BILL DAVIS - "Lullaby of Birdland" was recorded by the Bill Davis Trio on January 8th, 1953 (Columbia Records, Okeh label, #6946, one-sided, 10" 78rpm shellac test, Matrix CO486771. Songf was written by George Shearing. Birdland was a famous jazz club in New York City located at 1678 Broadway at 44th Street. It had previously been the Clique Club where pianist George Shearing, composer of “Lullaby of Birdland,” first played in 1949 with clarinetist Buddy De Franco. Later that year owner Morris Levy renamed the club Birdland in honor of Charlie "Bird” Parker.
-- BACKGROUND: In his autobiography, Lullaby of Birdland: The Autobiography of George Shearing, Shearing says that there was nothing special about the small club which seated a maximum of 175 when packed. But it became famous because of the live broadcasts which originated there. In 1952 Levy decided to have station WJZ in New York broadcast a disc jockey program from there, and he asked Shearing to record a theme song for the show. But Shearing didn’t like the song that Levy gave him, so he offered to write one especially for the show. Levy finally agreed with the stipulation that he be given publishing rights while Shearing retain composer rights. For weeks Shearing tried to come up with something but to no avail. Suddenly one night in the middle of dinner he jumped up, went to the piano and wrote the whole thing in about ten minutes. The pianist explains, “Actually quite a lot of my compositions have come this way--very slow going for a week or so, and the finished piece comes together very rapidly, but as I say to those who criticize this method of working, it’s not that I dash something off in ten minutes, it’s ten minutes plus umpteen years in the business.” Shearing recorded his instrumental for the radio show and ultimately adopted it as the theme song for his quintet. Somewhat later George David Weiss added lyrics to the tune, and Sarah Vaughan recorded it in December, 1954, for Mercury with trumpeter Clifford Brown. It was one of her biggest hits and became a standard in her repertoire. In 1956 a Parisian vocal group called the Blue Stars took the song to the charts where it rose to #16. In 1962 Bill Haley and His Comets recorded a version of the tune which they called, “Lullaby of Birdland Twist.”
-- NOTE: On Feb 14, 2011. George Shearing, the British piano virtuoso who overcame blindness to become a worldwide jazz star, and whose composition, "Lullaby of Birdland" became an enduring jazz standard, died in Manhattan. He was 91.
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