Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Louis Armstrong

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 191 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.”

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.”

The Peanut Vendor

First recorded (as “El manisero”) by Rita Montaner con Orquesta (1927).
Hit versions by Don Azpiazu & His Havana Casino Orchestra (US #1 1930), Louis Armstrong (US #15 1930), Red Nichols & His Five Pennies (US #5 1931), The California Ramblers (US #5 1931), Stan Kenton & His Orchestra (US #1 1947).

From the wiki: “‘El manisero’, known in English as ‘The Peanut Vendor’, is a Cuban son-pregón composed by Moisés Simons. Together with ‘Guantanamera’, it is arguably the most famous piece of music created by a Cuban musician. ‘The Peanut Vendor'” has been recorded more than 160 times, sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78 rpm of Cuban music. Its success was far-reaching, directly leading to the ‘Rumba craze’ in the US and Europe which lasted through the 1940s.

Christmas Night in Harlem

First recorded by The Paul Whiteman Orchestra (1934).
Also recorded The Raymond Scott Quintette (instrumental, 1939).
Popular version by Louis Armstrong & The Benny Carter Orchestra (1955).

From the wiki: “‘Christmas Night in Harlem’ was written in 1934 by Raymond Scott, and the song was first recorded by The Paul Whiteman Orchestra the same year. ‘Christmas Night in Harlem’ has been covered by Perry Como, Benny Carter, Johnny Mercer, Banu Gibson, The Beau Hunks, Clarence Williams, Paul Whiteman, Maria Muldaur, and Jack Teagarden but the most celebrated recording was made by Louis Armstrong & The Benny Carter Orchestra.

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), The 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.

I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag

Inspired by “Muskrat Ramble” by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (1926).
Also recorded (as “Muskrat Ramble”) by Dean Martin (1950).
Popular version by Country Joe & The Fish (1967).

From the wiki: “‘Muskrat Ramble’ was written by Kid Ory and first recorded by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (including Ory, on trombone) in 1926. The song served as the B-side to Armstrong’s first solo outing as a recording artist, ‘Heebie Jeebies’. In 2001, the heirs of Kid Ory launched a lawsuit against Country Joe McDonald, claiming that the music of ‘I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag’ constituted plagiarism of ‘Muskrat Ramble’. In 2005, courts ruled in McDonald’s favor primarily because the original 1926 recording had fallen into the public domain.

Jeepers Creepers

First performed by Louis Armstrong (1938).
First recorded by Ethel Waters (1938).
Hit versions by Al Donahue & His Orchestra (US #1 1938), Larry Clinton & His Orchestra (US #12 1938), Louis Armstrong (US #12 1939).

From the wiki: “‘Jeepers Creepers’ was written by Harry Warren, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer (Mercer claims to have first heard the expression from Henry Fonda), for the 1938 Warner Brothers movie Going Places. Louis Armstrong appears in the part of Gabriel, the trainer of a race horse named Jeepers Creepers. Jeepers Creepers is a very wild horse and can only be soothed enough to let someone ride him when Gabriel plays the song ‘Jeepers Creepers’ on his trumpet or sings it to him. Warren and Mercer would share an Academy Award nomination for Best Song in 1939.

I Got Rhythm

First recorded by Fred Rich & His Orchestra (1930).
Hit versions by Red Nichols & His Five Pennies (US #5 1930), Ethel Waters (US #17 1931), Louis Armstrong (US #17 1932), The Happenings (US #3/UK #28 1967).

From the wiki: “‘I Got Rhythm’ was composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and first published in 1930. It has since become a Jazz standard; its chord progression, known as the ‘rhythm changes’, is the foundation for other popular jazz tunes such as Charlie Parker’s & Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop standard ‘Anthropology (Thrivin’ From a Riff)’. ‘I Got Rhythm’ was first performed in the musical Girl Crazy. Ethel Merman sang the song in the original Broadway production, and Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin, after seeing Merman’s opening reviews, warned her never to take a singing lesson. A complete list of notable singers who have recorded ‘I Got Rhythm’ would take up several pages. The most popular versions are those by Red Nichols & His Five Pennies (US #5 1930), and The Happenings (#3 on the US charts in 1967). A version of the song, set to a Disco beat, was re-recorded by Ethel Merman for her Ethel Merman Disco Album in 1979.

It’s All in the Game

First recorded by Tommy Edwards (US #18/R&B #1 1951).
Also recorded by Louis Armstrong (1953), Nat “King” Cole (1956).
Other hit versions by Tommy Edwards (re-recording US #1/UK #1 1958), Cliff Richard (US #25/UK #2 1963), The Four Tops (US #24/R&B #6/UK #5 1970).

From the wiki: “‘It’s All in the Game’ is the only #1 hit ever written by a future US Vice-President. The melody was first composed in 1911 by then-banker Charles Gates Dawes, who would become VP in 1925 under Calvin Coolidge. The song garnered some popularity in the 1920s when Jascha Heifetz used it for a time as a ‘light concert’ encore. Lyrics were added in 1951 by the Brill Building songwriter Carl Sigman, who also changed the song’s name to ‘It’s All in the Game’ from its original ‘Dawes Melody in A Major’. Sadly, Dawes would not live to hear lyrics put to his song. He passed away the same day Sigman completed his assignment.

Mack the Knife

First popular English-language recording Louis Armstrong & His All Stars (US #20 1956).
Other hit version by Bobby Darin (US #1/R&B #6/UK #1 1959).

From the wiki: “First composed in German by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper (known in English as The Threepenny Opera), ‘Mack the Knife’ had its original premiere in Berlin in 1928. The play opens with the moritat singer comparing Macheath (unfavorably) with a shark, and then telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson. The song was a last minute addition, inserted just before its première in 1928, because Harald Paulsen, the actor who played Macheath, demanded that Brecht and Weill add another number that would more effectively introduce his character.

Blueberry Hill

First performed by Gene Autry (1940 |recorded 1941).
First commercial release by The Sammy Kaye Orchestra (1940).
Hit versions by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (US #1 1940), Louis Armstrong (US #29 1949), Fats Domino (US #2/R&B #1/UK #6 1956).

From the wiki: “‘Blueberry Hill’, written by Vincent Rose with lyrics by Larry Stock and Al Lewis, was first performed in 1940 but is best remembered for its 1950s Rock n’ Roll styling by Fats Domino. The song was recorded six times in 1940, after the original version was sung by Gene Autry in the 1940 movie The Singing Hill and was recorded to disc by Autry a year later, in 1941. The song is purportedly named after a ‘make-out’ spot in Taos, New Mexico.

Mule Skinner Blues (aka Blue Yodel #8)

written and first recorded by Jimmie Rodgers (1930).
Hit versions by Bill Monroe (1940), The Fendermen (US #5/UK #32/CND #2 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Mule Skinner Blues’ is a classic country song written by Jimmie Rodgers. The song was first recorded by Rodgers in 1930 and has been recorded by many artists since then, acquiring the de facto title ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ after Rodgers named it ‘Blue Yodel #8’.

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