Correspondence: Gotta Be Something

Rifftides reader Don Frese sent the following inquiry:

I have always assumed that “Gotta Be This or That:” is a vocal version, slightly altered, of “Jersey Bounce” by Bobby Plater and Tiny Bradshaw, but I see that Sonny Skylar is credited with both words and music. Similarly, I also assumed that “Late, Late Show” was a vocal version of Basie’s “9:20 Special,” the melodies are almost exactly the same. But again, I see it credited to Alfred and Berlin (Irving, I presume). Can you sort this out for me?

Being overcommitted, not to mention lazy, I passed the question along to the master jazz researcher and discographer Michael Fitzgerald. Mike, with Steve Albin, operates the invaluable website. What would have taken me a month-and-a-half of digging, Mr. Fitzgerald came up with in about six minutes. Here is his reply, complete with links to performances of each of the tunes under discussion.

The similarities are superficial – similar melodic gestures are about it. Though both pairs of tunes share a common 32-bar AABA structure, these are not at all the same songs, despite any “almost exactly the same” claim. “9:20 Special” and “The Late, Late Show” are very different. Entirely different chords, entirely different bridges. “Gotta Be This Or That” and “Jersey Bounce”. “Jersey Bounce” shares the A section chords with “Take The A Train”, “Exactly Like You”, “The Girl From Ipanema”, and others. “Gotta Be This Or That” does not share those chords. Try singing the bridge of one over the other. Not the same.

Warm up your vocal chords, then click on the titles.

“Gotta Be This Or That”

“Jersey Bounce”

“The Late, Late Show”

“9:20 Special”

The Rifftides staff thanks Michael Fitzgerald for his help and suggests that a ramble through the JazzDiscography site will be more than worth the trip.

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  1. mel says

    I discovered Michael Fitzgerald’s JazzDiscography website back in 1999, soon after getting my first personal computer.

    I have found the site a most useful, and just about indispensable tool for research and discographical information ever since then and I heartily support your recommendation to all your readers to take “a ramble through the site”.

    Good to know that Mr. Fitzgerald is so amenable and forthcoming with such information as you have related here.

  2. says

    A recent discussion on JazzWax has brought up Gotta Be This Or That. — Since Marc Myers’s (and yours, Doug) featured videos play only part 1 of the swinger, I have posted the complete track for your listening pleasure: Gotta Be This Or That.

    I took it from the original Columbia 10″ LP “Benny Goodman Dance Parade” (CL 6048), where the two parts appeared spliced together for the very first time. Before that, you had to turn the disc around. If you listen closely, you can hear the spot where they stopped waxing and restarted for part 2.

    For the historians among us: Benny Goodman (cl, voc) Slam Stewart (b) Red Norvo (vib) – NY, April 27, 1945. Maybe someone could please help me with the drummer? He sounds like Gene Krupa. (But who didn’t at the time?). The trombonist is also unknown to me.

    Benny’s (quite disturbing), almost interrupting, shout “Get it, Red, get it!” can also be heard on a live recording on December 31, 1945: No, it wasn’t all so “spontaneous” in jazz as we might think.

  3. says

    The Late Late Show was written by Roy Alfred and Murray Berlin. Roy was an old friend of mine in my early days in New York City. He copped several melodies from listening to jazz players at Birdland. Hottest one was probably “The Hucklebuck.”

    • Doug Ramsey says

      “The Hucklebuck” was inspired by, or stolen from, Charlie Parker’s blues in F “Now’s The Time.” Tommy Dorsey recorded it in 1949. His version was omnipresent on jukeboxes and radio stations through the first half of the ‘50s. Frank Sinatra’s 1952 cover, a well sung but over-cute exercise in hipness, also did well on the pop charts.

      Here is Parker’s 1945 Savoy recording of “Now’s the Time,” complete with 78rpm scratchiness. The players’ names appear at the beginning of the video. Bird’s solo is one his most quoted.

      This is Dorsey’s record of “The Hucklebuck,” which is essentially “Now’s the Time” in the key of G, with a vocal interlude. The singing and trumpet solo are by Charlie Shavers.

      I have been unable to find an account of Parker’s reaction to the appropriation of his tune.

  4. says

    If you listen closely to Bud Freeman’s trio recording of Keep Smiling At Trouble (with Jess Stacy & George Wettling, 1938) you can hear some early glimpses of “Now’s The Time” too (it’s on the compilation I’ve sent to you).

    But there’s more to “Now’s The Time”, and its follower(s): Lucky Millinder’s D’ Natural Blues from 1948 quotes it before it became “The Hucklebuck”. It’s practically the same tune. — There is another “D’ Natural Blues” (1928) with Fletcher Henderson, but it has nothing to do with either “Now’s The Time”, or with “The Hucklebuck”.

  5. says

    I believe Mr. Parker was quoted as saying, “It was strictly for the Bird’s.” However, since he and Diz and Monk and others were known to have borrowed changes and rhythms and the occasional note or three from Gershwin and Berlin and other Tin Panners, perhaps turnabout becomes a merry-go-round about midnight? (I actually discussed theft vs. homage vs. parody at some length a year ago, the I Witness piece found here–and still relevant!)

  6. says

    Ed —

    “Stealing”, “theft” … don’t you think that these words are a bit too harsh? Bird, and Diz: They didn’t “steal” from anyone, they only quoted, or rather *transformed* the odd chord progressions, and inherited them into their own language.

    As you might know, King Oliver’s “Camp Meeting Blues” became Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Call” … Okay, that’s indeed “stealing”, or is it just quoting? — Joe Garland’s “In The Mood” was Wingy Manone’s “Tar Paper Stomp”, but in 1930. The original arrangement of “In The Mood” was a bore of more than 6 minutes. — Even Glenn Miller’s initial live version was exactly one minute too long (I have it on LP, it’s been aired from the Glen Island Casino just two days before the famous studio version).

    By the way: A chord structure isn’t copyrighted, only a melody. Just imagine the “inventor” of the blues — Jelly Roll Morton 😉 – He would have become a rich, a very rich man if the 12- or 16-bar blues form had been copyrighted. By the way: Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” is actually “I Got Rhythm.” Call me anytime, and I play it to you at the piano.

    • says

      Hey, Brew, thanks for checking up on that essay, but I believe you are thinking too literally when I meant for some irony to be present. What I really tried to say is that musicians (and other artists) have been copying, borrowing, rearranging, taking inspiration from–maybe someone would even call it “stealing” from–one another since time began. It seems to be how musicians and artists and writers learn and then evolve, creating their own new variations that enter the common (shared) cultural pool to be used by still others. Of course there are instances that become matters for the law to interpret, but a little healthy borrowing and homage and maybe even mockery often just sharpen the wits all around.

      And in a related example, you can hear how “Ave Maria” is the ultimate source for Bernstein’s “Maria,” and thence to “Take a Letter, Maria” too.