The musical short (a.k.a. musical short film, a.k.a. musical featurette) can be traced back to the earliest days of sound films.
Performers in the Lee de Forest Phonofilms of 1923-24 included Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Abbie Mitchell ("The Colored Prima Donna") and comic singer-dancer Molly Picon, plus the team of Noble Sissel and Eubie Blake. The husband-and-wife vaudeville team of Eva Puck and Sammy White (billed as Puck and White) starred in the Phonofilm Opera vs. Jazz (1923). Max Fleischer used the Phonofilm process in 1924 when he introduced his animated Song Car-Tunes series. 
The nearly 2,000 Vitaphone short subjects produced by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1930 included vaudevillians, opera singers, Broadway stars, dancers, bands and popular vocalists. One and two-reel short musical films were valuable to the movie studios as springboards for new talents. Performers who made their film debuts in short films include Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart, Burns and Allen, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland (as Baby Gumm), Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Bert Lahr and Ginger Rogers. 
Ruth Etting sang "My Mother's Eyes" (by Abel Baer and L. Wolfe Gilbert) and "That's Him Now" (by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen) in the Paramount Movietone Ruth Etting in Favorite Melodies (1929), filmed in a single take at the Astoria Studios in Queens, New York.  Astoria Studios was built by Paramount in the early days of sound films to provide the company with an audio-capable facility close to the Broadway theater district. Many features and short subjects were filmed there between 1928 and 1933, including the 16-minute St. Louis Blues (1929), the only film of Bessie Smith. 
Orchestra leader Phil Spitalny made a series of musical shorts beginning with Phil Spitalny (1929) at MGM, followed by shorts for both Vitaphone and Paramount, including Big City Fantasy (1929), Phil Spitalny and His Musical Queens (1934), Ladies That Play (1934), Phil Spitalny and His All Girl Orchestra (1935) and Sirens of Syncopation (1935).
For promotional purposes, major film stars, including Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, made guest appearances in such musical shorts as MGM's Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934) and Starlit Days at the Lido  (1935), while others featured a single band, such as Freddie Rich and His Orchestra (1938).
Richard Barrios (author of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film) provided notes for Kino Video's compilation, The Best of Big Bands and Swing:
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Betty Hutton made a half-dozen musical shorts before her feature debut in The Fleet's In (1942) and then continued to make shorts for the war effort. She was seen in Paramount Headliner: Queens of the Air (1938), Vitaphone's Vincent Lopez and His Orchestra (1939), Broadway Brevities: One for the Book (1939), Paramount Headliner: Three Kings and a Queen (1939), Broadway Brevities: Public Jitterbug Number One (1939), Paramount Victory Short No. T2-1: A Letter from Bataan (1942), Army-Navy Screen Magazine #20: Strictly G.I. (1943), Paramount's Skirmish on the Home Front (1944) and Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945), produced on the Paramount lot by the Treasury Department for the 1945 Victory Loan Drive. Several of Hutton's musical shorts have been shown on Turner Classic Movies in recent years.
Modern jazz was added to the mix in such films as the 16-minute Artistry in Rhytym (1944), with Stan Kenton and Anita O'Day, later re-edited into another short, Cool and Groovy (1956), which also featured Chico Hamilton and The Hi-Los. In the mid-1940s, Louis Jordan made short music films, some of which were spliced together into a feature-length musical Western, Look-Out Sister (1947).
During the 1950s, musical shorts were revived for telecasting on local stations. Feature films in that decade were usually not edited to fit. Instead, if a feature ended 20 minutes before the hour, footage from musical shorts was used to fill the gap.
Snader Telescriptions were musical shorts made for television from 1950 to 1954. There were thousands of these three- and four-minute films, covering various genres from jazz and pop to R&B and country. Louis "Duke" Goldstone directed for Louis D. Snader. 
|Development of the music video|
Hubert Prior Vallée, known professionally as Rudy Vallée, was an American singer, musician, actor, and radio host. He was one of the first modern pop stars of the teen idol type.
Fleischer Studios was an American animation studio founded in 1929 by brothers Max and Dave Fleischer, who ran the pioneering company from its inception until its acquisition by Paramount Pictures, the parent company and the distributor of its films. In its prime, Fleischer Studios was a premier producer of animated cartoons for theaters, with Walt Disney Productions being its chief competitor in the 1930s. Today, the company is again family owned and oversees the licensing and merchandising for its characters.
Donald Matthew Redman was an American jazz musician, arranger, bandleader, and composer.
Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer, with help from animators including Grim Natwick. She originally appeared in the Talkartoon and Betty Boop film series, which were produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures. She was featured in 90 theatrical cartoons between 1930 and 1939. She has also been featured in comic strips and mass merchandising.
Vitaphone was a sound film system used for feature films and nearly 1,000 short subjects made by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1931. Vitaphone was the last major analog sound-on-disc system and the only one that was widely used and commercially successful. The soundtrack was not printed on the film itself, but issued separately on phonograph records. The discs, recorded at 33+1⁄3 rpm and typically 16 inches (41 cm) in diameter, would be played on a turntable physically coupled to the projector motor while the film was being projected. It had a frequency response of 4300 Hz. Many early talkies, such as The Jazz Singer (1927), used the Vitaphone system. The name "Vitaphone" derived from the Latin and Greek words, respectively, for "living" and "sound".
Mae Questel was an American actress. She was best known for providing the voices for the animated characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. She began in vaudeville, primarily working as an impressionist. She later performed on Broadway and in films and television, including her role as Aunt Bethany in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989).
Helen Kane was an American singer and actress. Her signature song was "I Wanna Be Loved by You" (1928), featured in the 1928 stage musical Good Boy. The song was written for Good Boy by the songwriting team Kalmar and Ruby. Kane's voice and appearance were thought to be a source for Fleischer Studios animators when creating Betty Boop. Kane attempted to sue the studio for claims of stealing her signature "boop-oop-a-doop" style, but the judge decided that the proof of this was insufficient, thus dismissing the case.
Joseph Mansfield Santley was an American actor, singer, dancer, writer, director, and producer of musical theatrical plays motion pictures and television shows. He adopted the stage name of his stepfather, actor Eugene Santley.
Screen Songs, formerly known as KoKo Song Car-Tunes, are a series of animated cartoons produced at the Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. Paramount brought back the sing-along cartoons in 1945, now in color, and released them regularly through 1951. Two of Paramount's one-shot cartoons quietly revived the format later: Candy Cabaret (1954) and Hobo's Holiday (1963).
Samuel Timberg was an American musician and composer for the stage, film studios, and television.
The bouncing ball is a virtual device used in motion picture films and video recordings to visually indicate the rhythm of a song, helping audiences to sing along with live or prerecorded music. As the song's lyrics are displayed on the screen in a lower third of projected or character-generated text, an animated ball bounces across the top of the words, landing on each syllable when it is to be sung.
Phonofilm is an optical sound-on-film system developed by inventors Lee de Forest and Theodore Case in the early 1920s.
Snader Telescriptions, produced for television from 1950 to 1952, were film versions of popular and classical music performances. Singers, dancers, orchestras, and novelty acts appeared in the Snader musicals. They were produced by Louis D. Snader, a Southern California theater owner who branched out into television and then real estate. Lionel Hampton was announced as the first "music world personality to face video film cameras" in the July 22, 1950 issue of Billboard.
Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese, known professionally as Nick Lucas, was an American jazz guitarist and singer. He was the first jazz guitarist to record as a soloist. His popularity during his lifetime came from his reputation as a singer. His signature song was "Tiptoe Through the Tulips".
Broadway's Like That (1929) is a 10-minute Vitaphone short film starring Ruth Etting, with Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart and Mary Philips. Bogart and Philips were married at the time of this film.
Paramount Headliner refers to 1930s musical shorts or "one-reelers" by Paramount Pictures. Not all of the shorts had the term "Paramount Headliner" attached. In this context headliner primarily referred to bands and singers headlining on Broadway. Similar musical shorts were produced by other major studios.
Vitaphone Varieties is a series title used for all of Warner Bros.', earliest short film "talkies" of the 1920s, initially made using the Vitaphone sound on disc process before a switch to the sound-on-film format early in the 1930s. These were the first major film studio-backed sound films, initially showcased with the 1926 synchronized scored features Don Juan and The Better 'Ole. Although independent producers like Lee de Forest's Phonofilm were successfully making sound film shorts as early as 1922, they were very limited in their distribution and their audio was generally not as loud and clear in theaters as Vitaphone's. The success of the early Vitaphone shorts, initially filmed only in New York, helped launch the sound revolution in Hollywood.
Broadway Brevities are two-reel musical and dramatic film shorts produced by Warner Bros. between 1931 and 1943. The series continued as Warner Specials in later years.
The Melody Masters were a series of first-rate big band musical film shorts produced by Warner Brothers, under the supervision of Samuel Sax at their Vitaphone studio in New York between 1931 and 1939, and in Burbank, California with producer Gordon Hollingshead in charge between 1940 and 1946.