This is a work in progress, started in 2004 with the purpose of contributing to the documentation of the music of Duke Ellington, as it was recorded from the beginning of his career until the end of 1939. The work is not complete, nor flawless, and probably never will be. But I think it is getting better all the time, not the least thanks to contributions from experts and collectors from many countries.
I hope readers will take the time and effort to write to me about additions and corrections.
Duke Ellington material recorded by other artists in the 1920s and 1930s.
At a dance date Duke Ellington was requested to play a well-known number from the repertoire of another famous big band. No, said Duke, we don’t play that. [You’ve come to the] Wrong band!
And so it was in the twenties and thirties, as well as later on: The known or ambitious bands strived for their own repertoire, thus defining the band, and keeping a loyal group of followers. Still quite many Duke Ellington compositions and adapted arrangements were played and recorded by other artists in these years. The main reason for that would be that these were just good songs for either dancing or listening. Other reasons could be that bands had to be able to play the hit tunes of the day, in order to keep their audience. There was money to be made if people would buy a band’s recording of a hit tune, and sometimes the band manager or a publishing company would dictate what was to be recorded. And there could be the artistic challenge in playing Ellington’s kind of music.
In the following are listed Duke Ellington compositions recorded by other artists in the 1920s and 1930s. Furthermore there is a list of Ellington compositions played by some other bands, though not recorded by them. Finally there is a list of recorded tributes to Duke Ellington.
As it will appear, I have not heard all recordings listed. So some recordings of the more obscure titles may turn out not to be recordings of Ellington compositions, but of other compositions with the same title. The following records with titles similar to Duke Ellington compositions (and sometimes erroneously attributed to Ellington in LP sleeve notes) have in fact turned out to be other pieces than Ellington’s: Blue Mood (Mills Blue Rhythm Band), Choo Choo (Frankie Trumbauer Orch.), Goin’ To Town (Luis Russell Orch.), Hodge Podge (Claude Hopkins Orch.), The Merry-Go-Round (broke down) (Jimmie Lunceford), Mississippi Moan (The Mississippi Moaners), Morning Glory (Claude Hopkins Trio), Old Man Blues (Freddie Keppard with Jimmy Blythe), Pussy Willow (Tommy Dorsey Orch.), Showboat Shuffle (King Oliver Orch.), Solitude (Meade Lux Lewis), Take It Easy (Earl Hines Orch.), That Solid Old Man (Eddie Brunner Orch.), What A Life (trying to live without you) (Andy Kirk). These are of course not listed, nor are records listed that seem very unlikely to be Duke Ellington’s compositions, although I have not heard them (e.g. Mississippi Moan with The Ebony Three 1938 or Oh, Peter, Go Ring Dem Bells with Duo Pianistico Bormioli-Semprini 1933 (the latter probably being the gospel song of that title).
I have not listed compositions copyrighted by others, though they are written by Ellington or stem from Ellington records. An instance of that is the tune “Peckin’, ” copyrighted by Ben Pollack and Harry James but actually lifted from Ellington’s first recording of Rockin’ in Rhythm.
For contributions and good advice I thank the following: Fred Beckhardt, Jan Bruér, David Diehl, Bill Egan, Peder Hansen, Sjef Hoefsmit, Andrew Homzy, Carl A. Hällström, Erik Høst, Steven Lasker, Rainer E. Lotz, Arnvid Meyer, Arne Neegaard, David Palmquist, Marcello Piras, Remco Plas, Maurice Rolfe, Frits Schjøtt, Egon Staniok, Ken Steiner. Last, but not least, Bill Hill for sharing information and recordings years back.
There are three lists:
Recordings 1924 – 1939.
Played, but not recorded 1924 – 1939.
3. Recordings of compositions not by Duke Ellington, but either explicit tributes to him or obvious inspirations or imitations.
The two first lists include compositions, where Duke Ellington is composer or co-composer. The prime source of titles of compositions is Duke Ellington’s autobiography Music Is My Mistress. After the first entry of the title is written first the year of copyright (c: ...), then the date of Duke Ellington’s first recording of the piece (r: ...), recorded broadcasts and unissued recordings included.
If the artist is not from USA the nationality is written in a ( ).
Recordings by the small units from Duke Ellington’s orchestra with either Duke Ellington or Billy Strayhorn at the piano are not included, as they are regarded as Duke Ellington recordings.
In the last column is first written the matrix no. in a ( ), then the first issue, and then some later reissues. An * indicates that I have heard the recording.
The tables are sorted by title and date of recording.
190 titles are listed in Music Is My Mistress as copy-righted before 1940. Mark Tucker documents 10 more. 353 recordings (alternative takes and rejected takes included) are documented below of 63 different titles.
228 recordings or 64,5 % are by American bands, 122 or 34,5 % by European bands (including 5 recordings from The Soviet Union), while 2 are by bands from Australia, and 1 from South America.
Judged from the recordings by other artists Duke Ellington’s music becomes increasingly popular: 43 recordings 1924-1929, 87 recordings 1930-1934 and 223 recordings 1935-1939.
Recordings 1924 – 1929
49 titles are listed in Music Is My Mistress as copyrighted before 1930. Mark Tucker documents 10 more. 43 recordings (alternative takes and rejected takes included) are documented below of 10 different titles. The 2 most popular numbers are Jig Walk (18 recordings), and Choo Choo (Gotta Hurry Home) (10 recordings). The success of Choo Choo could among other things be due to the fact that the song was published both as sheet music for piano and in a dance band arrangement (not by Ellington). As documented below the tune was recorded by a number of other bands before Ellington himself recorded it in his own arrangement in Nov. 1924.
According to Tom Lord, version 5.0 several British bands recorded the tune “Choo, Choo (Gotta Hurry Home)” between 1928 and 1931: Sid Phillips (1928), Billy Bartholomew (1930-12), Jay Wilbur (1931-01), Marius B. Winter (1931-02), Jack Hylton (1931-02), The Million Aires (1931.02), Jack Payne (1931.02), and later The Ballyhooligans (1936) and Barney Gilbraith (1939). The only recordings mentioned in RUST is Marius B. Winter’s as Choo, Choo – not by Ellington, but by Malneck/Trumbauer. I have heard the versions by Jack Hylton and by Jack Payne, and they are both the Malneck/Trumbauer tune. I find it likely that the other British recordings as well are of this non-Ellington tune. Accordingly these recordings are not listed below.
Jig walk was the tune that caught on from the show Chocolate Kiddies, not the least in Europe, where the show toured in 1925. 8 of the known recordings of Jig Walk in the 1920s are by European bands, as well as one further in 1933. Ellington never made a studio recording of Jig Walk, the sole Ellington recordings of the tune being from broadcasts, dance dates or concerts. As a whole it was Ellington, the song and dance-music writer that was recorded by other bands in the 1920s, not Ellington, the artistic creator of original music. For example the “hot” dance tune Birmingham Breakdown from 1926/27 was recorded by three bands, Black And Tan Fantasy or Creole Love Call from about the same time by none until the 1930s.