yellow moon

It’s always a pleasure to observe Thomas “Spats” Langham — singer, vaudevillian, string virtuoso — and he always surprises in the nicest ways.  One of his specialties is bringing “new” (as in unheard or rarely-heard) song treasures to us.  In this case — at the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, the song was SLEEPY HEAD, written by Banjo Ikey Robinson.  As far as I can tell, the only official recordings of this song have been by Spats and Jeff Barnhart, individually and as a duo.  (There are several other songs with that title, the one I know being a tender Thirties lullaby that Bobby Hackett used as his closing theme on his 1949 broadcasts from Nick’s in Greenwich Village.)

In this performance, Spats is joined by Robert Fowler, reeds; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, brass bass.

What I find delightful here is not simply the song itself, or the vocal, or the instrumental interludes, but the blend — that seems so right — between the sad lyrics and the swinging tempo, something that musicians in the late  Twenties and Thirties brought to a high art: the lyrics are frankly sad, but the dancers wanted to swing.  As they would here.

Thank you, Spats, Robert, Martin, and Malcolm, for making beauty out of sadness.

More of this — the “beauty” part more than the “sadness” — will be offered generously at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — one of the most rewarding weekends I could imagine.  And I won’t have to imagine it.  See you there, I hope.

May your happiness increase!


  1. Lovely little tune.

  2. Helena Davidsson

    Dear Michael,
    Once again I have spent a full Saturday evening and half a night too of gorgeous music recorded by you, this time from Whitley Bay 2015. I wish so intensly that one day it will be possible for me to be there and listen to all the fabulous guys playing their joyous songs of every kind in the early N.O. style. Thank you again for being there and letting us far off dwellers hear and see the real enthusiasts at such a great venue. Just imagine that dreams one day simply could come true….. So much warmth in a cold, dark and wet November is just what we all need. All the best to you from middle Sweden and Helena Davidsson

  3. Herbert Frei

    Don’t hesitate ! Whitley Bay Festival, now called Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, is a MUST ! You have to be there ! World class musicians, as told me Keith Nichols personally, (and he knows more than anybody about what we speak, maybe beside Michael) united and playing in different combos, an absolute highlight. I discovered last year, by chance, and I think that I’d cross the Channel by swimming to go there. Herbert from Geneva

  4. I never heard this great song- thank you! I found another rendition on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EsvoQoWIcc

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