DUKE ELLINGTON - "Blue Skies" and "Squeeze Me But Don't Tease Me" (two-sided shellac). This is a very nice, near mint 10" (78rpm) Mid-1940s era air check of Duke Ellington. Can't tell much more about it, except that the record came from the collection of an advanced Ellington collector. BACKGROUND: “Blue Skies” was covered by well over 100 artists, including Duke Ellington. The song was born of more desperation than inspiration. It was introduced in 1926 by well-known vaudeville star Belle Baker in the Broadway musical Betsy, but that doesn’t begin to describe the saga of how an Irving Berlin song ended up in a Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical. The young songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart had written the score for Betsy in the new fashion sweeping Broadway musicals, that of integrating songs into the characters and dramatic context of the story rather than stringing together a series of song and dance numbers in the style of a revue, often with little connection to the plotline. Betsy, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, was scheduled to open on Broadway in December of 1926 after its Boston tryout, where it was moderately well received but was far from being a hit. Berlin’s first child had been born in November of 1926, and the song he had started but not finished was to be gift to his new daughter. All he had was the first eight bars of the refrain, but with the help of Baker and her husband, Maurice Abrahams, working through the night he finished the song, lyrics and all, and it became “Blue Skies.” Herbert Baker recalls, “It’s now about seven in the morning and the show is due to open that night. My mother gets on the phone and calls Florenz Ziegfeld. She wakes him up and she tells him that Irving Berlin has been up all night working on a song for her, and it’s finished, and it’s great, and she wants to sing it tonight, and if she can’t sing it tonight she doesn’t want to open in the show. When Baker sang “Blue Skies” she stopped the show and had to sing twenty-four encores. On the twenty-third time, overwhelmed by the response, she forgot the lyrics, and Berlin, who was in the audience, stood up and gave her the words. They finished the next chorus singing together.
---DUKE ELLINGTON - "Just Good Fun" was recorded by Duke Ellington (piano solo) at an ARC-Brunswick recording session in New York on March 8, 1939 (one-sided, 10" 78rpm shellac test pressing) -- mx #MW-990-1, issued on LP only; FDC-1003.