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Behind the BeatStardust by Louis Armstrong
Stardust by Louis Armstrong, Nine special recordings that stood out PBS: Stardust Album Cover
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Star Dust

By Loren Schoenberg, Conductor and Saxophonist

Written by: M. Parish and H. Carmichael
Performed by: Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Zilner Randolph, trumpet; Preston Jackson, trombone; Lester Boone, George James, alto saxophone; Albert Washington, tenor saxophone; Charlie Alexander, piano; Mike McKendrick, banjo, guitar; John Lindsay, bass; Tubby Hall, drums
Recorded: November 4, 1931

Audio sample Star Dust
Recorded November 4, 1931
(Courtesy Columbia/Legacy)

Hoagy Carmichael was a long-time jazz fan and vociferous in his admiration for Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke. Stardust was written in the 1920s, and was first played as a medium tempo instrumental. Its ballad potential was first truly exploited in this classic 1931 version. Though Armstrong had been singing on recordings since the mid-20s, it wasn't until 1929 that his influence began to seep into the musical world at large as he began to record non-blues/novelty material.

Recordings such as this one, and especially I Can't Give You Anything But Love and Ain't Misbehavin' were tremendously influential. Black performers rarely had the opportunity to record pop tunes before Armstrong. Ethel Waters was the only black singer before Louis to have a broad appeal, and her role as a seminal jazz vocalist would be hard to overstate. Waters loved Louis' style, and even made a famous record where she copied his vocal and his trumpet solo note for note. It was Armstrong's genius that made scatting mainstream, and in the process revolutionized American singing. Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra are just three singers who owe much to Armstrong.