Tag Archives: Big Band

“April in Paris” – by Vernon Duke and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg


“Place du Theatre-Francais, Spring” by Camille Pissarro: wikimedia commons

Vernon Duke is not as familiar a name as his friend and mentor’s, George Gershwin. Vernon Duke was born Vladimir Dukelsky and studied to be a classical composer before he and his family fled during the Russian Revolution. In America he met George Gershwin and when he began to write popular songs, at Gershwin’s suggestion, he changed his name to Vernon Duke, though he still had an extremely prolific career as a classical composer under the name Vladimir Dukelsky.

Vernon Duke is probably best known for writing the songs for  the musical “Cabin in the Sky,” which was later made into a movie in 1943 with Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Eddie Anderson (“Taking a Chance on Love”). His other most famous song  is “April in Paris,” written for a revue in 1932 called “Walk a Little Faster” with lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, who is familiar to most people, without being commonly known, for his lyrics to Harold Arlen’s songs in The Wizard of Oz.

Oddly enough, “April in Paris” was not considered a success after the revue closed, but seems to have gradually gained momentum through the years until now it is considered a standard of American popular songs.

This is my favorite version of “April in Paris,” sung by Sarah Vaughan with trumpeter Clifford Brown, from their album together.  This seems to personify “melodramatic lyrics and urbane music,” quoted on the invaluable site Jazz Standards from Philip Furia’s book on Tin Pan Alley.

in 1952, Doris Day and Ray Bolger starred in the film April in Paris, which was not a success, but featured the song and when Doris Day also recorded it, it was a hit for her.

According to Jazz Standards, it was this 1956 recording by Count Basie and his Count Basie Orchestra that made this song a jazz standard and not just a popular song.


Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Great American Songbook


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Celery Stalks at Midnight – Doris Day and Les Brown and His Band of Renown

With Halloween approaching, I thought it would be nice to offer a song that was somewhat seasonal, though I have no idea if this song was specifically written for Halloween or not. In fact, I can find no information on this song, about who wrote it or anything. However, from the moment I first heard it, it really tickled my fancy. It is called “Celery Stalks at Midnight” and is about a “funny nightmare” of celery riding about on broomsticks, lurking in moonlight and the singer wonders if perhaps it could be something they ate, which seems very likely to me. Pizza dream!

This version is sung by Doris Day, with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Before Doris Day became a movie star, she sang with several bands, but primarily with Les Brown and his big band group, touring the country and was on the radio. In 1945, she had a #1 hit song in “Sentimental Journey” and she sang many others that were in the top ten. She would make her movie debut in 1948 with Romance on the High Seas and would continue to have an extremely successful career as a singer, but it was really fun for me to locate her early songs with Les Brown and to hear her when she was still in her late teens and early twenties.

Her songs with Les Brown always follow the same format, the band plays for a minute or so, then she joins in and sings her song, and then either Doris Day or the band finishes it off.

I found this video on youtube and thought it was a wonderfully fun collection of photos of various actresses in their best scary Halloween costumes. I hope you enjoy!


Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Music


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