1956 Count Basie and his Orchestra – April In Paris
William Basie grew up in New Jersey in the early 1900s. His mother taught him to play the piano and his father played the mellophone. He preferred playing the drums but switched to keyboards when he was still in high school.
After years of playing in clubs, jazz shows, and backup for other musicians, he led his own band: Count Basie and his Cherry Blossoms. After that band fell apart, he formed his own nine-piece band, the Barons of Rhythm. The name of the band changed over to Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm when he moved to Chicago in 1936 and began recording.
The band turned into an orchestra in the forties and appeared in a series of films. Their recordings entered the charts beginning in 1943, and seven top ten records and one #1 single followed over the next four years.
After the war, the group disbanded and Count began working as a solo artist. He organized a new 16-piece band in 1952 and returned to recording.
The 1932 Broadway musical Walk a Little Faster included the song April In Paris. It isn’t clear if the words or music came first, but Vernon Duke composed the music and Yip Harburg wrote the lyrics. The song became popular, with a version by saxophonist Freddy Martin reaching the charts in 1933.
Count Basie and his orchestra recorded the album April In Paris in 1955 and subsequently released the song as a single in January 1956. The record peaked at #28 a few weeks later, becoming his first and only post-forties record to make it to the top forty on the Hot 100.
By 1968, five more of Count Basie’s singles had reached the Hot 100, but none of them entered the Top Forty.
Grammy Awards began with songs released in 1958, so many artists who might have won them prior to that were left out. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States created the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973. The Academy inducted four of Count Basie’s recordings from 1937 to 1955 into the Hall of Fame, including April In Paris.
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