ALLEY BABBLE AND THE FORTY THEMES

As we have noted, out of the cacophony and babble of pre-WWI Tin Pan Alley came the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age (not to mention Prohibition, 1920-33). If any one song could be said to capture the pulse (and become the anthem) of this dynamic cultural shift, it has to be George Gershwin’s RHAPSODY IN BLUE, written in 1924 and heard (in part) here at the outset of Woody Allen’s paean of a movie to a place called MANHATTAN:

RHAPSODY IN BLUE was commissioned by band leader Paul Whiteman and introduced to the world by his orchestra (with Gershwin himself at the piano) at NYC’s Aeolian Hall on Feb. 12, 1924. It subsequently served as Whiteman’s theme song — theme songs being a virtual prerequisite for big bands and dance bands of the 1930s. One ‘whiff’ of a familiar opening theme song immediately identified a band to radio listeners, and set the stage for a band’s performances at ballrooms, dance halls and other venues wherever they played.

There were literally hundreds of bands big and small, sweet and swing, hot and not, in the decade leading up to WW II. Of these, I’ll list 40 whose theme songs were (in my opinion) well chosen or well known, followed by your match-the-band-with-the-theme-song quiz (just kidding; that would be like s’posin’* I could match today’s artists with their hit songs — forgeddabouddit!). So just rest easy and enjoy the clips of a few selections from the list.

Louis Armstrong — WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH
Gus Arnheim — SWEET AND LOVELY
Count Basie — ONE O’CLOCK JUMP
Bunny Berrigan — I CAN’T GET STARTED
Lou Breese — BREEZIN’ ALONG WITH THE BREEZE
Willie Bryant — IT’S OVER BECAUSE WE’RE THROUGH
Billy Butterfield — WHAT’S NEW?
Cab Calloway — MINNIE THE MOOCHER
Benny Carter — MELANCHOLY LULLABY
Tommy Dorsey — I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU
Sonny Dunham — MEMORIES OF YOU

Duke Ellington — TAKE THE ‘A’ TRAIN
Skinnay Ennis — GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL
Ted Fio Rito — RIO RITA
Benny Goodman — LET’S DANCE
Glen Gray — SMOKE RINGS
Johnny Green — HELLO, MY LOVER, GOODBYE
Bobby Hackett — EMBRACEABLE YOU

George Hall — LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND
Lionel Hampton — FLYIN’ HOME
Coleman Hawkins — BODY AND SOUL
Ina Ray Hutton — GOTTA HAVE YOUR LOVE
Jack Hylton — SHE SHALL HAVE MUSIC
Harry James — CIRIBIRIBIN
Art Jarrett — EVERYTHING’S BEEN DONE BEFORE
Isham Jones — YOU’RE JUST A DREAM COME TRUE
Dick Jurgens — DAY DREAMS COME TRUE AT NIGHT
Ted Lewis — WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME
Little Jack Little — LITTLE BY LITTLE
Guy Lombardo — AULD LANG SYNE
Wingy Manone — ISLE OF CAPRI
Johnny Messner — CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS
Eddie Miller — LAZY MOOD (sung here by Johnny Mercer with Eddie Miller’s band)

Glenn Miller — MOONLIGHT SERENADE
Lucky Millender — RIDE, RED, RIDE
Vaughn Monroe — RACING WITH THE MOON
Leo Reisman — WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
Buddy Rogers — MY BUDDY
Jack Teagarden — I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES
Fred Waring — SLEEP

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* S’POSIN’ was a 1929 hit song; it is, of course, a ‘traction (contraction) of SUPPOSING

 

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20 comments on “ALLEY BABBLE AND THE FORTY THEMES

  1. A bittersweet stroll through the streets of MY town, no offense to Woody – no matter where I find myself subsequently.

    I fondly recall memories from so many of the places in the first video:
    the Empire Diner, Lincoln Center, the garment district, riding the tram to Roosevelt Island one particularly romantic date night, Radio City (especially their Christmas spectacular, complete with live camels and donkeys), Washington Square Park, the Fulton Fish Market (that turned into practically a lower Manhattan theme park for yuppies from the financial district), a million storefronts that made shopping almost a small town pleasure, the wonder of fireworks over the metropolis every 4th of July and New Year’s Eve — and views of the skyline that brought tears to my eyes.

    The Lester Lanin Orchestra was alive and kicking during my 20 years there, bringing back the golden days of an earlier time when folks danced to Big Bands non-stop and cheek to cheek – tho’ mostly to upper class events, debutante balls and fund-raising spectaculars like Night of a Thousand Stars.

    OH how I miss it! Thanks for bringing this post to my attention. I added a link here in my response to your comment, so that others might easily jump over to read. If you write other posts related to my content, I will approve your link – so leave us one, okay?
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. mistermuse says:

    Thanks for taking time to share your Manhattan memories. I’ve never been a big fan of society orchestras, but I believe Lester Lanin was considered the most successful of yesteryear’s society bandleaders. His brother, Howard Lanin, also led a band which played top society dates. Another popular society orchestra was that of Emil Coleman, who played at the Waldorf-Astoria for years.

    Thanks also for the link to my post and the invitation to post future links if related to your content. I will try to keep that offer in my “Memories of You.” 🙂

    Like

  3. linnetmoss says:

    I had forgotten about that ravishing beginning to the Woody Allen film “Manhattan.” I’ve got a compilation CD set of music from his films- some of the best music you’ll ever hear! Including a few of these “sweet” bands.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mistermuse says:

    I think of sweet bands apart from the society orchestras I mentioned in my previous comment, although I suppose it could be considered a distinction without a difference, as they say. Actually I have a fair number of 78 rpm records of sweet bands in my collection, including Guy Lombardo and Jan Garber. Some of the old sweet bands started out on the hot side but evolved into sweet bands in order to survive.

    As for the music from Woody Allen films, I couldn’t agree more!

    Like

  5. arekhill1 says:

    I heard a story about Minnie the Moocher once. To the best of my recollection, she was a low-down hootchie-coocher.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mistermuse says:

    ….and she had to take a Cab to get anywhere. And where did she go? She went thataway, Calloway! But enough of my pun-nonsense — here’s Minnie:

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Don Frankel says:

    The first one I thought of was Bob Hope and thanks for the memories but everyone used to have a theme song. And, who doesn’t want one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I definitely would’ve included Bob Hope and his theme song in the list if he had a band….but your question got me to thinking what I would choose for a theme song, and I think this one pretty much says it for me:

      Like

  8. literaryeyes says:

    Manhattan memories come back to me often. When I lived near Broadway and Times Square, I’d walk through and think of the Roaring 20s and Damon Runyon, Mae West, Lindy’s, and feel that vibe. I’d sense the notes of that time were still there, echoing down Shubert and Tin Pan Alley.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mistermuse says:

    Thank you for that evocative comment. Your “Manhattan memories” suggest to me another Gershwin tune for YOUR theme song: “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” 🙂

    Like

    • mistermuse says:

      Thank you. I attempted to reblog your latest post from your ART OF QUOTATION blog, but my computer/internet skills are woefully inadequate, and after doing the best I could, it didn’t appear the way I intended. Since I’m not up to the task of getting it right, I will delete the reblog of your post with my apologies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • moorezart says:

        No problem and I understand. Sorry for the technical difficulties. I’ve actually had similar issues at times. when reblogged from ArtofQuotation it SHOULD have worked. But I think the reblog feature on my personal artist blog Moorezart.Wordpress is turned off. In any event I’m glad you liked the post. Also I just wanted to let you know I greatly enjoy reading your blog! – Douglas

        Liked by 1 person

  10. moorezart says:

    Cherries on Top of a Hot Fudge Sundae – That’s What Your Post Titles Are. As Usual a Real Treat

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mistermuse says:

    Thank you for that delicious compliment. This calls for a song which complements your comment:

    Like

  12. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I’ve always loved Rhapsody in Blue!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. mistermuse says:

    Thank you!
    Rhapsody in Blue?
    Me too.

    Like

  14. geo. raymond says:

    “When it’s sleepy-time down south” has been on my playlist these past couple weeks. “I can’t get started” is one of my all time favorites. Brilliant Berrigan solo.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. geo. raymond says:

    Rhapsody In Blue is like nothing else in the world. Gershwin left us way too soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      Absolutely right on both counts (and I don’t mean Basie)!

      Gershwin and Bunny Berrigan both left us way too soon — as did another B.B., Bix Beiderbecke, who (next to Louis Armstrong) was the greatest cornet player of the 1920s. Like Berrigan, Bix was an alcoholic and left a legacy of classic jazz recordings before he died in 1931 at the age of 28.

      Liked by 1 person

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