This week saw the passing of the great Earle Hagen. His name may not be a household word, but his music is burned into your brain. He was a TV theme writer extraordinaire, whose credits include catchy ditties for The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, That Girl, and The Mod Squad to name a few. A bunch of his themes are available at AM Then FM's Hagen tribute post.
Hagen is also the composer behind "Harlem Nocturne", probably one of the most covered saxaphone songs in history (500 versions so far and counting). Writen in 1939 while Hagen was an arranger with the Ray Noble Orchestra, the song has lived on as a standard for every big band, bar band, R&B band, and instrumental band since. It is also of course a crime soundtrack staple.
Here are just a few versions of this song. First the bigger hits:
The Randy Brooks Orchestra regularly used it song as his theme song (1941)
Johnny Otis recorded it as an early single on Savoy (1945)
Herbie Fields made the first popular jazz version (1953)
and of course The Viscounts charted the highest with their guitar-driven hit version (1959)
And now for a few of the many many other Harlem Nocturnes, ranging from your standards to vocal versions to adaptations in classical, disco, a cappella, post-punk, exotica, organ, surf, ska, and what-have-you. This is one versatile song!
Ray Anthony | Rene Bloch | Earl Bostic | Les Brown & His Band Of Renown | Chakachas | The Jake Concepcion Orchestra | Bill Doggett | Terry Edwards & the Scapegoats (paired with Lydia Lunch's "Cesspool Called History") | Les & Larry Elgart | Esquivel | Harold Faltermeyer (from the Tango & Cash soundtrack) | Flat Duo Jets | Illinois Jacquet | Quincy Jones | The Knickerbockers | Kustomized | Neil Lewis & His Quintet | Michael Lington | The Lounge Lizards | Herbie Mann | Charlie Musselwhite | New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble | Louis Prima & Sam Butera | Quartet San Francisco | Boots Randolph | Brian Rodwell (at the Wurlitzer organ) | Vladimir Rusinov & The Jumping Cats | Stouxingers | Sam Taylor | Mel Taylor & The Magics | Mel Torme | Ulrich Tukur + Rhythm Boys | Archie Ulm | The Ventures | Carla White | Wildflower
And let's not forget the Mike Hammer Theme (post prison cheesy 80s version).