22 January 2014


I have spent years trying to learn some of the good century-old New Orleans jazz tunes. Sometimes I do this by listening to tunes on the internet (mainly YouTube) and using the pause button to pick them out by ear.

One such was Storyville Blues. But I quickly ran into trouble. The tune offered as Storyville Blues (for example in a clear recording by the Chris Barber Band of more than 50 years ago) was not the tune I was expecting. After more research, I found I had been confusing TWO tunes. So let me sort them out and offer you my findings.

Storyville Blues was composed (both words and music) by Maceo Pinkard in 1918. But he named it Those Draftin' Blues. It acquired its usual name when recorded by Bunk Johnson (who probably couldn't remember the correct title) in the 1940s. But, adding still further to the confusion, it was also recorded in the 1940s by another band as Bienville Blues.

Well, whatever it is called, here's how it sounds to me.
The other tune is Good Time Flat Blues. This was composed by Spencer Williams in 1924. But it became known in the 1940s as Farewell to Storyville. That was what confused me. Both titles have been used in past recordings.

What I like about Good Time Flat Blues is that the Chorus uses The Salty Dog Chord Progression (beginning on the chord of the 6th note of the scale, e.g. E7th in the key of G)  and then following the Circle of Fifths. So improvising on it is easy. And it's a pleasant tune.