Tag Archives: Connie’s Hot Chocolates

SHE’S SWEET. SHE’S FROM SAVANNAH.

savannah

Fats Waller, Andy Razaf, and Shelton Brooks wrote this song in 1929 for the revue CONNIE’S HOT CHOCOLATES.  I’ve read that Fats sold the rights to this and nearly 20 other songs to Irving Mills for $500 — a fortune in those days, but nothing compared to the money Mills made from that bundle.  Alas.

But back to the theme. To some, it’s not the most memorable composition — melody, rhythm, or lyrics — but I love it ardently because of the music its inspired, and because I always imagine a line of nimble chorus girls dancing to it. Like many of Fats’ most memorable tunes, it relies greatly on repeated melodic phrases moved around over the harmonies — simple to annotate but not as simple to create.

Here are four recordings from 1929, in chronological order, and a later masterpiece.  Consider the delightful possibilities.

The first ever: Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Homer Hobson, trumpet; Fred Robinson, trombone; Jimmy Strong, clarinet; Bert Curry, Crawford Wethington, alto saxophone; Carroll Dickerson, violin, conductor; Gene Anderson, piano; Mancy Carr, banjo; Pete Briggs, tuba; Zutty Singleton, drums.  New York, July 22, 1929.  (I think the intuitive relationship between Louis and Zutty — the latter on bock-a-de-bock cymbals and solidly thudding accents) foreshadows that of Louis and Big Sid. July 22, 1929:

Irving Mills’ Hotsy Totsy Gang.  Mannie Klein, Phil Napoleon, trumpet; Miff Mole, trombone; possibly Arnold Brilhart, clarinet, alto; Larry Binyon, tenor saxophone; possibly Arthur Schutt, piano; unknown banjo, guitar; Joe Tarto, tuba; Chauncey Morehouse, drums; Lilian Morton, vocal.  July 31, 1929:

I wonder what else can be known about Lilian Morton, aside from the two sides she made for Parlophone, THAT’S MY MAMMY and AFTER MY LAUGHTER CAME TEARS (accompaniment unknown) and that in 1926, she was praised in a tiny notice in The Scranton Republican from Scranton, Pennsylvania, as “Broadway’s well known singing comedienne … a peppery singer of the original type,” with “a splendid voice.”  She sounds very good on this recording.

Here’s the non-vocal version (made for the European market) with Miss Morton’s place taken by a duet for Arthur Schutt (perhaps?) and wonderful drumming by Chauncey Morehouse.  Praise to Larry Binyon, too:

And for the Lilian Morton completists in the viewing audience, the other Fats song — a good one! — from the same score, with Miss Morton’s vocal:

The originator, Fats Waller, at the piano, August 2, 1929:

And an utterly remarkable recording of SUE by Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra, September 20, 1929.  The Louis and Mills recordings seem to use the same stock arrangement, but this recording is notable for a slap-tongue clarinet solo after the last eight bars, completely satisfying vaudeville singing from the leader, wondrous piano by Hank Duncan, and delightful trumpet work from either Temple or Brown.  Fess Williams, clarinet, alto, vocal, leader; George Temple, trumpet; John Brown, trumpet, vocal; David “Jelly” James, trombone; Ralph Brown, Felix Gregory, alto saxophone; Perry Smith, clarinet, tenor, vocal; Henry “Hank” Duncan, piano; Ollie Blackwell or Andy Pendleton, banjo; Emanuel Casamore, tuba; Ralph Bedell, drums, vocal:

and one of the most endearing recordings I know — in its own way evoking Louis and Fats together in the persons of Ruby Braff, cornet; Dick Hyman, piano; July 2, 1994:

May your happiness increase!

LOUIS and FATS, by SAMMY CAHN

Sammy Cahn

When I was a young boy Louis Armstrong was already a legend.  All these rumors that he was not allowed in the country, that he was a junkie, that he’d married a white (gulp) woman.  Louis Armstrong?  There was no Louis Armstrong.  He was a trumpet and a voice you heard on a record in the middle of the night.  I would listen and listen to those records.

One day Connie Immerman of the Cotton Club — also famous for Immerman’s Hot Chocolates — said he wanted to introduce me to Louis Armstrong.  Connie took me to the Cotton Club, and when I walked in and saw Louis I just gasped.

The first thing Armstrong said to me was, “When were you born?”  I said June 18.  He whipped out this book he had and flipped through the pages to that date.  He turned the book around and showed me the names of other people — famous people — who had been born on June 18.  I hoped some of it would rub off on me.

I found out that Louis was terribly weak at memorizing lyrics.  His wife would place lyrics all over the house — in his socks, in his shoes, any place he couldn’t miss and so at least would have to look at them a lot.

At the Cotton Club most of the songs were written to help work out a piece of business in the show.  They had a little boy for an act and needed a way of getting him into the show.  I had the idea of a shoeshine boy coming forward through the tables — which is how “Shoe Shine Boy” got written.  I wrote a number for Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “I Bring You Religion On A Mule.”  They hired a little white mule.  She came riding in on it.  Two days later Connie Immerman said to me, “You and your ideas!”  I said, “Isn’t the song stopping the show?”  Connie said, “Sure it’s stopping the show.  Everybody’s quitting.  Somebody found out the mule is getting more than the chorus girls.”  I’ve never suggested an animal act since.

I became close to Louis Armstrong.  One night we covered ten joints in Harlem, and each place somebody was doing Louis Armstrong.  In the tenth and last one it was a really terrible imitation.  I said, “Louis, why are we here?  This man just tries to do everything you do.”  Louis said, “He may do somep’n I don’t do.”

I learned that Armstrong’s solos never varied, and I asked him why.  He said, “Is it good?”  I said yes.  “So?”  No argument.

Once I saw Fats Waller at a rehearsal with a quart of gin on the piano.  “That’s a funny way to run a rehearsal,” I primly said.  He answered just fine: “Hey, I get four arrangements to a quart.”

Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller.  Can you top them?

[From I SHOULD CARE: THE SAMMY CAHN STORY, by Sammy Cahn, pp. 223-24.]

FATS FINDS ME

July 2009 New York 006

This wonderful jazz artifact emerged from an antique store somewhere near Hillsdale, New York — a hot little room with too much sheet music to go through in one visit.  (The double and triple copies of songs that must have been popular are always revealing: in Maine, everyone must have been singing CHONG, HE CAME FROM HONG KONG in 1931; here, I perceived a collective obsession with songs about Old Wyoming.  Go figure.)  I picked out about a dozen pieces of music — Ray Noble, Connee Boswell, and others — and took them to the counter to find out the prices the amiable proprietor had in mind.  Of course, when she began to mutter after every other sheet, “Oh, this one’s going to be expensive,” I knew I was in trouble.  But I had to have the Waller-Razaf one above.

I admire its Deco caricatures, top and bottom, as well as the list of other Waller-Razaf songs (all obscure) that made up the musical score.  And, of course, this post is another example of cyber cross-pollination: Ricky Riccardi — sole proprietor of The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong online — has been posting extensively researched segments on Louis’s recordings of the song from 1929 on.  Extremely rewarding reading! 

But there’s more.  Songs of that period had both choruses and verses — the verse serving to set up the song’s dramatic situation.  And the whole idea of chorus and verse was tied to theatrical presentation.  AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ has two simultaneous verses.  One I knew (as recorded by Seger Ellis and others) turns out to have been the boy’s part.  But I had never heard the girl’s . . .

Here they are, for your edification and for singing around the parlor piano.  Or perhaps in the car – – –

BOY:  Though it’s a fickle age, With flirting all the rage, Here is one bird with self-control; Happy inside my cage.

GIRL:  Your type of man is rare, I know you really care, That’s why my conscience never sleeps; When you’re away somewhere.

BOY:  I know who I love best, Thumbs down on all the rest, My love was given heart and soul; So it can stand the test.

GIRL:  Sure was a lucky day; When fate sent you my way, And made you mine alone for keeps, Ditto to all you say.

The Boy’s lines are slangy; the Girl’s much more sentimentally pedestrian (and perhaps the logic of her conscience never sleeping is awry) but they do Andy Razaf every credit. 

More purchases to share soon!