Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Beale Street Blues

First recorded by Prince’s Band (1917).
Popular versions by W.C. Handy (1917), Marion Harris (1921), 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 popularized for an audience when sung on Broadway by Gilda Gray in the 1919 musical revue Schubert’s Gaieties but first gained mass circulation when Prince’s Band recorded the song for Columbia Records in 1917. One of the earliest vocal arrangements of ‘Beale Street Blues’ was recorded by Marion Harris in 1921.

“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.”

W.C. Handy, “Beale Street Blues” Player piano roll (1917):

Marion Harris, “Beale Street Blues” (1921):

Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, “Beale Street Blues” (1926):

Fats Waller & Alberta Hunter, “Beale Street Blues” (1927):

“Big” Joe Turner, “Beale Street Blues” (1940):

Louis Armstrong & His All Star Band, “Beale Street Blues” (1954):

Ella Fitzgerald, “Beale Street Blues” (1958):

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