ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND

Latest update on 29/02/2016

Artist: Arthur Collins & Byron G. Harlan
Author: Irving Berlin
Label: Victor/Columbia
Year: 1911

N°1 US. One of Irving Berlin's oldest compositions. First popularised by Emma Carus, big fat shouter from Chicago, who worked it into her vaudeville act. Her picture's on the oldest sheetmusic edition. Introduced that same year by Eddie Miller and Helen Vincent on the Frolic of the author's Friars Club, but unsuccessfully. Set the standard for Berlin's later hits.

Covers:

1911:

Victor Military Band

1911:

Billy Murray [n°2 US]

1912:

Prince's Orch. [n°3 US]

1927:

Bessie Smith [hit US]

1935:

Boswell Sisters [hit US]

1936:

Benny Goodman

1937:

Louis Armstrong [hit US]

1938:

Alice Faye [in musical film Alexander's Ragtime Band]

1938:

Bing Crosby & Connee Boswell [n°1 US; charity recording; introduction by Eddie Cantor, then main fundraiser in Roosevelt's national campaign against Infantile Paralysis (polio)]

1938:

Ray Noble

1947:

Bing Crosby & Al Jolson

1948:

Andrews Sisters

1950:

Sammy Kaye

1957:

Sarah Vaughan

1958:

Ella Fitzgerald

1959:

Golden Gate Quartet

1960:

Dutch Swing College Band

1962:

Ray Charles

1962:

King Curtis

1976:

Ben Sidran

2014:

Willie Nelson & Sister Bobbie

Most popular and most lucrative ragtime-era tune ever written, while it ain't ragtime strictly speaking: it's about ragtime. Uses part of Stephen Foster's Swanee River tune to cleverly bridge the gap between old-time march music and hip ragtime. May have been written about the same Alexander as in Harry Tilzer's 1904 song Alexander (Don't You Love Your Baby No More). More likely it's about Jack Alexander, cornet player and bandleader where Berlin wrote Alexander And His Clarionet for (1911). That was no hit and so Berlin (a Harry Tilzer discovery) re-used part of the lyrics in Alexander's Ragtime Band.

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