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Band leader Ted Lewis is playing an engagement at a nightclub in San Francisco when he is invited by a colonel to visit a nearby army camp. There, Ted meets a young private who has organized a band and is doing an imitation of Ted singing. Thinking that the boy seems familiar, Ted makes inquiries and learns that he is Frank Stewart, Jr., son of his former vaudeville partner during the starvation days of his career. Ted invites Junior and his sweetheart Ann to be his guests at the nightclub. When he discovers that Junior loves Ann but is afraid of marriage because he fears that he might return from the war an invalid, Ted invites the couple to his apartment and tells them a story which is based on the experiences of Junior's father. Ted changes the names of the participants and recalls that in 1915 on Coney Island, Tom, Jerry and Joe, members of a struggling band, are dividing a meager paycheck. At a Friday night amateur show, singer Kitty O'Riley performs, hoping for a job. When a man in the audience insults her, Tom and Jerry come to her aid and a fight ensues. Inviting Kitty to dinner, they all go to a hamburger stand and there meet Artie, Red and Bob, musicians from New Orleans who play a type of ragtime called "jazz." Deciding to form a group with Kitty as their singer, the musicians move into Mrs. Broadbelt's boardinghouse and begin to look for theatrical bookings. They are met by resistance from booking agents, who claim that the music will not be accepted in the north. Unable to pay the rent, Jerry takes the twenty dollars that Mrs. Broadbent has given him to buy a turkey and bets it on a horse. When he loses the money, Mrs. Broadbent orders them out of the house and declares that she intends to keep their musical instruments as security. By a ruse, they smuggle the instruments out, and Mrs. Broadbent then sends the police after them. While walking up Broadway, Tom, convinced that his jazz band will become successful if given the chance, decides to stage an impromptu concert on the sidewalk in front of Rector's restaurant. Larry Thew, a millionaire playboy and one of Rector's best customers, is intrigued by their music and asks Salbin, Rector's manager, to hire Tom's band to play for his party. When Salbin objects, an argument ensues and the police arrive to arrest the entire band including Kitty. Soon after, Lou Merwin, a young Broadway agent, convinces Salbin that he should placate Thew and give the band a chance. Rushing to the police station, Salbin learns that the band cannot be released until Mrs. Broadbelt withdraws her charges. After Salbin pays Mrs. Broadbelt the money owed her, the band is freed and makes their debut at Rector's. The band is an immediate sensation, and Jerry and Kitty plan to marry. On the day they are to be wed, war is declared and Jerry enlists while Tom carries on with the band. After the armistice, Jerry returns with one hand shot off, and believes that his career as a piano player is ruined. Kitty and Jerry are married, and with his wife's encouragement, Jerry learns to play the trumpet and becomes one of the greatest players ever. Returning to the present, Ted reveals that Jerry in the story is really Junior's father, and convinces the young lovers not to let the war interfere with their love. Taking Ted's advice, Junior and Ann are married in a military ceremony and celebrate to the music of Ted and his band.