MEMPHIS BLUES, THE

Latest update on 09/05/2010

Artist: Victor Military Band
Author: William Christopher Handy
Label: Victor
Year: 1914

Copyright 1912 as instrumental. Lyrics by George A. Norton published in 1913. Original title: Mr. Crump, written in 1909 as a campaign song for Edward H. Crump fishing for the black vote in a musical language they'll understand. Crump was elected major and stayed in office for the next four decades. He was still the major when Elvis came to town. His law & order policy triggered a parody using the words of folk song Mama Don't Allow over the same melody (see there). Handy (and Norton) turned it into The Memphis Blues. As such popularized by George Honey Boy Evans' minstrel troupe (1913) in a Edward V. Cupero arrangement, who was musical director and band leader in Evans' show. The Cupero arrangement was also used for the Victor Band version. This was the very first blues on record, though not the first published blues. Anthony Maggio's race instrumental I Got The Blues (1908), Artie Mattheus' Baby Seals Blues (1912) and Lee Roy Lasses White's Nigger Blues (1913) came earlier but only Handy's tunes hit the jackpot.

Covers:

1914:

Prince's Orch. [for Columbia]

1915:

Arthur Collins & Byron G. Harlan [first vocal version with earlier lyrics mentioning Handy who'd lost his copyright recently]

1919:

James Reese Europe

1923:

W.C. Handy's Orch. [for Okeh]

1927:

Ted Lewis [hit US]

1929:

Fletcher Henderson

1930s:

Milton Brown

1940:

Bing Crosby

1942:

Harry James

1946:

Duke Ellington

1953:

Chet Atkins

1954:

Louis Armstrong

1956:

Big Maybelle

1965:

Red Allen

1966:

Earl Hines

1968:

Doc Watson

1975:

Phineas Newborn Jr.

The story of the black stealing from the black, the white from the white and the one from the other.

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