Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Ella Fitzgerald

Beale Street Blues

First recorded by Prince’s Band (1917).
Popular versions by W.C. Handy (1917), Jelly Roll Morton (1926), Fats Waller & Alberta Hunter (1927), “Big” Joe Turner (1940), Louis Armstrong (1954), Ella Fitzgerald (1958).

From the wiki: “‘Beale Street Blues’ was written in 1917 by American composer and lyricist W.C. Handy. The title refers to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, the main entertainment district for the city’s African American population in the early part of the twentieth century, and a place closely associated with the development of the Blues. ‘Beale Street Blues’ was first popularized for a mass audience when sung on Broadway by Gilda Gray in the 1919 musical revue Schubert’s Gaieties.

“Like many of Handy’s songs, Beale Street Blues is a hybrid of the blues style with the popular ballad style of the day, the opening lyrics following a line pattern typical of Tin Pan Alley songs and the later stanzas giving way to the traditional three-line pattern characteristic of the Blues. The song itself is now in the public domain in the United States, due to expiration of the copyright, though most of the recordings of it are still covered by their own copyrights.”

Sugar Blues

First recorded by Leona Williams & Her Dixie Band (1922).
Popular versions by Clyde McCoy (US #2 1931), Fats Waller (1935), Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (1936), Ella Fitzgerald & the Chick Webb Orchestra (1940), Johnny Mercer (US #4 1947).

From the wiki: “‘Sugar Blues’ was written in 1920 by Clarence Williams and recorded for the first time by Leona Williams (no relation) and Her Dixie Band in 1922. The song was made popular by Clyde McCoy in 1931, featuring the sound of the growling wah-wah mute. MCcoy recorded it no less than four times, and it became his trademark song. ‘Sugar Blues’ would also be recorded by Fats Waller (1935), Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys (1936), and Ella Fitzgerald (1940), and chart again on the Hit Parade in 1947 with a vocal cover by noted songwriter-lyricist Johnny Mercer (‘Satin Doll’, ‘Fools Rush In‘, ‘Jeepers Creepers‘).”

Desafinado

First recorded by João Gilberto (1958).
Hit versions by Ella Fitzgerald (US #102/UK #38 1962), Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd (US #15/MOR #4/UK #11 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Desafinado’ (a Portuguese word usually rendered into English as ‘out of tune’ or as ‘off Key’) is a Bossa nova song composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim with lyrics (in Portuguese) by Newton Mendonça. English-language lyrics were later written by Jon Hendricks and ‘Jessie Cavanaugh’ (a pseudonym used by The Richmond Organisation). Another English lyric, more closely based on the original Portuguese lyric (but not an exact translation) would later be written by Gene Lees.

“The 1962 recording by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd (from the album Jazz Samba) would become the definitive version, becoming a major Pop hit in 1962 in both the US and the UK. The song was voted by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone magazine as the 14th greatest Brazilian song. ‘Desafinado’ was also inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.”

Learnin’ the Blues

First recorded by Joe Valino (1955).
Hit version by Frank Sinatra (US #1/UK #2 1955).
Also recorded by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1957).

From the wiki: “‘Learnin’ the Blues’ was written by Dolores Vicki Silvers, and first recorded in 1955 by Joe Valino. It’s not clear whether Silvers was the sole composer or possibly had help from Valino, a Pop-Jazz vocalist in the mode of Frank Sinatra and a breed of Pop singer who would be swept away in the late ’50s with the advent of Rock ‘n’ roll.

“After a rep from Barton Music – Frank Sinatra’s publishing company – heard the song, they acquired its rights, effectively thwarting Valino from gaining his first hit. (Valino would, in 1956, find chart success with ‘Garden of Eden’.) Frank subsquently listened to Joe’s record and decided to cut it himself, giving Sinatra his best-charting single of the ’50s, peaking at #1. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong covered the song on their 1957 collaboration Ella and Louis Again.”

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

First recorded by Margaret Whiting (1947).
Other popular versions by The Les Paul Trio (1947), The Orioles (R&B #9 1949), Billy Ward & The Dominoes (1953), Ella Fitzgerald (1960), Danté & The Evergreens (US #106 1960), Nancy Wilson (XMAS #17 1965 |XMAS #24 1967), The Carpenters (1985), Rufus Wainwright (2005), Zooey Dechanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2011).

From the wiki: “‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’ was written in 1947 by Frank Loesser as an ‘independent song’ — not written for a particular movie or musical. Loesser was an American songwriter who wrote the lyrics and music to the Broadway hits Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, among others. He won separate Tony Awards for the music and lyrics in both shows, as well as sharing the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the latter, and was nominated for five Academy Awards for best song, winning once, for ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside‘. Among Loesser’s other notable songs: ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’, ‘Heart and Soul’, ‘On a Slow Boat to China’, and ‘Luck Be a Lady Tonight’.”

Baby It’s Cold Outside

First performed by Esther Williams & Ricardo Montalban and Red Skelton & Betty Garrett (Neptune’s Daughter, 1949).
Hit versions by Dinah Shore & Buddy Clark (US #4 1949), Margaret Whiting & Johnny Mercer (US #4 1949), Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan (US #9 1949), Dean Martin (1959) and Blossom Dearie & Bob Dorough (1979), Dean Martin & Martina McBride (MOR #7/C&W 36 2006).

From the wiki: “Frank Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Lynn considered it ‘their song’ and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM. The movie it appeared in, Neptune’s Daughter, featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of ‘wolf and mouse’ reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.”

The Lady is a Tramp

First popular recording by Tommy Dorsey & His Clambake 7 with Edythe Wright (1937).
Hit/popular versions by Sophie Tucker (US #19 1937), Frank Sinatra (1957), Ella Fitzgerald (1957), Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga (US #121/UK #188/BEL #21/JPN #33 2011).
Also recorded by Midge Williams & Her Jazz Jesters (1937), Carl Perkins (1960), Alice Cooper (1974).
Also recorded (as “The Lady is a Champ”) by Frank Sinatra (1968).

From the wiki: “‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ is a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenzo Hart musical Babes in Arms in which it was introduced by former child star Mitzi Green. The song is a spoof of New York high society and its strict etiquette (the first line of the verse is ‘I get too hungry for dinner at eight…’). Early recordings from 1937 include one by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra (featuring Edythe Wright on vocals), Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters, and Sophie Tucker.

Taking a Chance on Love

First performed by Ethel Waters (1940).
First commercial recording by Ella Fitzgerald (1940).
Popular versions by Helen Forrest (US #1 1943), Ethel Waters (1946), Frank Sinatra (1954), Anita O’Day (1957).
Also recorded by Dinah Shore (1958).

From the wiki: “‘Taking a Chance on Love’ was written by Vernon Duke with lyrics by John La Touche and Ted Fetter, and has gone on to become a standard recorded by many artists. It was first performed in the Broadway musical Cabin in the Sky which opened at the Martin Beck Theater on October 25, 1940. (‘Taking a Chance on Love’ was added only three days before the New York opening, but it turned into the hit of the show.) The show was choreographed by George Balanchine and was a ground-breaking musical with an all-black cast. The leads were played by Ethel Waters as Petunia, Dooley Wilson (‘As Time Goes By‘) as her husband Little Joe, and Katherine Dunham as the temptress Georgia Brown.

“Waters introduced ‘Taking a Chance of Love’ as a show-stopping solo, reprising it at the end of Act I with Little Joe. Despite the fact that the song never made it to the popular radio show Your Hit Parade, big band performances and many, many cover recordings of the song made it into a Jazz vocal standard.”

Puttin’ on the Ritz

First recorded by Harry Richman (US #1 1930).
Other hit versions by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (US #20 1930), Clark Gable (1939), Fred Astaire (1946), Ella Fitzgerald (1958), Taco (US #4/CAN #5/SWE #1/NZ #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’ is a popular song written and published in 1929 by Irving Berlin and first introduced by Harry Richman in the musical Puttin’ On the Ritz (1930). The expression was inspired by the opulent Ritz Hotel. Another hit version was recorded in 1930 by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra. Clark Gable performed the song on film (Idiot’s Delight) in 1939, but the song was most-famously performed (with new lyrics) by Fred Astaire, with whom the song is particularly associated, in the 1946 film Blue Skies. Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle teamed up in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974) to give the song a comedic spike.

Crying in the Chapel

First recorded by Darrell Glenn & The Rhythm Riders (US #6/C&W #4 1953).
Hit versions by The Orioles (US #11/R&B #1 1953), Rex Allen (US #8/C&W #4 1953), Ella Fitzgerald (US #15 1953), Art Lund (US #23 1953), June Valli (US #4 1953), Elvis Presley (1960 |US #3/MOR #1/UK #1 1965).
Also recorded (as “Selassie Is the Chapel”) by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1968).

From the wiki: “‘Crying in the Chapel’ was written by Artie Glenn for his son, Darrell, to sing. Darrell recorded it while still in high school in 1953, along with Artie’s band the Rhythm Riders, and the record went Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song went on to become one of the most-covered of 1953, with additional charted versions recorded by The Orioles (‘C.C. Rider‘), Rex Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Lund, and June Valli. (The Orioles’ recording would be used two decades later in the soundtrack of American Graffiti.)

Lullaby of Birdland

Co-written and first recorded by George Shearing (1952).
Hit versions by Ella Fitzgerald (US #31 1954), Blossom Dearie & Blue Stars (US #16 1956).
Also recorded by Sarah Vaughn (1954), Mel Tormé (1956), Amy Winehouse (2004).

From the wiki: “‘Lullaby of Birdland’ is a 1952 popular song with music by George Shearing and lyrics by George David Weiss under the pseudonym ‘B. Y. Forster’ in order to circumvent the rule that ASCAP and BMI composers could not collaborate. The song title refers to Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and the Birdland jazz club named after him.

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