Disputed authorship – In a 1987 interview published in the New York Times, Mitchell Parish claimed to have written the lyrics.
From the Wikipedia song profile:
The main theme was provided by Bigard, who learned it in New Orleans, Louisiana from his clarinet teacher Lorenzo Tio, who called it a “Mexican Blues”. Ellington’s distinctive arrangement was first recorded by his band for Brunswick Records (Cat No. 01068) on 17 October 1930. It was recorded twice more in 1930. These recordings featured Arthur Whetsol (trumpet), Joe Nanton (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Duke Ellington (piano), Fred Guy (banjo), Wellman Braud (bass), Sonny Greer (drums). An unusual thing about this piece was the way that the Duke blended the muted trumpet, muted trombone and clarinet, to give a unified sound.
The tune was composed for a radio broadcast in October 1930 and was originally titled “Dreamy Blues.” It was “the first tune I ever wrote specially for microphone transmission,” Ellington recalled. “The next day wads of mail came in raving about the new tune, so Irving Mills put a lyric to it.” Renamed “Mood Indigo,” it became a jazz standard. What makes the original recording(s) so interesting is the fact that Ellington has taken the traditional front-line of trumpet, trombone and clarinet, and turned them “upside down.”
At the time of these first three recordings in 1930, the usual voicing of the horns would be clarinet at the top (highest pitch), trumpet in the middle, and the trombone at the bottom (lowest pitch). In “Mood Indigo,” Ellington voices the trombone right at the top of the instrument’s register, and the clarinet at the very lowest. This was unheard of at the time, and also created (in the studio) a so-called “mike-tone”—an effect generated by the overtones of the clarinet and trombone (which was tightly muted as well). The “mike-tone” gives the audio-illusion of the presence of a fourth “voice,” or instrument.
The original recording by The Jungle Band (one of Duke Ellington’s early bands) – 17 October 1930, New York NY (Brunswick 4952)
You’ll need a Realplayer plug-in, or alternative, to play this and any RA (.ra) files I post from redhotjazz.com. I use Media Player Classic.
Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: The provider dates this recording October 1930. That means it could be either the 17 October recording under the pseudonym The Jungle Band, or a 30 October side recorded as The Harlem Footwarmers.
Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra – recorded on 10 December 1930 (Victor 22587-A)
A 1955 performance
From the album The Great Reunion: Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington – 1963. Vocals by Armstrong. Disabled video replaced 12 Mar 2010.
Henry Lange’s Orchestra – 1931. The provider gives the following information about Lange.
Born 1895, in Toledo, Ohio. Composer, songwriter (“Hot Lips”), conductor and pianist, educated in public schools and a private music student of Arthur Kortheur, Max Ecker and Herman Wasserman. He was a pianist in the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and made a European tour between 1920 and 1924. The following year, he formed his own orchestra and was appointed the music director for Baker Hotels in Texas, and toured in vaudeville. In 1936, he was the director of a radio station. His other popular-song compositions include “I Adore You”, “Yes Sir, That’s Lazybones”, “Regret”, and “On Sunday Night”.
The Boswell Sisters – 9 Jan 1933 – Dorsey Brothers Orchestra: Victor Young (ldr), Mannie Klein (tpt) Tommy Dorsey (tbn), Jimmy Dorsey (cl, as), Bennie Krueger (c, mel, as), Harry Bluestone, unknown (vln), (p), Eddie Lang (g), Artie Bernstein (sb), Stan King or Chauncey Morehouse (d), New York City
Mina – 1976
Ella Fitzgerald with Joe Pass, Japan – 1983