West End Blues

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"West End Blues"
Instrumental by Joe "King" Oliver
Released1928 (1928)
RecordedJune 11, 1928
Composer(s)Joe "King" Oliver

"West End Blues" is a multi-strain twelve-bar blues composition by Joe "King" Oliver. It is most commonly performed as an instrumental, although it has lyrics added by Clarence Williams.

King Oliver and his Dixie Syncopators made the first recording for Brunswick Records on June 11, 1928.[1] Clarence Williams later added lyrics to the instrumental tune. He recorded the song several times in 1928, first with vocalist Ethel Waters, then with Hazel Smith (with King Oliver playing trumpet),[2] then again with Katherine Henderson.[3]

The "West End" of the title refers to the westernmost point of Lake Pontchartrain within Orleans Parish, Louisiana. In its heyday, it was a thriving summer resort with live music, dance pavilions, seafood restaurants, and lake bathing.

Louis Armstrong's recording[edit]

"West End Blues"
Song by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
Released1928 (1928)
RecordedJune 28, 1928
GenreTraditional jazz, blues[4]
Composer(s)Joe "King" Oliver

By far the best known recording of "West End Blues" is the 3-minute-plus, 78 rpm recording made by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five on June 28, 1928.

Armstrong plays trumpet and sings, backed by a band including pianist Earl Hines, clarinetist Jimmy Strong, trombonist Fred Robinson, banjoist Mancy Carr and drummer Zutty Singleton on hand cymbals.[5] Armstrong's unaccompanied opening cadenza is considered to be one of the defining moments of early jazz, incorporating a rhythmic freedom that anticipated many later musical developments.[6] Also notable is Armstrong's scat vocal chorus (in a duet with clarinetist Strong), and a piano solo by Hines. The final chorus is dominated by a four-bar (12-second) long high Bb note played by Armstrong. The number is closed by the metallic click of drummer Zutty Singleton's cymbals.

This recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1979.[7]

Armstrong recorded several later versions of "West End Blues", including for the 1947 film New Orleans and with his All Stars in the 40s.[8]

King Oliver's recordings[edit]

Joe "King" Oliver wrote "West End Blues", and was the first to record it on June 11, 1928, with his band The Dixie Syncopators.[1] This recording established the basic form of the song that Armstrong's later recording followed.[2] On January 16, 1929, Oliver recorded the song again, borrowing from the Hot Five arrangement, though at a quicker tempo. The opening trumpet cadenza (based heavily on Armstrong's 1928 recording) has frequently been incorrectly credited to Oliver, but was in fact played by trumpeter Louis Metcalf.[2] Pianist Luis Russel also takes a solo, in turn basing it on Earl Hines' solo from the Hot Five recording.


  1. ^ a b Laird, Ross. Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931, Greenwood Press (2001), p. 592. ISBN 0-313-30208-1
  2. ^ a b c Riccardi, Ricky (June 28, 2012). "84 Years of West End Blues". The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong.
  3. ^ "Blues Influence". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2014-09-13.
  4. ^ Feather, Leonard (August 21, 1987). From Satchmo to Miles. Da Capo Press. p. 40. ISBN 030680302X.
  5. ^ Alexander, Scott. "Arthur "Zutty" Singleton (1898-1975)". The Red Hot Jazz Archive. Scott Alexander. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  6. ^ Schuller, Gunther (1968). Early Jazz: Its Roots And Musical Development. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195040432.
  7. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame History". GRAMMY.org. 1974-03-02. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  8. ^ Riccardi, Ricky (28 June 2013). ""85 Years of "West End Blues""". Retrieved 28 December 2016.