Paul Williams: Baritone Boogie - JazzWax

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February 23, 2012


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Yeah, thanks a load, Marc, for featuring again an hitherto un-, now *sung* hero of jazz, or rather of the rhythm 'n' blues department of jazz. With all those "Hucklebuck's" in my collection, Paul Williams was subconsciously always around though.

By the way, thanks also for mentioning yet another source of the "Hucklebuck", 'cause "This Is The Boogie" by "The Three Bits Of Boogie" was unknown to me.

For anyone else who didn't know it, it's here:

I once tried to compile a list of all available predecessors of "The Hucklebuck". There is yet another one, which is not too obvious. It's entitled "Keep Smiling At Trouble", as played by the Bud Freeman Trio:

Bud Freeman (ts) Jess Stacy (p) George Wettling (d) - Recorded for "Commodore" in NY on April 13, 1938.

If you listen closely to Bud's phrase at minute two which came quasi out of the blue - like a flash from the future -, you would hear another melodic source to Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time" which later became Paul Williams' hit "The Hucklebuck".

But I have to defend the man a little bit, just because he hasn't stolen anything from Bird. The rhythm of the main theme which reminds us of "Now's The Time" may be the same, but the melody starts on the 5th, whereas "Now's The Time" begins on the root.

And sorry, except for being a blues has Fletcher Henderson's "D'Natural Blues" nothing to do with Lucky Millinder's blues of the same title. It's included in my compilation anyway.

It's also very interesting to note that some ads of the time have announced the Charlie Parker Quintet as "Charlie Parker & His Orchestra"; it seems to me that the promotors would have best ignored the fact that Bird's band was playing a different kind of, err, "swing".

John P. Cooper

The Gleason is great. For years I have wondered who the performer is. Does anyone know?

Rab Hines

Kay Starr.

The version on the show is an alternate take from the one released on LP. Unknown band apart from Billy Butterfield and Will Bradley.

John P. Cooper

Hi Rab-

Are you certain? There is a quaver in her voice on the sample on the Wal-Mart site sample of Starr that I do not hear on the Honeymooners version.

Rab Hines

Apparently Gleason had access to an alternate version due to his good connections at Capitol (both were Capitol artists.)

That's the reason I heard, anyway.

John P. Cooper

It's possible, but why use an alternate take to begin with? Is there a point to doing that? It almost as if people came up with an explanation to fit the question, Perhaps the Honeymooners simply had a singer record it and not have to pay any royalties. Fascinating!

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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