In which I write about my love for Big Band music

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Totally random fact about me. If I’m getting ready to go out on a Saturday night, chances are I’m listening to old archives of “The Danny Stiles” radio show.

Stiles, who died in 2011, had this totally rad show in which he played “the greatest records of the 1900s” from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights on WNYC (820AM). Luckily, WNYC still airs archived shows.

I don’t know … it may seem corny, but throughout the show, I imagine couples dancing at parties in that era. In fact, Styles will talk about parties during the Depression, which must have felt like the highlight of the week, considering the circumstances.

I feel as if you could never stop learning about music history in this country. Stiles didn’t just play songs by the greats, such as Frank Sinatra, or one of my personal favorites, Glenn Miller. (Listen to “In The Mood.” You’ll know it. It was a global hit in its day.)

Stiles pays homage to the history of music from our country, often featuring musicians of color, who as you may know, are at the roots of American music, though it was brought to the mainstream by record labels and white singers.

On this week’s show, he played a song that I know (incorrectly) as “Mani” (the Spanish word for peanut) because I’ve heard it on old Spanish radio stations. The song is called “El Manisero/The Peanut Vendor” and though there were several versions by many recording artists, it was Louis Armstrong who made it a big hit in the 1930s as Cuban rhythms was influencing music in the States. It was smart of Armstrong to record it. All of this I learned on the Danny Stiles show.

But wait! There’s more.

How does listening to this show translate to music I’ve heard in the nightclubs today? Well, using “The Peanut Vendor” as an example, Uproot Andy (real name: Andy Gillis) tends to play this track (I’m guessing this is the version he plays, though I can’t be 100 percent sure) at his well-known “Que Bajo?” monthly parties. It’s obvious they sampled “The Peanut Vendor” sound. And now I’ll think of Danny Stiles and Louis Armstrong in 1930 the next time I hear it!

Bonus fact: Another of my favorite Big Band songs is “Midnight, the Stars, and You,” by Ray Noble, otherwise known as one of the songs in The Shining. Creepy, right? 🙂


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