Airdate – Jul 31, 2022
It is somewhat fascinating that during the evolution of Rock & Roll the mainstream public still took time out to listen to and buy instrumental recordings.
In addition to original recordings, there were a number of very successful instrumentals that were cover versions of big band tunes from the 30s and 40s.
Case in point was a well-established regional orchestra in the U.S. who finally got to enjoy national notoriety with a Top Ten hit on the Billboard Charts in 1959 …
This orchestra was formed in the late 20s and made its mark in the 30s and 40s touring a circuit that stretched from Kansas City, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma to Dallas Texas.
The leader of this band was the driving force behind it becoming one of the most popular groups among Afro-Americans in the Midwest.
Born in 1904 the band’s leader made the most of an offer by legendary record producer John Hammond. Under Hammond’s guidance, the band went to New York in 1939 and recorded “T-Town Blues” for Vocalion, a nationally distributed record label.
This minor hit led to the orchestra performing nationwide, culminating in a 1942 engagement at Harlem’s legendary Savoy Ballroom.
World War II interrupted the group’s success, and the bandleader was forced to go with a scaled-down version of his band.
They continued to play to packed houses in the Midwest, but national recognition seemed to have passed they by … until they decided to do a mambo-style version of an instrumental written 1939 that had been a #1 hit in 1940 for Glenn Miller.
The cover version came out in 1959. It went to #4 on the Billboard 100.
I guess you could say that the timing of this release by the Ernie Fields Orchestra was impeccable as the public responded by being “In The Mood,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song: