West End Blues
Writer(s): Clarence Williams, Joe “King” Oliver
Released: August 15, 1928
First Charted: September 15, 1928
Peak: 8 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.82 video, -- streaming
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About the Song:
Dan Morgenstern called “West End Blues” “one of the handful of unsurpassed artistic achievements of the 20th century.” SS Music historian Steve Sullivan said it was “the most important jazz recording ever made” SS by the musician who “casts a shadow upon every other jazz musician…in the same way that Babe Ruth looms over baseball history.” SS On the Don’t Stay Up Too Late website, Jonathan Bogart goes a step farther, calling Armstrong “the most important figure in twentieth-century music.” DS
Joseph “King” Oliver, Armstrong’s mentor, composed “West End Blues” and recorded it on June 11, 1928, for Vocalion SS with his Dixie Syncopaters. TC The song has typically been performed as an instrumental, but did have lyrics added by Clarence Williams. WK The song was named for the West End of New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain, where people went to relax TC and where many jazz musicians were employed in the summer months. DS
On June 28, 1928, TC Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five (which included pianist Earl Hines) did their take, slowing down the tempo of the original. DS Armstrong plays trumpet – including a multi-layered, complex solo which set the standard for jazz musicians AMG – and scats. It was this version which became a New Orleans jazz favorite JA and “helped define what jazz could be.” AMG
“West End Blues” was one of the eight original songs selected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in its beginning year of 1974. The song is one of only two jazz recordings selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. SS
First posted 8/15/2014; last updated 8/16/2022.