Just a Gigolo (song)

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"Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo"
Published1929 in Vienna
Composer(s)Leonello Casucci (in 1928)
Lyricist(s)Julius Brammer (1924 in German)
Irving Caesar (1929 in English)

"Just a Gigolo" is a popular song, adapted by Irving Caesar into English in 1929 from the Austrian tango "Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo", composed in 1928 in Vienna by Leonello Casucci to lyrics written in 1924 by Julius Brammer.[1][2]


The song was first published by Wiener Boheme Verlag in 1929 and performed by several orchestras in Germany that year, including Dajos Béla's orchestra with the singer Kurt Mühlhardt. Daniele Serra sang a version entitled "Gigolo" in Italy, followed by Sirio Di Piramo and his orchestra in 1930, while other countries provided their own versions.[3]

The original version is a poetic vision of the social collapse experienced in Austria after World War I, represented by the figure of a former hussar who remembers how he once paraded in his grand uniform while he is forced to support himself as a lonely, nameless hired dancer. The music features a simple melodic sequence, but nonetheless has a clever harmonic construction that highlights the mixed emotions in the lyrics, adding a nostalgic, bittersweet effect.

The success of the song prompted publishers Chappell & Co. to buy the rights and order an English version from Irving Caesar, a very popular lyricist of the time. Caesar eliminated the specific Austrian references and, in the often-omitted verse (but included in the 1931 recording by Bing Crosby), set the action in a Paris cafe, where a local character tells his sad story. Thus, the lyrics retained their sentimental side but lost their historic context. Popular versions in 1931 were by Ted Lewis, Ben Bernie, Bing Crosby and Leo Reisman.[4]

"Just a Gigolo" appeared in a 1931 film, a 1932 Betty Boop cartoon and a 1993 TV series, all titled after the song. The song was recorded by many musicians of the time, including Louis Armstrong and (in German) Richard Tauber.

The film Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo, directed by David Hemmings in 1979, was titled after the first verse of the original lyrics, but the Just a Gigolo title was used for US distribution. In this film, the song was performed by Marlene Dietrich, in her last film appearance.

"Just a Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody" medley[edit]


"Just a Gigolo" is best known in a form recorded by Louis Prima in 1956, where it was paired in a medley with another old standard, "I Ain't Got Nobody" (words by Roger A. Graham and music by Spencer Williams, 1915). This pairing links the life of a gigolo ("people know the part I'm playing, paid for every dance..."), to the outcome for singer ending up alone ("I ain't got nobody"). The popularity of Prima's combination, and of Village People's 1978 and David Lee Roth's 1985 cover versions of the medley, has led to the mistaken perception by some that the songs are two parts of a single original composition.[5]

The coupling of the two songs had its genesis in an earlier Louis Prima recording from 1945 (V Disc 554, side A[6]), which was then adapted by Sam Butera for Prima's 1950s Las Vegas stage show, during which Prima would revisit his old hits in a new, jive-and-jumping style. The success of that act gained Prima a recording deal with Capitol Records, which aimed to capture on record the atmosphere of his shows. The first album, titled The Wildest! and released in November 1956,[7] opened with "Just a Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody", which then became Prima's signature number and helped relaunch his career.

Louis Prima's recording[edit]

The recording session took place on 23 April 1956, at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, and was produced by Voyle Gilmore. Prima was backed by his Las Vegas group, Sam Butera & the Witnesses, in its original line-up: Sam Butera (tenor sax), James "Red" Blount (trombone), William "Willie" McCumber (piano), Jack Marshall (guitar), Amado Rodriques (bass) and Robert "Bobby" Morris (drums).[8] Keely Smith, who was Prima's wife and an important part of his act, joined the Witnesses for the characteristic backing vocals. Prima sang the lead but didn't play the trumpet on this track.[citation needed]

"Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"
Song by Louis Prima
from the album The Wildest!
Released25 June 1956
Recorded23 April 1956
Producer(s)Voyle Gilmore
"Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"
Single by David Lee Roth
from the EP Crazy from the Heat
ReleasedMarch 1985
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Leonello Casucci, Irving Caesar, Spencer Williams, Roger Graham
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
David Lee Roth singles chronology
"California Girls"
"Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"
"Yankee Rose"

List of versions[edit]

The following artists have released or performed versions of the song:[9]

  • Michael Ball and Alfie Boe recorded a version for their album Together in vegas 2022.
  • The University of Illinois Marching Illini are also well known for performing the song as part of their post-game show.


  1. ^ Mihaela Petrescu (2007). Vamps, Eintaenzer, and Desperate Housewives: Social Dance in Weimar Literature and Film. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-549-44284-4.
  2. ^ Schaal, Hans-Jürgen (2004). Jazz-Standards. Das Lexikon. 3. Auflage (in German). Kassel: Bärenreiter. p. 269. ISBN 978-3-7618-1414-7.
  3. ^ Mazzoletti, Adriano (1983). Il jazz in Italia: dalle origini alle grandi orchestre (in Italian). Rome. p. 92. ISBN 88-7063-704-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890–1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 534. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  5. ^ "Who Did It First? Great Pop Cover Songs and Their Original Artists" Leszczak, Bob. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014 ISBN 978-1-4422-3068-2 Page 118.
  6. ^ "Louis Prima And His Orchestra / Lt Bob Crosby (USMC) And His V-Disc Bob Cats /* - Just A Gigolo / It's A Long Way To Tipperary (Vinyl)". Discogs.com. 17 May 1945. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Reviews and Ratings of New Albums". The Billboard. 17 November 1956. p. 26. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  8. ^ American Federation of Musicians Local Number 47, contract #934, 23 April 1956
  9. ^ "Just a Gigolo". Song Search. Warner Chappell Music. Archived from the original on 13 November 2007.
  10. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890–1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 322. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  12. ^ "Song Time – Carmen McRae". allmusic.com. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Schöner Gigolo". Song Search. Warner Chappell Music.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Saxparty 12" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 1985. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  15. ^ "Leningrad Cowboys – Total Balalaika Show". Archived from the original on 11 October 2006. Retrieved 5 November 2006.
  16. ^ "Baccarat en castellano, un disco de Baccarat". Rock.com.ar. Retrieved 14 June 2016.

External links[edit]