King Porter Stomp
Jelly Roll Morton
Writer(s): Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (see lyrics here)
Recorded: July 17, 1923
First Charted: --
Peak: -- US (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.61 video, -- streaming
Awards (Jelly Roll Morton’s version): (Click on award for more details).
Awards (Benny Goodman’s version): (Click on award for more details).
About the Song:
Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton was a teenager playing piano in clubs in his hometown of New Orleans when he wrote “King Porter Stomp,” NPR which he says was the result of him combining three or four tunes in 1905. SS In 1907, he started playing piano at venues around the country. A piano player in Florida named Porter King was particularly taken with Morton’s composition so Morton named it after him. SS
Morton deliberately avoided publishing his “three-minute masterpiece if ever there were one” SS so he could keep it to himself, using it to beat competitors in piano duels. The “ferocious right-hand synocpations and relentless left-hand rhythms represented one of the first clear-cut distillations of swing rhythm.” SS The song “incorporates a wide range of musical and cultural elements that were part of that scene, from ragtime and blues to classical and parlor songs, and to African and Caribbean music.” NPR Morton “was pointing the way for at least two decades of musical evolution yet to come.” SS
Morton finally recorded the song at his first second-ever studio session on July 17, 1923. It was issued as a piano solo on Gennett 5289. SS He also cut a duet version with King Oliver in 1924 and recorded another version in April 1926. SS It was adopted by others with Chares Creath’s Jazz-o-Maniacs recording it in 1925 and Fletcher Henderson in 1928. SS In 1935, Benny Goodman’s version became a top-10 hit. Some historians have gone as far as to mark August 21, 1935 – the date Goodman performed the song at his band’s legendary git at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles – as the birth of the Swing Era. WB
Sadly, Morton wasn’t earning anything from it since his publisher wasn’t paying him royalties and the practically all-white ASCAP publishing association wouldn’t grant him membership. SS
Resources and Related Links:
First posted 4/23/2021.