The Sheik of Araby
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|"The Sheik of Araby"|
|Lyricist||Harry B. Smith, Francis Wheeler|
"The Sheik of Araby" is a song that was written in 1921 by Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler, with music by Ted Snyder. It was composed in response to the popularity of the Rudolph Valentino feature film The Sheik. In 1926, to go with the film The Son of the Sheik, Ted Snyder worked parts of the melody into "That Night in Araby", a related song with words by Billy Rose.
"The Sheik of Araby" was a Tin Pan Alley hit, and was also adopted by early jazz bands, especially in New Orleans, making it a jazz standard. It was a well recognized part of popular culture. A verse also appears in the novel The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1926, Fleischer Studios released a cartoon with this song, recorded in Phonofilm, as part of their Song Car-Tunes series, and a live action short with this title was filmed in Phonofilm in the UK, directed by Miles Mander.
The "Araby" in the title refers to Arabia or the Arabian Peninsula. The appeal to New Orleans bands may have lain in "Araby" sharing the same pronunciation as Arabi, Louisiana, a town downriver from New Orleans' 9th Ward and a center for gambling just outside city limits until the early 1950s.
Jean Shepherd frequently sang along with, spoke over, or played kazoo and jews harp to the song as one of his many musical interludes during his WOR radio show days, to the delight of many, and irritation to probably just as many.
- Likely the first recording is the instrumental version by Clyde Doerr's Club Royal Orchestra, acoustically recorded November 2, 1921 on Victor batwing record 18831-B.
- A whistling version recorded by Guido Gialdini in 1923 on the German Vox label 
- In November 1936, Don Albert's band recorded the first version with the chant "Without no pants on" between the lines of lyrics. This was and still is a popular bit of hokum with New Orleans bands, but got Albert's record generally banned from radio airplay.
- (Tiny Bradshaw Big band) Decca 1934
- Fats Waller & His Rhythm in 1939.
- Fats Domino
- George Lewis
- The Everly Brothers recorded the song in 1961.
- The Beatles covered this song in 1962 at their unsuccessful Decca audition with George Harrison as the lead singer and Pete Best on the drums. This track can be found on Anthology 1.
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band
- Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli (Hot Club of France)
- Nelson Riddle conducts a version of the song for the soundtrack recording of the Jack Clayton film The Great Gatsby (1974). Song on the 2-record set LP from Paramount Records, PAS 2-3001.
- Louis Prima
- Jimmy Rosenberg
- Harry Connick, Jr. on his big band album Oh, My NOLA (2007)
- Sidney Bechet; in 1941, as an early experiment in overdubbing at RCA Studios, Bechet recorded a version of the song, playing six different instruments: clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano, bass, and drums.
- Leon Redbone on his album Double Time
- Spike Jones and his City Slickers on the album Bluebirds
- The Colts in 1957
- Duke Ellington in 1932
- Lou Monte
- The Muppets covered this song in the episode in which Bernadette Peters guest starred
- Canadian Brass in 1987 on Basin Street
- John Miller and the Heartbreakers
- Jimmy Buffett in 1974, Pencil Thin Mustache
- Ray Stevens in 1991; the song title "Sheik of Araby" is spoofed as "Sheik of R&B" about a sheik depressed with his material possessions and how he found happiness playing R&B all over the world
- Oscar Peterson
- Jo Ann Castle (who described it as her "most requested song" during her tenure on The Lawrence Welk Show)
- The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band in December 2009, on their album Gin & Sympathy
- Tim Armstrong in June 2013 for his project Tim Timebomb and Friends
- Champion Jack Dupree (The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions released in 2005)
- "Guido Gialdini whistling 'THE SHEIK' on Vox (1923)". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- bonus track, The Everly Brothers, Both Sides of an Evening/Instant Party, Warner Bros., Records Inc., 2001.
- "The Sheik of Araby".