Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Bessie Smith

Alexander’s Ragtime Band

First recorded by Arthur Collins & Byron G. Harlan (US #1 1911).
Other hit versions by Billy Murray (US #1 1911), Prince’s Orchestra (US #3 1912), Bessie Smith (1927), The Boswell Sisters (1935), Louis Armstrong (1937), Bing Crosby & Connee Boswell (1938).

From the wiki: “‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was written by Irving Berlin in 1911, one of his oldest compositions and his first major hit.

“It is believed by some (especially in New Orlean jazz and ragtime circles) that Berlin was writing about a real band and bandleader, which were popular at the time in New Orleans, and actually was known as Alexander’s Ragtime Band, after its leader, Alexander Joseph Watzke. Others regard the song as a sequel to ‘Alexander and His Clarinet’, which Berlin wrote with Ted Snyder in 1910 (and which was not a hit), with the newer composition telling the story of Jack Alexander, a cornet player and bandleader.

“‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was first popularized in 1911 by Emma Carus, a big shouter from Chicago, who worked it into her local vaudeville act. (Her picture’s on the oldest sheet music edition.) The song was more widely introduced that same year by Eddie Miller and Helen Vincent performer in the Frolic of Berlin’s New York City ‘Friars Club’ chapter. In 1911-1912, no fewer than four of the first recordings of ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ charted nationally, including #1 hits by Arthur Collins & Byron Harlon, and Billy Murray.

“The 1927 Bessie Smith cover of ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ featured Coleman Hawkins on clarinet, Fletcher Henderson on piano, along with Joe Smith (cornet) Jimmy Harrison (trombone) and Charlie Dixon (banjo).”

Careless Love

First recorded (as “Loveless Love”) by Noble Sissle & His Sizzling Syncopaters (1921).
Also recorded (as “Loveless Love”) by W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues Band (1921), James P. Johnson (1921), Alberta Hunter (1923).
Other popular versions (as “Careless Love”) by Bessie Smith (US #5 1925), T. Texas Tyler (1946), The Ravens (1949), Fats Domino (1951), Ray Charles (1962).

From the wiki: “‘Careless Love’ is a traditional song of obscure origins. The song lyrics change from version to version, but usually speak of the heartbreak brought on by ‘careless love’; most often a girl’s lament for having loved unwisely, worrying what her mother will say when she returns home, ‘wearing her apron high’ (i. e. pregnant) The song was one of the best-known pieces in the repertory of the Buddy Bolden band in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the very start of the 20th century, but it is thought that the first recording of ‘Loveless Love/Careless Love’ was made by Noble Sissle & His Sizzling Syncopaters at a New York City recording session in January, 1921.

“Bessie Smith recorded the first popular version of ‘Careless Love’ in 1925. The song has since gone on to become a jazz and blues standard. Hundreds more recordings Smith’s nationally-popular verson, in blues, jazz, folk, country, and pop styles. T. Texas Tyler recorded a Texas Swing version in 1946 for 4-Star records. Fats Domino made a recording of it in 1951, releasing it as the B-side of ‘Rockin’ Chair’. Ray Charles’ recorded ‘Careless Love’ for his landmark 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.

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