28 04 2011

Flamingo—T. Grouya/E. Anderson, 1941 (Recorded April 28, 2011) This was the big hit for the great baritone singer Herb Jeffries during his stint with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. It’s said to have been one of Ellington’s favorite tunes, and it certainly put Jeffries on the map. Here’s Jeffries’s quote about what “Flamingo” meant to his career:

“Most people come to this world by stork. I came by Flamingo, and Duke Ellington delivered me. And it’s flown me all over the world.”

Jeffries discovered the song one day when, on his way to a dinner date, he was stopped on the street by the song’s composer, Ted Grouya, who handed him the score with the request that Jeffries show the tune to Ellington. Jeffries brought the lead sheet to his next gig where Billy Strayhorn grabbed it and played it for the band. Upon hearing it, Ellington said to Strays, “Whatever you’re playing, make a chart of it.”

I added some percussion to this recording using an interesting set of tiny salesman-sample bongos that I bought several years ago:

They’re ukulele-sized! For some extra rhythm I also clinked on an old glass coffee cup that I purchased at a flea market near Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks around 15 years ago. I’m no percussionist, and I’ll bet it shows.

For fun I sprinkled in some stock sound clips of a flock of African flamingos making a racket. Ain’t I clever? ;°)

As of this writing, Herb Jeffries is 97 years old and lives in southern California.



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