Sometimes I wake up with a song in my head. It’s like in my dreams I’m flipping through the catalog of all the songs I’ve ever heard, and get stuck on one randomly when it comes time to open my eyes.
Yesterday the song was “Darktown Strutters’ Ball.” I used to have this album (cassette!) by Alberta Hunter called Amtrak Blues. I listened to it repeatedly in my teenage years. I know all the songs on it intimately.
Here are the lyrics to Darktown Strutters’ Ball.
I’ll be down to get you in a taxi honey
Please be ready bout half past 8
Aww…honey don’t be late
I wanna be there
When that band starts playing
Remember when we get there honey
Two steps I’m gonna have ’em all
Gonna dance out both a my shoes
When they play The Jelly Roll Blues
At the Darktown Strutters’ Ball!
Apparently it was written in the nineteen-teens, by a Canadian songwriter named Shelton Brooks. It has been performed by many artists over the years, like a lot of jazz standards. But I will always be partial to Alberta Hunter’s version. She was born in the south before the turn of the century in 1895, had a successful career as a blues & jazz singer & songwriter, then retired from the music field and became a nurse sometime in the 1950’s. Thankfully, she had a comeback at 83– how fantastic is that? That’s when Amtrak Blues was recorded. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time.