Heebie Jeebies (composition)

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"Heebie Jeebies"
Single by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five
Released 1926
Recorded February 26, 1926
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genre Jazz
Length 2:52
Label OKeh (Cat no. 9534-A)
Writer(s) Boyd Atkins

"Heebie Jeebies" is a composition written by Boyd Atkins which achieved fame when it was recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1926. The recording on Okeh Records by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five includes a famous chorus in which Louis does scat singing.

Many people name this recording of "Heebie Jeebies" as the first ever that featured singer improvisation. A popular legend (apparently originating from a 1930s claim by Richard M. Jones) says that Louis Armstrong dropped his lyric sheet while recording the song and for lack of words to sing, began to improvise vocally, and thereby created the technique of scat singing. This story, though indeed popular is disputable; the experts[who?] have come to the consensus that it is untrue. Nevertheless, the inventiveness of Armstrong's use of scatting impressed many when the record first came out. Mezz Mezzrow's book Really the Blues recounts the amazed and delighted reactions of Frank Teschmacher, Bix Beiderbecke, and other musicians on first hearing the record. Louis Armstrong gathered quite a following of singers who later became some of the jazz greats: Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Leo Watson, etc.

Armstrong was asked frequently about the dropped music story in his later years, giving conflicting answers. Possibly tired of repeatedly denying the story, he took to using such ambiguous descriptions as "They tell me that's how scat singin' got started."

Another notable and endearing feature of the record is the hokum coda, in which a line is delivered too early, leaving the break over which it should have been spoken completely empty.

Various other recordings of the tune followed in the 1920s and 1930s. The Boswell Sisters performed the tune on radio, record, and in the film The Big Broadcast. Chick Webb made a notable recording with an arrangement by Benny Carter.


  • Who Wrote that Song? Dick Jacobs & Harriet Jacobs, published by Writer's Digest Books, 1993

"Scat Singing." Jazz Music Made Easy. Web. 05 Oct. 2010. <http://www.jazz-music-made-easy.com/scat-singing.html>.