Friday, April 13, 2018

100 years ago: “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” hits #1

Darktown Strutters’ Ball

Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan

Writer(s): Shelton Brooks (see lyrics here)


First Charted: March 30, 1918


Peak: 11 US, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.0 (sheet music sales)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Shelton Brooks, who also wrote Sophie Tucker’s “Some of These Days,” was inspired to write “Ball” by a 1915 social gathering during the Panama Pacific International Exposition he attended in San Francisco. SS-734 Tucker would then introduce the song on vaudeville. SS-734 In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded an instrumental version, “whose recording was never imitated.” JA Their version charted at #2 and, in 2006, was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The next year, however, the song had its greatest success when the “masters of minstrel/blackface-styled romps, Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan” SS-734 “unveiled [the song] in all its rowdy glory.” SS-734 Collins and Harlan paired up in 1901 and charted eighty-nine times over the next seventeen years. “Ball” was their 88th chart hit and the last of their dozen trips to #1. PM Individually, Collins racked up another 47 solo hits of which 11 hit #1 PM and Harlan charted 54 times, also hitting the peak 11 times. PM All told, they compiled 34 #1 hits collectively and independently.

Others to chart with the song include Alan Dale and Connie Haines (#29, 1948), the Jaudas’ Society Orchestra (#9, 1918), Ted Lewis (#12, 1927), Lou Monte (#7, 1954), and the Six Brown Brothers (#10, 1917) PM Others to record the song included Ray Anthony, the Boswell Sisters, Larry Clinton, Jimmy Dorsey, Arthur Fields, Phil Harris, Pee Wee Hunt, Fats Waller, and Chick Webb. WK

The song was featured in the movie The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), sung by Paul Frees during a murder scene. Robert Redford sang it in The Natural (1984) and Kristin Scott Thomas sang it in The English Patient (1996). WK The song has also been used in TV shoes, including Tom and Jerry (“Saturday Evening Puss,” 1950), M*A*S*H (premiere episode in 1971), and The Simpsons (“Old Money”). WK In 1972, “Strutters’ Ball” was one of ten songs named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame as an historic standard. SS-734


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Arthur Collins
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Byron Harlan
  • JA David A. Jasen. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 44.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 90, 95, 194, 499.

Last updated 4/17/2021.

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