Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Duke Ellington

Mood Indigo

First recorded (as “Dreamy Blues”) by The Harlem Footwarmers (1930).
Also recorded by The Jungle Band (1930), Duke Ellington & His Cotton Club Orchestra (1930), Paul Robeson (1937), Ella Fitzgerald (1957).
Hit version by The Norman Petty Trio (US #14 1954).

From the wiki: “‘Mood Indigo’ was written by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard. Ellington is said to have claimed ‘I wrote [‘Mood Indigo’] in 15 minutes while I was waiting for my mother to finish cooking dinner.’

“Ellington’s biographer, Terry Teachout, described the song as ‘an imperishable classic, one of a handful of songs that come to mind whenever Ellington’s name is mentioned anywhere in the world.’ The tune was composed for a radio broadcast in October 1930 and was originally titled ‘Dreamy Blues’. It was ‘the first tune I ever wrote specially for microphone transmission,’ Ellington recalled. ‘The next day wads of mail came in raving about the new tune.’ Renamed ‘Mood Indigo’, it went on to became a Jazz standard.

Night Train

First recorded by Jimmy Forrest & His All Star Combo (R&B #1 1951).
Inspired by Johnny Hodges “That’s the Blues, Old Man” (1940) & Duke Ellington “Happy Go Lucky Local” (1941).
Other hit versions by Buddy Morrow (US #27/UK #12 1952), Rusty Bryant (as “All Nite Long” 1952), James Brown & the Famous Flames (US #35/R&B #5 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Night Train’ was written by Jimmy Forrest but the song has a long and complicated history. The piece’s opening riff was first recorded in 1940 by a small group led by Duke Ellington sideman Johnny Hodges under the title ‘That’s the Blues, Old Man’. Ellington used the same riff as the opening and closing theme of a longer-form composition, “Happy-Go-Lucky Local”, that was itself one of four parts of his Deep South Suite. Forrest was part of Ellington’s band when it performed this composition, which has a long tenor saxophone break in the middle. After leaving Ellington, Forrest and his All Star Combo recorded ‘Night Train’ for United Records and, in 1951, had a major R&Bs hit. While ‘Night Train’ employs the same riff as the earlier recordings, it is used in a much earthier R&B setting.

Harlem Nocturne

First recorded by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra (1939).
Hit versions by Herbie Fields (1953), The Viscounts (US #52 1959 |US #39 1966).
Also recorded by Johnny Otis (1945), Mel Torme (1963), Duke Ellington (c. 1970?).

From the wiki: “‘Harlem Nocturne’ was written by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939. The song was adopted by bandleader Randy Brooks the next year as his theme song, but was first recorded in 1939 by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra. Hagen was a trombonist in Ray Noble’s band at the time. He had been inspired by Duke Ellington’s saxophone player Johnny Hodges and wrote ‘Harlem Nocturne’ for Noble’s sax man Jack Dumont, originally titling it ‘Duke’s Soup’. The name change was suggested by the publisher.

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

Written and first recorded (as the instrumental “Never No Lament”) by Duke Ellington (1940).
Hit versions by Glen Gray & His Casa Loma Orchestra (US #7 1943), Duke Ellington (US #8/R&B #1 1943), The Ink Spots (US #2/R&B #1 1943).

From the wiki: “‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ is a Jazz standard by Duke Ellington. The tune was originally called ‘Never No Lament’ and was first recorded by Ellington in 1940 as a Big-band instrumental. Bob Russell’s lyrics and the new title were added in 1942. Two different recordings of ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’, one by The Ink Spots and the other, an instrumental, by Ellington’s own band, reached #1 on the R&B chart in the US in 1943. Both were Top-10 Pop records, too, along with a #7 hit by Glen Gray & His Casa Loma Orchestra, with the Ink Spots’ recording charting highest on the Pop chart.”

Stardust

Co-written and first recorded (as an instrumental) by Hoagy Carmichael (1927).
Hit versions by Irving Mills & His Hotsy Totsy Gang (US #20 1929), Isham Jones & His Orchestra (US #1 1930), Bing Crosby (US #5 1931), Louis Armstrong (US #16 1931), Frank Sinatra with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (US #7 1941), Nat “King” Cole (US #79/UK #24 1957), Billy Ward & His Dominoes (US #12/R&B #5/UK #13 1957), Nino Tempo & April Stevens (US #32 1964).
Also recorded by Jon Hendricks (1990).

From the JazzStandards.com: “On October 31, 1927, Hoagy Carmichael and His Pals recorded ‘Stardust’ at the Gennett Records studio in Richmond, Indiana. Hoagy’s ‘pals,’ Emil Seidel and His Orchestra, agreed to record the medium-tempo instrumental in between their Sunday evening and Monday matinee performances in Indianapolis, seventy miles away. In 1928 Carmichael again recorded ‘Stardust,’ this time with lyrics he had written, but Gennett rejected it because the instrumental had sold so poorly. The following year, at Mills Music, Mitchell Parish was asked to set lyrics to coworker Carmichael’s song. The result was the 1929 publication date of ‘Star Dust’ with the music and lyrics we know today.

“According to the Carmichael, inspiration for the song struck while visiting his old university campus. Sitting on a wall reminiscing about the town, his college days, and past romances, he looked up at the starlit sky and whistled ‘Star Dust’. Richard Sudhalter’s biography ( Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael) contends that the melody may have begun with fragments, evolving over months and maybe years, but Carmichael preferred to perpetuate a myth that sweet songs are conceived in romantic settings.

Stormy Weather

First recorded by Ethel Waters (US #1 1933).
Also recorded by Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra (1933), Frances Langford (1933).
Other popular versions by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (US #1 1933), Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (US #2 1933), Lena Horne (1941|US #21 1943), Kay Starr (1945), Billie Holiday (1952), Fats Comet (UK #17 1985).

From the wiki: “‘Stormy Weather’ was a 1933 song written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Ethel Waters first sang it at The Cotton Club night club in Harlem in 1933 as part of The Cotton Club Parade of 1933 where, according to her autobiography, she ‘sang ‘Stormy Weather’ from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and suffocated.’

“When I got out there in the middle of the Cotton Club floor, I was telling things I couldn’t frame in words. I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, of the misunderstandings in my life I couldn’t straighten out, the story of wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted.”

“Leo Reisman’s orchestra version had the biggest hit on records in 1933 (with co-author Arlen himself as vocalist); Waters’ recorded version was also a top-seller. And it was Waters’ recording that would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003, with the Library of Congress additionally honoring the song by adding it in 2004 to the National Recording Registry.

East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

Written and first recorded by Duke Ellington & His Kentucky Club Orchestra (1926).
Hit version by Duke Ellington & The Washingtonians (US #10 1927).
Covered by Steely Dan (1974).

From the wiki: “‘East St Louis Toodle-Oo’ is a composition written by Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley and recorded several times by Ellington for various labels from 1926-1930 under various titles. The original recording features a growling plunger-muted trumpet part played by co-composer Miley, one of the first jazz trumpeters to utilize the style. This style was carried on by later Ellington trumpeters Cootie Williams, and Ray Nance.

Caravan

First recorded by Barney Bigard & His Jazzopaters (1936).
Hit versions by The Duke Ellington Orchestra (1937), Billy Eckstine (US #27/R&B #14 1949), Ralph Marterie (US #6 1953), Santo & Johnny (US #48 1959), Duane Eddy (UK #42 1961).
Also recorded by The Mills Brothers (1941).

From the wiki: “‘Caravan’ is a jazz standard composed by Juan Tizol. The first version of the song was recorded in Hollywood in 1936, performed as an instrumental by Barney Bigard & His Jazzopators. The band members were: Cootie Williams (trumpet), Juan Tizol (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Duke Ellington (piano), Billy Taylor (bass), Sonny Greer (drums).

“All the players on the original recorded were members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which often split into smaller units to record small-band discs. Although Ellington performed in this recording, the session leader was Bigard under whose name the song was first released. The following year, the Duke Ellington Orchestra itself covered ‘Caravan’, the first of more than 350 recordings Ellington made of the song.

“In 1941, the Mills Brothers paid tribute to Ellington by recording an a capella version of ‘Caravan’, substituting their voices for instruments. A vocal cover, with lyrics by Irving Mills, was recorded in December 1948 by Billy Eckstine, with orchestration by Hugo Winterhalter, that charted Billboard Top-30 and Top-20 R&B in 1949, a recording an accomplishment Ellington is said to have been especially elated.

“Ralph Materie charted even higher in 1953 with his cover. Santo & Johnny also charted with their ‘Caravan’ cover in 1959. In 1961, a version credited to Duane Eddy appeared on the label Gregmark Records. It did not chart in the US, but was issued on Parlophone in the UK, where it peaked at #42.”

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