2021

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The Writer: Jim Boston

I first got interested in screenwriting as a college student in 1979 (Iowa State University); an additional impetus was the paperback version of the "American Graffiti" screenplay. From 1980 to 1994, I pursued screenwriting with a vengeance...but other things happened in my life. Since 2016, I've been back chasing the dream...and it's only because I inherited a Power Mac from one of the codirectors (Nick Holle) of a documentary I was in: "The Entertainers," about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival. (Nick received the computer from the husband-and-wife couple who helped produce the film, Brent and Jackie Watkins.) The Power Mac has a copy of Final Draft 6... Go to bio

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