Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Just a Gigolo

First recorded (as “Schöner Gigolo”) by Dajos Béla’s Orchestra (1929).
Hit English-language versions by Jack Hylton & His Orchestra (as “Handsome Gigolo” UK 1930), Bing Crosby (US #12 1931), Ted Lewis & His Band (US #1 1931), Louis Prima (1956), David Lee Roth (US #12/CAN #7/AUS #13/NZ #6 1985).

From the wiki: “‘Just a Gigolo’ was from the Austrian tango ‘Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo’, composed in 1928 in Vienna by Leonello Casucci to lyrics written in 1924 by Julius Brammer. ‘Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo’ was first published by Wiener Boheme Verlag in 1929 and performed by several orchestras in Germany that year, including Dajos Béla’s orchestra with the singer Kurt Mühlhardt.

“Back in the 1920s and ’30s, the definition of ‘gigolo’ wasn’t much different from how the word is used today, although the services he provided weren’t always sexual. Most often, the man was just be a paid dancing partner (‘paid for every dance, selling each romance’). Either way, ‘gigolo’ labels him a ‘kept man’ who can’t provide a living for himself without his good looks: he’s ‘just a gigolo.’ The original version, as written by Julius Brammer, was a poetic vision of the social collapse experienced in Austria after World War I, represented by the figure of a former hussar [cavalry officer] who remembers himself parading in his uniform, while now he has to get by as a lonely hired dancer.

“The tremendously successful British band leader Jack Hylton recorded an instrumental arrangement (with only a vocal chorus) of ‘Schöner Gigolo’ in 1930 which he titled ‘Handsome Gigolo’, using a set of original English lyrics, as one in a series of songs he released between 1927-1931 of popular Berlin cabaret music, becoming one of his top hits of 1930. (Because of visa issues, Jack Hylton’s orchestra never performed in the United States.)

“The success of the song in Europe prompted publishers Chappell & Co. to buy the rights and order a more set of English lyrics from Irving Caesar, a very popular lyricist of the time. Caesar eliminated the specific Austrian references and, in the often-omitted verse (but included in the 1931 recording by Bing Crosby, his first solo hit), set the action in a Paris cafe, where a local character tells his sad story. Thus, the lyrics retained their sentimental side but lost their historic value.

“Along with Crosby’s successful recording in 1931, the Ted Lewis Orchestra also topped the ‘Hit Parade’ with their arrangement of ‘Just a Gigolo’. The 1931 film of the same name (starring William Haines and Irene Purcell) also featured the song, as did a Betty Boop cartoon short released in 1932.

“Just a Gigolo” is best known in a form recorded by Louis Prima in 1956, where it was paired in a medley with another old standard, ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’ (words by Roger A. Graham and music by Spencer Williams, 1915). This pairing links the life of a gigolo (‘people know the part I’m playing, paid for every dance …’), to the outcome for singer ending up alone (‘I ain’t got nobody’). The popularity of Prima’s combination, and of Village People’s 1978 and David Lee Roth’s 1985 cover versions of the medley, has led to the mistaken perception by some that the songs are two parts of a single original composition.”

“Handsome Gigolo”, Jack Hylton & His Orchestra, 1930:

Bing Crosby, “Just a Gigolo”, 1931:

Ted Lewis & His Band, “Just a Gigolo”, 1931:

Louis Prima, “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”, TV performance 1956:

David Lee Roth, “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”, 1985:

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