24 July 2017


Maceo Pinkard
He also composed 'Sweet Georgia Brown'
and 'Them There Eyes'
Robert Duis, who frequently emails me and is a band-leader in Holland, discovered that there is more than one song called Sugar that traditional jazz bands play.

I suppose it's not surprising that composers used this word as a title at a time when it was very fashionable to call your sweetheart 'Sugar'.

And, if you think about it, you recall that 'sugar' appears frequently in titles and lyrics, for example, Sugar Blues, Sugar BabeWhen I Take My Sugar To Tea, When My Sugar Walks Down The Street and 'You're My Sugar' (in Honeysuckle Rose).

With my interest aroused by Robert's email, I explored this topic.

The tune I have always thought of as Sugar was composed by Maceo Pinkard, Sidney D. Mitchell, and Edna Alexander and was recorded by Ethel Waters in 1926. It has a pleasant story-telling Verse and then a 32-bar Chorus beginning with the words The name is 'Sugar'. I call my baby my 'Sugar'. It is a song with a Middle Eight and an aaba structure. You can hear Ethel singing it BY CLICKING HERE.

But, as Robert discovered, there is a different Sugar recorded by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra the following year (1927). It seems that this one was composed by Jack Yellen and Milton Ager. Its bouncy Chorus begins with the words Don't you know who she is? Looking right at me is 'Sugar'.  You can hear this song BY CLICKING HERE. It is another 32-bar (but this time 16 + 16), very pleasant and easy to improvise on. In the recording it has no Verse and I do not know whether it ever had one. You can also hear the Red Nichols' Stompers playing it in 1927 BY CLICKING HERE.

And - would you believe it? - there was yet another Sugar. This was composed by George W. Meyer and Joe Young. It was recorded by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra in 1931. It is a bright up-tempo tune and includes a Verse. The distinguishing first words of the Chorus are Sugar, that's what I'll name you, Sugar. I'll come and claim you, Sugar. This is probably the easiest of the three to play. It has a very simple chord sequence. Enjoy this one BY CLICKING HERE.
Finally, wow! Almost as soon as this post appeared, I received this email from friend and frequent correspondent David Withers in New Zealand:-

Hi Ivan,
The Temperance Seven recorded all of these versions of Sugar and called it 'The Tate & Lyle Suite.' A very English title no doubt. I have it somewhere in my CD collection, but since the earthquakes when we had to move out of our house for repairs I don't know which box it is in. I do know however, that it was a Lake Records CD (i.e. a British CD label).
David Withers
Christchurch, NZ

Footnote: I have found it in the Lake Records catalogue. The CD is called: