Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

Help support this site! Consider clicking an ad from time to time. Thanks!


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.

“‘The Harem Footwarmers’ was the name of Ellington’s orchestra while recording for Okeh Records. For other recording sessions for other, competing labels, the Ellington band became known as ‘The Jungle Band’ (for Brunswick Records), and ‘Duke Ellington & His Cotton Club Orchestra’ (for Victor Records). Three versions of ‘Mood Indigo’ – two titled the same – with three similar line-ups for three different record labels, all recorded and released by Ellington around the same time in 1930.

“In these original recordings, Ellington took the traditional front-line – trumpet, trombone, and clarinet – and inverted them. (The usual voicing of the horns in 1920s-1930s recordings would be clarinet at the top (highest pitch), trumpet in the middle, and the trombone at the bottom (lowest pitch). This was unheard of at the time, and also created (in the studio) a so-called ‘mike-tone’ – an effect generated by the overtones of the clarinet and trombone (which was tightly muted as well). The ‘mike-tone’ gives the audio-illusion of the presence of a fourth ‘voice’, or instrument.

“The Ellington band would go on to perform and record ‘Mood Indigo’ continuously throughout its 50 years under Duke, both in its original form and as a vehicle for individual soloists, and it remains a staple today of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

“Ellington manager, Irving Mills, is credited with writing lyrics to the song but it is also claimed that it was lyricist Mitchell (Michael) Parish (‘Stardust‘, ‘Deep Purple‘) who put words to ‘Mood Indigo’, which was then recorded by Paul Robeson, with an orchestra, in London in 1937 at EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios). It has since been recorded instrumentally and vocally by a countless number of other artists, including Annie Lennox, Charles Mingus, the Boswell Sisters, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Joe Sample, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Charlie Rich, Floyd Cramer, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Earl Grant, Tony Bennett, Joe Jackson, Yukihiro Takahashi, and, with great acclaim, by Ella Fitzgerald who won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance, Individual for her 1957 recording of ‘Mood Indigo’.

“Norman Petty, the musician and record producer best known for his association with Buddy Holly & the Crickets, founded the Norman Petty Trio with his wife, Vi, and guitarist Jack Vaughn previous to Petty’s late ’50s work with Holly. In 1954, the Norman Petty Trio released their one major hit, ‘Mood Indigo’, that sold a half million copies, earning the group a Most Promising Group award by Cashbox magazine, and enabling Petty to considerably expand his famous Clovis, Texas, recording studio. It would be there at Clovis that Petty went on to produce successful singles for Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, Waylon Jennings, Charlie ‘Sugartime’ Phillips, Sonny West, Carolyn Hester, Terry Noland, Jimmy & Cliff Blakley, and, most famously, Buddy Holly.”

The Jungle Band, “Mood Indigo” (1930):

Duke Ellington & His Cotton Club Orchestra, “Mood Indigo” (1930):

Paul Robeson, “Mood Indigo” (1937):

The Norman Petty Trio, “Mood Indigo” (1954):

Ella Fitzgerald, “Mood Indigo” (1957):

Comments are closed.