This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Instrumentals seem to be the big thing in 1940, and we have several of them today. Perhaps it was just my selection that skewed them that way.
The song Sweet Lorraine has always been synonymous with Nat King Cole as far as I’m concerned. Of course, he wasn’t the only one who recorded the tune. In 1940 ART TATUM assigned it to wax (or shellac or whatever).
Art had an enormous influence on pianists who followed him. Alas, he did like a small glass of sherry now and then. Okay, perhaps a bit more than that and he died due to the effects of alcohol at the age of 47. Let’s see how he compares with Nat with this tune.
THE INK SPOTS make their regular appearance again today.
If you don’t know about the Ink Spots you haven’t been reading my columns for very long. They were one of the finest singing groups for the last hundred years. Here they are with a hit from our year, Whispering Grass.
We’re at the height of the popularity of big band music, so it would be perverse of me not to include something from that genre. Of course, I’ve been known to be perverse in these columns, but not today. Here is ARTIE SHAW.
Frenesi was written by Alberto Dominguez, and Artie and his band had the biggest hit at the time. It’s been recorded many times by the cream of performers, but this is the way it started out.
T-BONE WALKER is known as one of the best guitarists from the last hundred years. Well, that’s my considered opinion.
Today, however, he puts his guitar down and sings some blues in the style of performers from 1940. I’d prefer that he’d play the guitar, but I can’t have everything. Here is T-Bone Blues.
Any year where BILLIE HOLIDAY is featured is all right with me.
The song she sings, Night and Day, is one of the most recorded songs in history, but it’d be difficult to come up with a better version than hers.
JIMMY RUSHING was the singer for the Count Basie Orchestra for quite a few years.
Jimmy was respected by all his peers, he could sing loud, soft and in between. Here he’s in the middle ground with the Count and his crew performing I Want A Little Girl.
There were some hints of music to come, in spite of the popularity of swing music at the time. This was in the form of small groups, playing boogie woogie and rhythm and blues. These elements eventually led to rock and roll about 15 years later, and there’s a hint of that in WILL BRADLEY’s song today.
That song is Down the Road a Piece.
Almost certainly, the most popular band around at the time was that led by GLENN MILLER.
Here he is with his band with one of his most popular numbers (literally - sorry), Pennsylvania 6-5000, the phone number of the hotel in New York where the band stayed quite often, handily close to Penn Station.
Another big band is that of ERSKINE HAWKINS & HIS ORCHESTRA.
On this track Avery Parrish is featured playing piano on a bluesy instrumental. Avery wrote this tune in spite of it being credited to Erskine on the record label. That sort of thing went on back then, as well as later. The tune is After Hours.
The Boswell Sisters were a big name act during the thirties. They appeared a bunch of times on BING CROSBY’s radio program during those years. By 1940 they had pretty much finished performing as a trio.
CONNEE BOSWELL, however, kept going as a solo artist as well as singing now and then with Bing.
Connee changed her name from Connie for some reason; it’s not quite the radical name change that some performers make. Anyway, after the sisters called it a day, Connee went out as a solo singer, and occasionally as a duo as we have today.
The song she and Bing perform is Between 18th and 19th on Chestnut Street.