The “Saint Louis Blues” is a jazz standard. It was composed by W.C. Handy as a fusion of “ragtime syncopation with a real melody in the spiritual tradition.” It’s been recorded by “God” and everybody, and it’s one of my favorites. I thought we’d take a tour through some of the recordings.
First, here’s Handy and his band, recorded in 1914. I’d not heard this version before.
In 1921, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded their version. The band wasn’t original, nor was it from Dixieland, but it was the first jazz band to record commercially. They do a fine version of the tune, very much in the Dixieland style:
In 1935, the Boswell Sisters, a trio of singers who inspired the later Andrews Sisters, recorded a vocal version. I like this one a whole lot, and not only for the brief phrase lifted from “The Hall of the Mountain King”:
Guitar legend Django Reinhardt recorded it that same year. Jimi Hendrix can eat his heart out.
And then, in 1939 came Benny Goodman with the gold standard. This is the recording that I first fell in love with.
I’ll stop here, but there are many other recordings to explore, by such diverse folks as Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Chet Atkins, Chuck Berry, and Hugh Laurie, not to mention the Canadian Brass.
There. That ought to keep Joseph Susanka busy for a while.