Frank Foster wrote “Shiny Stockings” when he was in Count Basie’s “New Testament” band of the mid-1950s. He gained fame as half of Basie’s “Two Franks” tenor saxophone tandem with Frank Wess. The piece became a staple of not only the Basie band but of big jazz bands around the world. There is hardly a high school or college stage band that doesn’t have “Shiny Stockings” in its book. An experienced musician before he joined Basie, Foster went on to earn widespread admiration as a player, composer, arranger, educator andfor a timeleader of the Basie band following Basie’s death in 1984. He also led his own big bands, the Loud Minority and the Living Color Band.
At 82, Foster is recovering from a stroke and fighting diabetes. To help with medical expenses, there will be a benefit for him this weekend not far from his home in Chesapeake, Virginia. Bill Lohman writes about it in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
One would think Foster would be a rich man, based on just that one song, but that is not the case. Foster had never received his full due for “Shiny Stockings,” which he wrote in 1955, or other songs he had written or arranged because of contracts that took advantage of his primary interest being in music, not business.
To read all of Lohman’s column, go here.
It is unlikely that anyone who ever heard the Basie recording of “Shiny Stockings” has forgotten how it goes, but just in case, here it is with Foster soloing on tenor and a picture of Basie.
Among dozens of videos featuring “Shiny Stockings,” the Rifftides staff could find no trace of film or tape of the piece when Foster was on the Basie Band. If you know of one, let us know.
Jeffrey Sultanof says
I had the honor and privilege of being a student assistant when Mr. Foster led the Queens College Big Band back in 1976, before there was a jazz major there. Working with him was a blast, and picking his brain about the many musicians he knew and played with, and his experiences in all sorts of musical circumstances, will always be a very important part of my life.
He has gone through a few musical directions, but always returned to his Basie roots in one form or another. I consider his leadership of the Basie band one of its best periods, filled with new music which built on the Basie sound, but was adventurous as well.
One of his other compositions that is world-known is “Blues in Hoss’ Flat” (aka “Blues in Frankie’s Flat”) which was featured in Jerry Lewis’ “The Errand Boy.” It is criminal that he has not financially benefitted from both of these pieces, but heartening that he is at least getting some money at this late date.
He has been a fighter since his stroke, continues to write wonderful music, and continues to smile. May he stay with us for many more years.
Bill Kirchner says
“There is hardly a high school or college stage band that doesn’t have ‘Shiny Stockings’ in its book.”
Strangely, that’s not true, to the best of my knowledge. For many years Frank’s chart wasn’t published at all; what was in some big-band libraries were bad transcriptions of it. And to this day, I don’t think that Frank has ever published his original version; he has rewritten the chart and in recent years published that version himself. I have a copy of the score: it’s written for conventional big band augmented by flute, 5th trumpet, French horn, and tuba.
The Basie charts that school bands have in abundance are the Sammy Nestico ones, because of Nestico’s deal with Kendor. And some by Neal Hefti. Sadly, Basie charts by Foster, Ernie Wilkins, Billy Byers, Quincy Jones, Thad Jones, Frank Wess, and Chico O’Farrill are mostly unpublished. Bob Curnow of Sierra Music published Benny Carter’s “Kansas City Suite” a few years ago, thank God.
BTW, Ernie Wilkins did an arrangement of “Shiny Stockings” for Harry James that was almost identical to Frank’s.
Jeffrey Sultanof says
I believe Frank still has a deal with Walrus Music, and they sell his version of “Shiny Stockings.” I bought it at an IAJE one year, and it is the real deal. The problem has always been that the copyright never belonged to him; for several years it belonged to a company that was owned or administered by Irving Mills, of all people. When I was editorial director at Warner Music Publications, they made a deal to publish sheet music, which included the Fitzgerald lyrics (Frank wrote his own, which were recorded by Sarah Vaughan on “Viva Vaughan”).
All of the Basie writers got screwed when the band was later signed to Roulette and everything went into Morris Levy’s publishing company. He paid nothing. When “Blues in Hoss’ Flat” was licensed by Jerry Lewis for The Errand Boy, I think Frank told me he got $500.00. There is hardly anything new about this type of deal. Ron Roullier has horror stories of trying to collect money from his Ted Heath compositions. Heath’s publishing company has been sold several times over the years, and nobody knows anything!
I’ve been preparing edited and corrected editions of vintage concert and big band music on my own for the last thirty-five years, and Jazzlines Publications has been publishing these scores and more. Please see ejazzlines.com; there are plenty of titles by Gil Evans, Benny Carter, Manny Albam, Tadd Dameron, The Terry Gibbs Dream Band, Duke Pearson, Mary Lou Williams, and others with more to come. 98% of them come from manuscript materials, and the estates and the arrangers are getting paid. Rob Duboff got hold of the original manuscript to Neal Hefti’s “Flight of the Foo Birds,” and that is available. And of course as Bill points out, Bob Curnow of Sierra Music has been releasing classic scores as well, particularly from the libraries of Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson. It is now possible to get the music from “Cuban Fire” in an excellent edition prepared by Canadian composer Fred Stride.
The problems getting this music out are first locating it (a lot of it does still exist), and then getting a license from the copyright holder. I’d love Jazzlines to put out Tiny Kahn’s version of “Over the Rainbow” that he wrote for Charlie Barnet, but since this is one of Alfred Music’s biggest copyrights, the chances of getting permission from them is rather slim.
With regard to Basie, Rob Duboff of Jazzlines has made contact with the Basie people. The library is housed in a storage facility out in Long Island. Supposedly there is a lot, although Count threw out a lot of music too. Copyright information for a lot of this music is murky based on my research, one of the other problems in getting it out for students to play.
And yes, the Wilkins version of “Shiny Stockings” was written from memory by Ernie. I asked Frank about this and he chuckled at the memory. He was flattered that Ernie would do this, but as we know, he didn’t benefit financially. James was like that; if he liked something, he wanted to play it, so he asked Wilkins to make a version of it for him.