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In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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Composer (Dis)credit

In an interview of classic jazz collector and record producer, Paul Swinton, conducted by John
Collinson and printed in the November, 2007, issue of the British journal, Just Jazz, the interviewer
queries Mr. Swinton about the shenanigans involved in copyrighting a composition, especially in the
early days of jazz. Paul’s reply was “...A & R people...would [often] say to the artist at that time –
‘Here’s $50 – sign it over to me,’ so, then they would have composer credit rights.

It was quite a familiar piece of action in those days, forced on relatively naïve performers
[composers]. Clarence Williams was another example of this practice: you have only to read the list of
his ownership of blues songs and jazz numbers. {But] Clarence is quoted as saying the only tune he
ever wrote was ‘Sugar Blues’.”

Now, Clarence Williams gets credit for a good number of classic jazz tunes. It raises some questions
about the man’s dealings if he gets all that credit and only actually wrote one tune. Here are a few
tunes that commonly assigned composer credits to Clarence Williams. Does it make you wonder who
actually wrote them; and, remember, Clarence Williams was not the only one doing this!

BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME - (1919) - Jelly Roll Morton claimed he invented jazz.
Clarence Williams’s business card boasted that he was “The Originator of Jazz and Boogie-Woogie.”
Clarence also claimed to have been the first person to use the word “jazz” on a piece of sheet music.
This tune was recorded by Bessie Smith in 1923 and by Clarence Williams Blue Five in 1927.
Clarence Williams rivaled Fletcher Henderson as the most recorded Black artist of the 1920’s.

CAKEWALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME - (1924) – This tune was first recorded by a band named
after the Red Onion Café in New Orleans. Both Louis Armstrong and Clarence Williams were in that
band.

MY BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT- (1914) – This tune originated from a Mississippi Valley folk
song entitled “Long Lost Blues” which was attributed to J. Paul Wyer.

TAIN’T NOBODY’S BIZ-NESS IF I DO - (1922) - this tune was a vaudeville song that became a
blues standard. First recorded in October of 1922 by Anna Meyer with the Original Memphis Five.  In
December of ’22, Sara Martin recorded it for OKeh with fats Waller on piano.

TERRIBLE BLUES - (1924) - also recorded by Clarence Williams with the Red Onion Jazz Babies.

PAPA DE-DA-DA - (1924) - recorded in New York by Clarence Williams Blue Five.
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