Tag Archives: Duke Ellington


(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings is a popular song, written by Laurent Henri Herpin (music), Jean Marie Blauvillain (aka “Jamblan”) (French lyrics), and Harold Jacob Rome (English lyrics). The song was first introduced in France in 1942 by Jean Sablon under the title Ma Mie. In 1944, it was introduced by the elegant, single-named cabaret singer, Hildegarde under the English title, (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings. The English version of the song was used in the 1945 musical comedy, Anchors Aweigh, and sung by the pretty, petite brunette with a heart-shaped face, Kathryn Grayson. Grayson’s most memorable roles came in the early 1950s. They were Show Boat (1951), where she played “Magnolia,” opposite Ava Gardner and Howard Keel; Kiss Me Kate (1953), playing actress “Lilli Vanessi,” who portrayed “Katherine” in the film’s “show within a show,” a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. In 1953, she exited MGM, then made only one more film, The Vagabond King (1956) at Paramount. She later worked in nightclubs and on stage.

 Anchors Aweigh starred Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly and while (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings was one of its better moments, the film is best known for the “King Who Couldn’t Dance” sequence, a mixture of animation and live action that features Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse (of Tom and Jerry fame). This sequence deserves its reputation, for the blend is seamless and the dancing is captivating.

The song was also played and sung throughout the 1946 film, Young Widow, starring John Wayne, Jane Russell, and Louis Hayward. (I do not know who sang the song in the film.)

In the song, (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings, as each line of the song is sung, the melody line goes up the scale. Upon reaching the highest note, each continuing line comes down the scale. Those who tackle this song need to have a voice with a wide range, which may account for the fact that only two versions of the song ever made it to the Billboard charts. Of possible interest, is the fact that one of the versions to reach the Billboard charts was by Johnnie Johnston, who later was married to Kathryn Grayson. So both husband and wife recorded the song, though not together. The other charted version was by Martha Stewart (No, not that Martha Stewart!)

 The song speaks remembering all “the crazy things we say and do” that makes the lover’s heart sing. The song is reminiscent of some other “remembering” songs, including Little Things Mean A Lot, made popular by Kitty Kallen in 1954, and These Foolish Things, made popular by several artists, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Johnny Hartman, Frankie Laine, Sam Cooke, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Sammy Davis Jr., Aaron Neville, Bryan Ferry, Rod Stewart, and James Brown.  



Music by Laurent Henri Herpin; English lyrics by Harold Jacob Rome

All of a sudden my heart sings

When I remember little things

The way you dance and hold me tight

The way you kiss and say good night

The crazy things we say and do

The fun it is to be with you

The magic thrill that’s in your touch

Oh darling, I love you so much

The secret way you press my hand

To let me know you understand

The wind and rain upon your face

The breathless world of your embrace

Your little laugh and half-surprise

The star light gleaming in your eyes

Remembering all those little things

All of a sudden my heart sings


(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings

Johnnie Johnston

Kathyrn Grayson

Martha Stewart


Connie Haines

Eugenie Baird

Jack Carroll

Guy Lombardo

Duke Ellington (vocal by Joya Sherrill)

Frances Faye

Nellie Lutcher

Mireille Matthieu

Paul Anka

Ma Mie (French version)

Jean Sablon

Charles Trenet

La Chorale Des Enfants de l’Opera Paris

Per un momento ho perso te (Italian version)

 Fausto Leali  











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Nostalgia For a Lost Love

The Beatles’ 1965 song Yesterday may be the most recorded song according to The Guinness World Records, but Autumn Leaves has to rank up there pretty high, as evidenced by the number of recordings in this post. And these recordings are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Originally, Autumn Leaves was a 1945 French song entitled Les Feuilles Mortes (literally “The Dead Leaves”) with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by French surrealist poet Jacques Prévert. The Hungarian title is Hulló levelek (“Falling Leaves”).

Movie poster for the film Les Portes de la Nuit

Movie poster for the film Les Portes de la Nuit

The Italian born, French singing idol Yves Montand introduced the song in the 1946 film Les Portes de la Nuit, a gloomy urban drama set in post World War II Paris. Scriptwriter and poet Jacques Prevért and director Marcel Carné had been responsible for a string of films spawning the French “poetic realism,” a genre upon that the American film noir movement was based. Although Les Portes de la Nuit was a commercial failure, it fared much better when released in the United States several years later under the title Gates of the Night.

As the 1940’s waned, so too did the public’s appetite for the Tin Pan Alley style ballad. With decreasing demand for his sophisticated talents, lyricist Johnny Mercer found himself penning words for instrumentals. In the case of Les Feuilles Mortes, Mercer would not have thought twice about renaming what was literally “The Dead Leaves” to “Autumn Leaves.” “The Dead Leaves” may have been an appropriate song title for the somber Les Portes de la Nuit, but it would not do for an American popular song.

Initially the public showed little interest in Autumn Leaves. Jo Stafford was among the first to perform the Mercer version. Autumn Leaves became a pop standard and a jazz standard in both in French and English, both as an instrumental and as a vocal number. There is also a Japanese version called Kareha sung by none other than Nat “King” Cole!

On December 24, 1950, French singer Edith Piaf sang both French and English versions of the song on the radio program The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead. The Melachrino Strings recorded an instrumental version of the song in London in August, 1950.

In 1955, however, all that changed. Pianist Roger Williams recorded a million-seller, number-one hit rendition of the song that stayed on the Billboard charts for six months. Williams’ recording is the only piano instrumental to ever reach the number one position on the Billboard chart. Williams’ success opened the door for a second spate of covers by Steve Allen, Mitch Miller, Jackie Gleason, Victor Young, and the Ray Charles Singers. All of these versions charted on Billboard’s chart. These covers would be followed by hundreds of renditions in subsequent decades.

In 1956, Columbia Pictures produced a film entitled Autumn Leaves starring Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson. It is a generally well-reviewed tale of a spinster marrying a young man who has mental problems as a result of his ex-wife’s (Vera Miles) affair with his father (Lorne Green). Nat King Cole once again sang the song (this time in English) during the credits.

Frank Sinatra included a version of the song on his 1956 album Where Are You? Andy Williams released a version of the song on his 1959 album, Lonely Street. Raquel Bitton recorded a version in 2000 that appears on her album Raquel Bitton sings Edith Piaf. Jerry Lee Lewis released a version that is a real surprise. This version is from the unissued Caribou sessions from 1980, produced by Eddie Kilroy while Jerry Lee Lewis was with Elektra. Around forty tracks were taped at the Caribou ranch in Colorado in November and overdubs were made in 1981 and 1982, but no tracks were officially released. Listen to it and see what I mean.

In 1962, Serge Gainsbourg wrote a song entitled La Chanson de Prevert. This is a song about a song, for it is about Les Feuilles Mortes and how its power to revive memories kept dead loves alive. References to Verlaine’s Chanson d’Automne hint at its relation to classical French literature.

Greek-Cypriot recording artist Alexia Vassiliou recorded the song for her first 1996 album, In a Jazz Mood. The song also appears on Iggy Pop’s 2009 album Préliminaires as the opening track. A version by Eva Cassidy is one of the highlights of her seminal live album Live at Blues Alley (1996). The Electronic duo Coldcut recorded a cover of the song for their 1993 album Philosophy, featuring guest vocalist Janis Alexander on vocals.

And finally in the Pop field, British blues/rock guitarist Eric Clapton recorded a cover of Autumn Leaves in 2010.

In the jazz genre, this tune took almost ten years to catch on as a jazz number, and 1957 saw three excellent recordings. There were versions by Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington.

The Ellington version, taken at a very slow tempo, and featuring Ray Nance on violin is a delight. Nance’s violin playing represented almost the total opposite of his trumpet playing, and he is at his soulful best on Autumn Leaves, where he plays an exquisite, emotional solo; he then fills along with vocalist Ozzie Bailey. The album, Ellington Indigos, offered a different, more sentimental side of the Ellington ensemble and has rarely been out-of-print since it was released.

Singer/pianist Patricia Barber mesmerizes with her version of Autumn Leaves. With her rendition, the song is refurbished with a torch singer’s touch.

The 1958 Cannonball Adderley recording of Autumn Leaves has inspired generations of jazz players. The arrangement, commonly credited to Miles Davis (who is also featured on trumpet here) actually comes mostly from Ahmad Jamal. Nonetheless, this is a recording that really caught on. The following year, Bill Evans made his recorded debut with his groundbreaking trio alongside bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. Their version of Autumn Leaves is comparably influential to the Adderley version and offers an essential look at the interplay of these three musicians.

Finally, Autumn Leaves has been included in at least these films: Les Portes de la Nuit (1946, Yves Montand), Autumn Leaves (1956, Nat King Cole), Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959, Keely Smith), Addicted to Love (1997, Stephane Grappelli), Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997, Paula Cole), and Sidewalks of New York (2001, Stan Getz)

Autumn Leaves [Les Feuilles Mortes]
Music: Joseph Kosma
French Lyrics: Jacques Prévert
English Lyrics: Johnny Mercer

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

C’est une chanson, qui nous ressemble
Toi tu m’aimais et je t’aimais
Nous vivions tous, les deux ensemble
Toi que m’aimais moi qui t’aimais
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s’aiment
Tout doucement sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable les pas des amants désunis


Roger Williams
Steve Allen/George Gates
Mitch Miller
Jackie Gleason
Victor Young
Ray Charles Singers

Jo Stafford
Nat King Cole [Japanese Version]
Edith Piaf
The Melachrino Strings
Serge Gainsbourg: La Chanson de Prévert
Frank Sinatra
Andy Williams
Raquel Bitton
Jerry Lee Lewis
Alexia Vassiliou
Iggy Pop
Eva Cassidy
Coldcut [Janis Alexander, vocals]
Eric Clapton

Cannonball Adderley
Bill Evans Trio
Coleman Hawkins
Dizzy Gillespie
Duke Ellington
Patricia Barber

Yves Montand Les Portes de la Nuit (1946)
Nat King Cole Autumn Leaves (1956)
Keely Smith Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959)
Stephane Grappelli Addicted to Love (1997)
Paula Cole Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)
Stan Getz Sidewalks of New York (2001)

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Adorable Doo-wop


Adorable was a major hit in 1955, beginning its popularity in the Rhythm and Blues genre of music. The song was written by Buck Ram, born Samuel Ram. Ram was a talent manager with his own firm, Personality Productions, and an A&R (Artists and repertoire) man when Tony Williams, the brother of singer Linda Hayes, auditioned for him. Ram was looking for a group to sing the songs he wrote and found the voice he was looking for in Williams. He transformed the Platters and changed their rhythm and blues style, building around Williams’ voice to make them sound like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots. He is best known for his long association with The Platters and also wrote, produced and arranged for the Penguins, the Coasters, the Drifters, Ike and Tina Turner, Ike Cole, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. In addition to Adorable, Ram also wrote Only You (And You Alone), The Great Pretender, Magic Touch, and Twilight Time.

Adorable was the perfect doo-wop song, containing all the necessary elements: melody, voice, and emotion. It first reached the Billboard charts in the rhythm and blues category by The Colts, followed with a cover version by The Drifters. On the pop charts, the song was covered by The Fontane Sisters, who originally sang as back-up singers with Perry Como.

The song speaks of a young man’s dream girl. To him, she is not only adorable, but also lovable, kissable, huggable, and excitable. In the lyrics of the song, she is “all that I hoped my love would ever be.”

Here are the complete lyrics of the song.

Words and music by Buck Ram

Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby
You’re adorable, sweet as can be
You’re adorable, a dream girl to me
You’re all that I hoped my love would ever be

(Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby)
You’re so lovable, when you’re in my arms
You’re so kissable, when I hold your charms
You’re mine, you are so divine, my adorable one, dorable one
You must have come from heaven
Because you thrill me so
My heaven starts at seven sharp
You start my heart to glow, glow, glow
(You start my heart)

You’re so huggable, so clinging, so nice
You’re excitable when kissed once or twice
And soon you’ll be mine alone, you adorable one
(Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby)

You must have come from heaven
Because you thrill me so
My heaven starts at seven sharp
You start my heart to glow
(You start my heart)

So lovable, so clinging, so nice
You’re excitable when kissed once or twice
And soon you’ll be mine alone, you adorable one
(Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby)

Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby
Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby
Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby

As mentioned above, this song was the perfect doo-wop song. For the uninitiated, Doo-wop is a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music developed in the African American communities in the 1940s, and achieved mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. It emerged from New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and areas of greater Los Angeles, including El Monte and Compton. Built upon vocal harmony, doo-wop was one of the most mainstream, pop-oriented R&B styles of the time. Singer Bill Kenny, one-time lead singer of the Ink Spots, is often noted as the “Godfather of Doo-wop” for his introduction of the “top & bottom” format used by many doo-wop groups. This format features a high tenor lead with a “talking bass” in the song’s middle. (I have included an example of this style here)

From the outset, singers gathered on street corners, and in subways, generally in groups of three to six. They sang a cappella arrangements, and mimicked instruments since instruments were little used: the bass singing “bom-bom-bom,” a guitar rendered as “shang-a-lang,” and brass riffs as “dooooo -wop-wop,” This art dates back to The Mills Brothers, who first came to fame in the 1930s with their mimicking of instrumental music.

There is general acknowledgement the first hit record to use the syllables “doo-wop” in the refrain was the 1955 hit, When You Dance by The Turbans. Previously, the scat backing vocal “doo-wop” is heard in The Clovers’ 1953 release Good Lovin’ and in the chorus of Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees’ 1954 song Never. Other early uses include the 1955 song Mary Lee by The Rainbows, which contains the background “do wop de wadda,” and the 1956 smash In The Still Of The Night by The Five Satins, which features a plaintive “doo-wop, doo-wah” refrain in the bridge. After some time, the term “doo-wop” finally caught on as both a description and category for R&B vocal group harmony. The definition expanded backward to include rhythm and blues groups from the mid-1950s, then cascaded even further back to include groups from the 1940s.

(To listen to a song, just click on the arrow.)

The Colts
The Drifters
The Fontane Sisters

When You Dance (The Turbans)
Good Lovin’ (The Clovers)
Never (Carlyle Dundee and the Dundees)
Mary Lee (The Rainbows)
Will You Be Mine (The Swallows)
In The Still Of The Night (The Five Satins)
Tiger Rag (Mills Brothers – example of the group mimicking instruments)
Write Me A Letter (The Ravens)
It’s Too Soon To Know (The Orioles)
Coffee, Cigarettes And Tears (The Larks)
Oop Bop Sh’Bam (Dizzy Gillespie – part of what might be considered “nonsense lyrics” as pertaining to doo-wop were influenced by songs such as this 1947 rendition by Dizzy Gillespie, which may have led to later groups that utilized such things as “oop shoop,” “bip bam,” and “sh-boom.”)
It Don’t Mean A Thing (Duke Ellington – the horn section makes sounds that tend to simulate “boo-wop, boo-wop, boo-wop.”)

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Of This and That – and Cocktails for Two . . .Clink! Clink!

Cocktails for Two  by Ted Cowart

Cocktails for Two
by Ted Cowart

Cocktails For Two is a pop song by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. The song was originally introduced by Danish singer Carl Brisson, Paramount Pictures’ replacement for Maurice Chevalier in 1934’s Murder at the Vanities. This romantic ode to legalized liquor became immensely popular when it materialized after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment that banned alcohol in 1933. The song was later used in the 1947 Paramount film, Ladies Man, starring Eddie Bracken and Cass Daley. Duke Ellington’s version of the song was recorded in 1934. Other covers include Zarah Leander’s Swedish version for Odeon in 1934, Tommy Dorsey’s swing version for Victor on 31 October 1938, and Bing Crosby’s performance for CBS radio on 20 June1955. Over the years, the song inspired several parodies, including the immaculately off-key reading from 1960 by Jo Stafford and Paul Weston (as Jonathan and Darlene Edwards).
Sheet music for Cocktails For Two

Sheet music for Cocktails For Two

The opening moments of the song speak to the song’s origin. Mentioned discreetly in the song’s introduction is the line that people could be “carefree and gay once again” and “No longer slinking, respectfully drinking/Like civilized ladies and men.” The song seems to imply that it is the availability of liquor that makes the world safe and calm, painting a quiet picture of lovebirds enjoying their cocktails. As originally intended, the song played like a sigh of relief.

Of all the many versions of the song, however, Cocktails For Two is best remembered today due to the irreverent, comic, and sound effects-laden version by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. The City Slickers first recorded the song in 1944 with Carl Grayson supplying the vocal. It was their biggest all-time hit, reaching #4 on the Billboard charts. Cocktails For Two may just be Spike Jones’ finest moment – a rare example of where popular music and novelty overlap and are embraced by the record-buying public.

Spike Jones

Spike Jones

Spike Jones obviously had great fun with this song that featured the vocalizations of “glugmaster” Carl Grayson. Jones was quick to showcase Grayson’s comic vocal talents and ability to make weird sound effects, one of which was known as the “glug.” The best way to describe this sound is that it is the closest a human can come to swallowing his tongue without having to be hospitalized afterwards. The first use of this effect on record is on the tune Siam, although this is considered only a mild glug. The glugmeister took over a great deal of the vocal duties from Del Porter, who had been singing most everything in the band’s repertoire up until then. Of the six gold records earned by Spike Jones, two have vocals by Grayson, namely Cocktails For Two and Der Fuehrer’s Face. Carl Grayson is a model of how to sing while grinning.

It is often said that in order to properly satirize something, one must first reach the level of the original. Spike Jones already knew how a pop song was supposed to sound, and the first forty seconds or so of Cocktails For Two sound as if he had hired Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians to sing this section of the piece. Tightly-harmonized women sing the opening lines over soft strings, met by a crooning male singer, who set the scene. For those opening moments, the song sounds remarkably like any other record from that period – neat, polished, and insufferably boring.

And then all Hell breaks loose!!

Picking up the tempo, the crooning male singer sings: “In some secluded rendezvous” – a whistle blows, a man screams, a gunshot fires, “That overlooks the avenue” – honking car horns in traffic, “With someone sharing a delightful chat” – nonsense babble is heard, “Of this and that and cocktails for two,” – everything stops for the light “clink-clink” toast of the cocktail classes. Even when things slow down a bit for the lyrics that are harder to illustrate sonically, the madness is back in full force for the musical break, turning from an orchestra of rude mouth noises and hiccups to a searing Dixieland jazz band.

No matter how many times I listen to this record, it still strikes me how busy and varied of a sound Jones is able to create. Every honk, every whistle, every hiccup, and every clink is right where it should be, creating a sound that, while sonically silly, is musically flawless.

Spike Jones did not so much ridicule or destroy the song as he turned it completely inside-out. In his hands, Cocktails For Two is a fast, tight, and very precise record that manages to sound loose, funny, and carefree. While the composers of the piece probably would disagree, to accomplish that feat, Jones had to be some kind of a musical genius. There is simply no other word to describe what he created.

Here are the lyrics to the song (without the sound effects, of course)
Oh what delight to be given the right
To be carefree and gay once again
No longer slinking, respectfully drinking
Like civilized ladies and men

No longer need we miss
A charming scene like this:
In some secluded rendezvous,
That overlooks the avenue,
With someone sharing a delightful chat,
Of this and that,
And cocktails for two.

As we enjoy a cigarette,
To some exquisite chansonette,
Two hands are sure to slyly meet beneath a serviette,
With cocktails for two.

My head may go reeling,
But my heart will be obedient,
With intoxicating kisses,
For the principal ingredient,

Most any afternoon at five,
We’ll be so glad we’re both alive,
Then maybe fortune will complete her plan,
That all began
With cocktails for two

The song was recorded by several artists, but three versions (Duke Ellington, Johnny Green, and Will Osborne) charted on the Billboard charts in 1934 and the Spike Jones version charted in 1945. (Sorry, I do not have the Osborne version.) To listen to a song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as

Charted Versions
Duke Ellington and his Orchestra Cocktails For Two
Johnny Green and his Orchestra, vocals by Howard Phillips Cocktails For Two
Spike Jones and His City Slickers, vocals by Carl Grayson Cocktails For Two

Non-charted Versions
Carl Brisson (from the 1934 movie Murder at the Vanities) Cocktails For Two
Zarah Leander (1934) Cocktails For Two
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (1938) Cocktails For Two
Bing Crosby (1955 radio show) Cocktails For Two
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards Cocktails For Two

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The dawn of romantic awareness, 1945 style

Couple walking at alley in night lights. Photo in vintage multic
I just received word that August is National Romance Month. Since the month is almost over, let me add my two-cents worth to the subject by writing about a song that is about the genesis of romantic awareness, or at least how it was perceived in 1945. That song is I’m Beginning To See The Light.

I’m Beginning To See The Light is a classic American popular song and jazz standard, written by bandleaders Duke Ellington and Harry James, and alto-saxophonist Johnny Hodges, with lyrics by Don George in 1944.

Don George’s lyrics for I’m Beginning To See The Light deal with romantic images and with the witty use of a list of “light” images such as “lantern-shine” and “rainbows in my wine” to which the singer was impervious until falling in love. The song ends by using one of the oldest songwriting clichés – the mixing of metaphors, in this case, of light and heat: “but now that your lips are burning mine, I’m beginning to see the light.”

Ellington’s melody was a difficult one for which to write a workable lyric, but Don George was up to the task. Notice that each section of the song consists of the same, driving vamp-like phrase repeated three times over before the melody finally changes. George solved this problem and heightened its musical insistence by using the same rhyme for the first three lines of each section. To understand what I mean, here are his lyrics:
I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I’m beginning to see the light

I never went in for afterglow
Or candlelight on the mistletoe
But now when you turn the lamp down low
I’m beginning to see the light

Used to ramble through the park
Shadowboxing in the dark
Then you came and caused a spark
That’s a four-alarm fire now

I never made love by lantern-shine
I never saw rainbows in my wine
But now that your lips are burning mine
I’m beginning to see the light

I’m Beginning To See The Light was one of the first recordings that Duke Ellington made after the lifting of the American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban, which was called in August 1942 as a result of the union’s belief that mechanical reproduction of records was ruining the careers of live performing musicians.

(I will digress for a few paragraphs to give you some information about an almost forgotten slice of recording history. I promise I will return to the subject at hand once I finish with this little detour.)

On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, at the instigation of its president James Petrillo, started a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. Beginning at midnight, July 31, no union musician could record for any record company.

The strike did not affect musicians performing on live radio shows, in concerts, or, after October 27, 1943, on special recordings made by the record companies for V-Discs for distribution to the armed forces fighting World War II, because V–Discs were not available to the general public. However, the union did frequently threaten to withdraw musicians from the radio networks to punish individual network affiliates who were deemed “unfair” for violating the union’s policy on recording network shows for repeat broadcasts.

Petrillo had long thought that recording companies should pay royalties. When he announced that the recording ban would start at midnight, July 31, 1942, most people thought it would not happen. America had just entered World War II on December 8, 1941 and most newspapers opposed the ban. By July, it was clear that the ban would take place and record companies began to stockpile new recordings of their big names. In the first two weeks of July, these performers recorded new material: Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Charlie Barnet, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller, who recorded his last records as a civilian bandleader. At first, the record companies could release these new recordings to meet listeners’ needs from their unissued stockpiles, but eventually this supply was exhausted. The companies also re–released deleted records from their back catalogues, including some from as far back as the mid-1920s. As the strike extended into 1943, record companies bypassed the striking musicians by recording their popular vocalists singing with vocal groups filling the backup role normally filled by orchestras. Examples of such recordings include Goodbye, Sue by Perry Como (1943), Sunday, Monday, or Always by Bing Crosby (1943), and You’ll Never Know by Dick Haymes (1943).

The strike had an effect on radio shows that used recorded music due to the limited amount of new recordings. Record companies were asked to pay royalties to the union, and eventually they complied. The strike ended on November 11, 1944.

Recording artists had a new beginning and Duke Ellington was no exception. He was eager to record a version of his already-popular song, I’m Beginning To See The Light. He recorded the song for Victor, with vocals by Joya Sherrill and it hit the charts in February, 1945.

Ellington’s version was joined by a recording by Harry James and his Orchestra (Actually, James’ version hit the charts earlier and climbed higher than Ellington’s), followed in April 1945 by Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots, featuring Bill Kenny. In later years, such artists as Louis Armstrong took a crack at the song when he and Duke Ellington recorded together in 1961. The song was also featured in the award-winning 1981 Broadway show Sophisticated Ladies, a musical revue based on the music of Duke Ellington; Harry James’ version appeared in the 2000 film My Dog Skip; and Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (alias Paul Weston and Jo Stafford) parodied the song out-of-key in their 1960s album Darlene Remembers Duke. (I have included the song in this post. It is hard to believe that you are hearing the always pitch-perfect Jo Stafford murdering this song! No one would ever think of this version as a romantic ballad!!)

Others who have recorded the song include Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Ray, Billy Eckstine (recorded the song many times: with Billy May, with Quincy Jones, with Bobby Tucker and with Gil Asky), Peggy Lee, Michael Bublé, Joe Jackson (recorded a cover of the song for his Duke Ellington tribute album, The Duke.)

To listen to the various versions, click on the song title.

Harry James and his Orchestra, vocals by Kitty Kallen (#1) I’m Beginning To See The Light
Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots featuring Bill Kenny (#5) I’m Beginning To See The Light
Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, vocals by Joya Sherrill (#6) I’m Beginning to See the Light

Other songs mentioned in this post.

Perry Como,(background singers: Mixed Chorus consisting of Anna-Jean Merrill, Elise Bretton, Diane Carol, Virginia Black, Barbara Allen, Richard E. Campbell, Robert G. Lange, Richard Paige, William Paige and Morgan Davies) Goodbye, Sue
Bing Crosby, (background singers, Ken Darby Singers) Sunday, Monday or Always
Dick Haymes, (background singers, The Song Spinners) You’ll Never Know
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, I’m Beginning To See The Light
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, I’m Beginning To See The Light

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