Love for Sale


Love for Sale (Cole Porter) – Cole Porter made his entrance into the 1930s with the revue The New Yorkers (1930) which included a song about a streetwalker, “Love for Sale”. The lyric was considered too explicit for radio at the time (it was generally recorded as an instrumental), but has gone on to become a standard. – wikipedia

However, Jazz Standards reports that “when Love for Sale was banned from the radio, the song only gained in popularity. Not only did Walter Winchell promote it in his column but the ban itself proved alluring to the record buying public.

Waring's-Pennsylvanians-in Paris-Ambassadeurs-1928

(Above) Waring’s Pennsylvanians photographed in front of Les Ambassadeurs in Paris, 1928

Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians’ vocal group the “Three Waring Girls”


Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians — recorded on 24 December 1930, in New York

The vocal group which sings the refrain was variously billed professionally as the “Three Waring Girls,” the “Waring Girls,” or the “Three Girl Friends.” According to, the members of the trio were June Shafer, Ida Pearson and Stella Friend.



Sidney Bechet Quartet



Billie Holiday & her Orchestra – recorded in Los Angeles, “after” 21 April 1952, according to

personnel for the session (Clef): Charlie Shavers (tp) Flip Phillips (ts) Oscar Peterson (p) Barney Kessel (g) Ray Brown (b) Alvin Stoller (d) Billie Holiday (v)

But only Oscar Peterson accompanies Holiday on this song.


Ella Fitzgerald

From Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, album recorded 7-9 February and 27 March 1956, released 1956



Cannonball Adderley – from Blue Note Records album Somethin’ Else.

Cannonball Adderley (as)
Miles Davis (tp)
Hank Jones (p)
Sam Jones (b)
Art Blakey (ds)


The Manhattan Transfer — track #3 from Pastiche, 1978


Elvis Costello — live on the remastered Rhino Entertainment CD of the 1981 Elvis Costello and the Attractions album Trust


Mick Hucknall and Simply Red — Montreux Jazz Festival 1992




15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gabriel Chistoni
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 03:29:50

    Very interesting site ! But why not to record the ” Love for sale” version by Greta Keller and,above all,the Al Bowlly one:the only male singer who recorded this beautiful song…

    Gabriel Chistoni



  2. doc
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 07:34:17



    1. Haven’t found the Greta Keller version, though I haven’t checked audio file sites yet (just video libraries). I do have a feature page on pre-WWII recordings of Keller, here:

    2. Haven’t looked for the Al Bowlly recording, yet. It was nearly two years ago that I created this feature and it hasn’t been visited much. I tend to amend pages that are being visited frequently before others. The visiting draws my attention to them and makes me want to improve them.This page has been visited fewer than 150 times in the past 23 months (total visits too low to even be recorded in the WordPress stats). You might say I’ve rather forgotten about it.

    But now that you’ve brought my attention back to the song I see that it might benefit by the addition of a few more versions, and perhaps by expanding the song history, etc.

    3. All first time comments are moderated. If you had a blog or website, you probably wouldn’t wonder why. The ratio of spam to real comments is about 50:1. Occasionally, spam gets through the WP defenses. Also, once in awhile I receive a comment from someone who just wants to throw an insult at somebody, or at everybody.

    Example: I received a comment from a brilliant wit who said simply,

    You’re all gay.

    Amused, I left it for a day or so before trashing it.



  3. doc
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 08:02:42

    Al Bowlly recorded the song with Roy Fox & his Band in London on 21 July 1931. In an extensive Bowlly discography by “i. rogers,” the 1931 portion at, the track is listed as

    GB-3029-1 Love For Sale Dec F-2404* [no idea what the asterisk refers to]

    The following note is attached:
    “Although there is no vocal refrain as such on ‘Love For Sale’, due to the ban on the lyrics, Al Bowlly can be heard humming on this side.”

    Sure enough, an mp3 audio file of the song which I found at has Al Bowlly only humming…or more accurately “la-dee-dah-ing” for a few bars beginning at about the 2 minute point of the 3:15 recording.

    This appears to be the only Al Bowlly recording of the song listed in this discography. Perhaps you know of another version by Bowlly.



  4. Gabriel Chistoni
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 01:02:46

    Thanks a lot for your explanation,a so complete one.So I assume that,apart the humming (or crooning) of Al Bowlly,no male singer ever sung “love for sale”.And it seems that the author had in his mind a male,when he composed it…
    Many thanks again



    • doc
      Dec 23, 2011 @ 19:31:54

      Gabriel, You’re welcome. Why does it seem that the author (Cole Porter) had in mind a male? The words are those of a streetwalker, a prostitute. It is sung in the original play by “May and Three Girl Friends.” The expression “open up shop,” in the first section is figurative (metaphorical). The “shop” and its “wares” refer to the body of a prostitute, parts of which are for sale like items in a store.

      Wikipedia says:

      “Love for Sale” was originally considered in bad taste, even scandalous. In the initial Broadway production, it was performed by Kathryn Crawford, portraying a streetwalker, with three girlfriends (Waring’s Three Girl Friends) as back-up singers, in front of Reuben’s, a popular restaurant of the time. As a response to the criticism, the song was transferred from the white Crawford to the African American singer Elisabeth Welch, who sang with back-up singers in a scene set in front of Harlem’s Cotton Club.

      The fact that such a racially-determined change evidently pacified some critics and made inclusion of the number more acceptable is undoubtedly offensive to some.



    • doc
      Dec 24, 2011 @ 21:56:57


      Regarding your statement, “So I assume that…no male singer ever sung Love For Sale.”:

      I hadn’t included any when I created the page, but I might not have looked specifically for versions by male singers. Prompted by your comment, I was rather surprised to find over 200 recordings listed at Second Hand Songs, although given its ranking of #30 at it’s to be expected. Many of these seem to be jazz instrumentals. However, I’ve still only checked out a small portion of them. Second Hand Songs probably hadn’t been added to my toolbox at the time I created the page. I may have known about the site, but hadn’t yet begun to use it extensively.



      • doc
        Dec 24, 2011 @ 22:26:41


        Here are some recordings of Love For Sale by male artists, adapted from Wikipedia:

        *Elvis Costello from the remastered Rhino Entertainment CD of the 1981 Elvis Costello and the Attractions album Trust
        *Harvey Fierstein performs a memorable (if interrupted) version in the 1988 film version of his 1982 set of plays Torch Song Trilogy
        * Mick Hucknall sang this song with Simply Red at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1992
        *Harry Connick, Jr. covered it for his 1999 album Come by Me

        I may add a couple of these to the feature. But of all of the versions I’ve heard I particularly like the country-flavored 1976 version by The Manhattan Transfer which I just came across today. I heard it long ago, but I’d forgotten about it.

        Harvey Fierstein as Arnold Beckoff in Torch Song Trilogy (1988)



  5. Gabriel Chistoni
    Dec 24, 2011 @ 01:11:05

    Jim,Cole Porter,apart his fake wedding with Linda and a short affair with a male dancer,enjoyed (together with his buddy Monty Woolley) the company of hustlers.It was an open secret,no one had to know it…Did you read “Noel and Cole” by Stephen Citron ?
    Merry Xmas and best regards



    • doc
      Dec 24, 2011 @ 08:11:10

      Gabriel, Now I get you. You may be right. The presumption I made was that he was writing for the actual character in the musical. But who knows what he imagined privately regarding this character? I am aware of Porter’s gay side. But no, I haven’t read that book, yet. Best wishes to you and yours for the Holidays.



  6. Ron Levao
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 14:09:41

    I’d love to know more about the 3 Waring girls, whom someone compared to the sound of three hummingbirds. Dreamy, mystical creatures from Prospero’s island!



    • doc
      Sep 26, 2014 @ 00:53:12

      “love to know more about the Three Waring Girls” — I agree, but have found very little information on the trio thus far. describes, as you’ve alluded to, the “sweet hummingbird-like sounds” of the trio on Waring recordings, and a reviewer of a Waring compilation disc advertised by AllMusic thought their vocals “fetching” on “Love For Sale.”

      According to, the members of the trio were June Shafer, Ida Pearson, and Stella Friend. The group was variously billed professionally as the “Three Waring Girls,” the “Waring Girls,” or the “Three Girl Friends.”

      I believe there are only a few recordings on Songbook (this site) by Waring’s Pennsylvanians in which the Waring Girls sing: (possibly) “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” (1927), “Love For Sale” (1930), “Dancing in the Dark” (1931), and “I Found a Million Dollar Baby” (1931). “Love For Sale” is the lone case of the four in which they are the only vocalists, and sing the entire refrain or chorus.



  7. Rick Heinegeber
    Mar 16, 2015 @ 22:00:05

    The Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians version with the “Three Waring Girls” is simply one of the best songs I have heard in my entire life. Thanks for posting it Doc.



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