Today’s music video is ‘Darktown Strutters Ball’ from the Australian band, Ted Mulry Gang.
This video was posted to You Tube by aussietv2
Over the last few years here in Australia, some of the TV Networks have been running ‘period’ dramas, mostly set in the 20′s and 30′s, and as you may guess, Crime dramas. As usual, most of these have music as part of them, and most of them have scenes where the people in that series are in a night club with backing music from a band in the club, or even recorded music at a party or the like in their homes.
One of the things about music in period settings is getting the timing right, like was that song actually in vogue at that time. A couple of these TV series have in fact got that wrong, and one of them blatantly so, playing a piece of music in a 1920′s setting, and that song was not actually recorded until the turn of this Century. However, in most cases, they have got it right.
A case in point was when my good lady wife and I were watching a show set in the mid 1930′s and the setting for this one scene was at a private fancy dress party in a very large house, and there was a band playing. This song came on and my wife was a little puzzled as she could remember this song I have featured today being made into a hit in the mid 1970′s by an Australian band, and she questioned its use as being out of place. Luckily, I knew that this was indeed a song that would have been popular at the time, as it was almost a ‘Standard’.
Today’s featured song is Darktown Strutters Ball, and was recorded by that Australian band, Ted Mulry Gang. Ted made the song into a hit in early 1976, and it was quite a popular version. It was originally written as a Jazz song, here, Ted has given it the full rock treatment, and being such a catchy song, it is easy to see why it was so popular.
Ted Mulry was a young guy who migrated to Australia from England. He had a job with the Main Roads Department as a bulldozer driver. He played acoustic guitar and wrote his own songs which he sometimes played for friends, some of whom encouraged him to get recorded. Ted, still only in his early 20′s, was basically a shy guy, and really didn’t think he had it in him to be a music star of any sort. In 1970, he taped a demo of some of his songs, and then opened up his Yellow Pages phone book at Record Companies. He picked the first one on the list, Albert records, and mailed them his demo tape, hoping that they might pick up one of his songs for another artist to record. Albert’s contacted him, and after a lot of persuasion, actually encouraged him to come into the studio and record his own songs. They gave him a contract and the first song he recorded and released in 1970 was the song, ‘Julia’. It became quite a big hit in some local areas reaching Number One, and it actually made it into the Top Ten of the National Charts. From that first album, ‘Falling In Love Again’, which sold quite well, both here in Australia, and also in the UK, came his second relatively big hit in 1971, that song titled ‘Memories’.
Ted went back to England to try and make it there, but as with most Australian artists going to England, they became a ‘small fish in a big pond’. Ted tried for a couple of years with only moderate success, and then came back to Australia.
He changed his style somewhat moving from a ballad style into rock, and formed his own band, Ted Mulry Gang, which became better known by the acronym TMG.
He had a few hits over the following years, some quite big on the National scene. His band was in demand as a headline act, and as the major backup band for touring big name artists. He appeared regularly on the Australian TV music video shows, and had a long and successful career. One of his hits in that period was his revival of ‘Darktown Strutters Ball’
Sadly, Ted passed away in September of 2001, just one day short of his 52nd birthday from Brain Cancer.
The song was written by Shelton Brooks in 1917. The image at right shows the original published sheet music, which also mentions his song from one year earlier, Walkin’ The Dog, which should not be confused with the 1963 Rufus Thomas song of the same name, made into a huge hit by the Rolling Stones.
Strutters was first recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in that same year, 1917, and here Jass is the early description of the word that became Jazz. That version, played just as an Instrumental was extremely popular, and because of that, it became a song that a lot of the bands played at that time, and also in future years by a plethora of artists. Wikipedia lists almost 50 of those subsequent recordings over the years, but that number in fact would considerably understate the total number.
The lyrics are part and parcel of why this particular song is so popular, and it has had different treatment over the years, each artist putting their own style into the song.
The song is such a major Standard across all genres of music, that it was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2006.
This following video is the original recording from 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band.
This video was posted to You Tube by mojoman4147
Just some of those different versions of this wonderful song are at the following links.
There are four versions here, some with the big band treatment, as an Instrumental, and some with the lyrics as well.