Limehouse Blues

Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed

About Limehouse Blues

"Limehouse Blues" is a popular British song written by the London-based duo of Douglas Furber (lyrics) and Philip Braham (music). Evoking the Limehouse district, which pre-World War II was considered the Chinatown of London – with Chinese references heard in both the lyrics and the melody – the song premiered in the 1921 West End revue A to Z being sung by Teddie Gerard in a wordless melodramatic number featuring Gerard as a hostess in a Limehouse dance-hall fronting a brothel. Gertrude Lawrence, recruited to replace an ailing Beatrice Lillie in A to Z, was reassigned the "Limehouse Blues" number which Lawrence encored when she made her 1924 Broadway debut in André Charlot's Revue: Lawrence's Broadway performance of the "Limehouse Blues" number proved to be a "showstopper", making her a Broadway star:(quote Lawrence:) "'Limehouse Blues' immediately became popular. We heard it in every night club in New York [City]. In England we never plugged songs as they do in the United States, and I was surprised and extremely flattered to find everyone singing and playing 'Limehouse....' wherever I went." The 1968 Gertrude Lawrence biopic Star! featured the film's star Julie Andrews – in muted Oriental makeup – recreating Lawrence's role in the "Limehouse Blues" number from André Charlot's Revue, including the vocal performance of the song (with the original's references to "chinkies" omitted). Recorded by Gertrude Lawrence in 1931, "Limehouse Blues" had earlier been recorded (1928) by cornetist Red Nichols with Scrappy Lambert's vocal and would be recorded in 1934 by the Mills Brothers: these vintage recordings retained the original's "chinkies" reference which has been omitted from latterday vocal versions, including those by Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Lee Wiley, Eydie Gormé, Tammy Grimes, Johnny Mathis, Carmen McCrae, Anita O'Day, Annie Ross, Nancy Sinatra, and Kay Starr. Mark Nadler recorded "Limehouse Blues" in tandem with "Limehouse Nights" – an obscure song from the 1934 film Limehouse Blues – for his 2015 album release Runnin' Wild-Songs and Scandals of the Roaring 20's 2015 album release. "Limehouse Blues" has been recorded most often as an instrumental as such becoming a jazz standard, notable examples being recordings by Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins with Les Paul, Count Basie, Sidney Bechet, the Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Gerry Mulligan, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton on Adventures In Jazz, the Ellis Marsalis Trio, Hugo Montenegro, Django Reinhardt, the Adrian Rollini Trio, the Village Stompers, and the Teddy Wilson Trio. The song has also become a popular bluegrass instrumental number, most notably by Reno and Smiley."Limehouse Blues" is played by Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals in the 1936 film One in a Million, as the second part of a medley that starts with the song "One in a Million"; the two songs have similar melodies and nearly identical rhythms. 


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And those weird China blues
Never go away
Sad, mad blues
For all the while they seem to say

Oh, Limehouse kid
Oh, oh, Limehouse kid
Goin' the way
That the rest of them did
Poor broken blossom
And nobody's child
Haunting and taunting
You're just kind of wild

Oh, Limehouse blues
I've the real Limehouse blues
Can't seem to shake off
Those real China blues
Rings on your fingers
And tears for your crown
That is the story
Of old Chinatown

Rings on your fingers
And tears for your crown
That is the story
Of old Chinatown

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Chet Atkins

Chester Burton "Chet" Atkins (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001) was an American guitarist and record producer who, along with Owen Bradley, created the smoother country music style known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country's appeal to adult pop music fans as well. more »

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