Bing Crosby welcomes in the era of a new kind of music in Birth of the Blues. As a child, Jeff Lambert (Crosby) hangs out in New Orleans' Basin Street, playing hot swing on his clarinet instead of the classics his father prefers. He's inspired by an African-American group there and, some years later, sets out to form a jazz band of his own. With cornetist Memphis (Brian Donlevy), singer Betty Lou Cobb (Mary Martin) and trombonist Jack Teagarden (of the Original Dixieland Jazz Group, after which the story is patterned), he's on his way. A veritable history of jazz follows as a half a century of popular hits is given spectacular treatment showcasing songs such as "By the Light of the Silvery Moon", "St. Louis Blues" and "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie".