Porgy (McHugh, Fields) – 1928

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Porgy (m. Jimmy McHugh, w. Dorothy Fields) — The song “Porgy,” copyrighted in 1928, was written by McHugh and Fields for the hit Broadway musical revue Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928.

lyric:

According to Wikipedia,

The show originally opened on January 4, 1928, under the heading The Blackbird Revue at Les Ambassadeurs Nightclub in New York, before transferring in May 1928 to the Liberty Theatre on Broadway,[3] where Lew Leslie changed the shows [sic] name to Blackbirds of 1928.[4] The original Broadway production opened at the Liberty Theatre on May 9, 1928, where it ran for 518 performances, becoming the longest running all-black show on Broadway. It was directed by producer Lew Leslie and starred Adelaide Hall, Bill Bojangles Robinson.[5]Aida Ward, Tim Moore, Blue McAllister, the Blackbirds Beauty Chorus and the Famous Blackbirds Orchestra conducted by Felix Weir. Also in the cast were Johnny Hudgins, Elisabeth Welch, Mantan Moreland, Cecil Mack, and Nina Mae McKinney. Orchestral arrangements were by Will Vodery.

Playbill.com provides a copy of a program for the revue in the “Inside the Playbill” section of its Blackbirds of 1928 page. The program appears, with pages in reverse order, in a slideshow titled “Inside the Playbill: Blackbirds of 1928 – Opening Night at the Liberty Theatre.” On page 18 of the program the credits indicate that the “Porgy” number is performed by Aida Ward and Billie Cortez, with Hall Johnson’s Blackbird Choir. Members of the choir include Joseph Attles, George W. Cooper, Philip Patterson, Willard McLean, James Strange, Clement Hall, Elizabeth Welch, Mabelle Stapes, Eloise Uggams, Burkie Jackson, Margaret Rhodes and Rosie White. In another copy of a program for the revue available at WorthPoint.com, the credits for the “Porgy” number appear on page 19 (see above). The only difference in the credits for this number in the second program is that the choir is named Cecil Mack Blackbird Choir.

From Pick Yourself Up: Dorothy Fields and the American Musical, Charlotte Greenspan (2010), Chapter 4 “Give My Refrains to Broadway,” p. 48:

A different slice of southern black life is offered in the song “Porgy.” Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward based their play Porgy on DuBose’s eponymous novel of 1925. The Theatre Guild produced the play, which opened on Broadway in October 1927, just a few months before Dorothy Fields’s first songs were heard in the Cotton Club. She may well have seen Porgy as part of her research into black turns of speech. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, following their success with Show Boat, had considered writing a musical version of Porgy, which would have had Al Jolson as its star, but they did not follow through with this plan. George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess opened in 1935, seven years after McHugh and Fields wrote the song “Porgy.” A second engagement of the play Porgy opened at the Republic Theater on May 28, 1928 less than two weeks after Blackbirds of 1928 had opened.

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Ethel Waters — recorded in New York, NY on 1 April 1930; originally issued on Columbia 2184D*, c/w “(What did I do to be so) Black and Blue”

Following a 16 bar verse, the chorus is 72 bars long, with nine sections, eight bars each. In the 32-bar or AABA song form most common during the classic American songbook era, a song with 64 or more bars of chorus typically has a second part of the chorus with the same structure as the first: (1) AABA, (2) AABA. The words will be different in the second part, but the music will be essentially a repetition of the first part. That’s certainly not the case here. Instead the structure of the chorus seems to be AABA CDEF A, where the “A” bar is the only one repeated and each bar in the second section is unique.

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Auld-Hawkins-Webster Saxtet — recorded in NYC on 17 May 1944; issued on the 78 rpm single Apollo Records 754, as the B-side of “Pick-Up Boys” (Leonard Feather)

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Adelaide Hall — radio transcription, 1945(?)

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Louis Prima and his Orchestra, vocal: Lilyann Carol (aka Lily Ann Carol) —  issued in June 1946 on the 78 rpm single Majestic 1051, as the B-side of “Boogie in Chicago” (Louis Prima)

recording date disagreement:

VBR MP3 file from archive.org:

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Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with Ottilie Patterson ‎– originally issued on the 1955 album Echoes Of Harlem, (UK) Pye Nixa NJL 1, Pye Nixa NJL.1

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Anita Ellis — originally released on her 1957 album Hims, Epic LN 3914

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Teddi King — from her 1957 album A Girl and Her Songs, RCA Victor LPM-1454

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Abbey Lincoln — from the 1957 album That’s Him!, Riverside RLP 12-251, recorded in NYC on 28 October 1957

personnel:
Abbey Lincoln – vocal
Kenny Dorham – trumpet
Sonny Rollins – tenor saxophone
Wynton Kelly – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Max Roach – drums

original album track

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An alternate take (take 1) was released on the 1988 CD reissue of the album, and also included on the compilation album La chanteuse de jazz idéale, released in 1996 in France on the Wea Music label.

(below) take 1

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Nina Simone — recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival, 30 June 1960; originally issued on the 1960 album Nina At Newport, Colpix Records CP 412 (Mono) SCP 412 (Stereo) — For unknown reasons, some pressings of the album give the title of the song as “Blues For Porgy” on both the back of the album cover and the label.

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Dakota Staton — originally issued on her 1974 album Ms. Soul, Groove Merchant GM 532

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Other recordings:

Jeri Southern – 1958 album Southern Breeze, Roulette R-52010
Anna Maria Alberghetti – 1960 album Warm and Willing, Capitol T-3719 (Mono), ST3719 (Stereo)
Maxine Sullivan & her Swedish All Stars – 1983 album The Queen, Volume 2, (Sweden) Kenneth Records KS 2053

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* The  Discography of American Historical Recordings indicates that two masters of Columbia matrix W150159 were made, drawn from the first and second of three takes on 1 April 1930 in NYC. On the Columbia 2184-D page, DAHR suggests that each of the masters were used to create separate pressings of the single with that catalog number.

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Relevant links

Blackbirds of 1928 (aka Lew Leslie’s “Blackbirds of 1928”)

Wikipedia

IBDb

book

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