The Billboard Roll Call: Count Basie

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The Billboard Roll Call is a listing of regional artists who have charted a song on the Billboard Top 40 from 1955-2009. The introduction has additional information.

Count Basie
Count Basie is a great reminder of why it’s important to remember that the Billboard charts measure popularity and not quality. Viewed only from his chart performance, Basie was a one-hit wonder.

He was much more than that, of course. As one of the greatest jazz bandleaders and pianists in the 20th Century, Basie’s sound defined Kansas City Jazz in the 1930s and 1940s. He continued with an active recording and performing career until he died in April 1984.

The fact that Basie charted a song on the Top 40 says less about him and more about the fact that actual jazz could occasionally move into the general consciousness in the 1950s and 1960s. And in a rare instance where quality and popularity met, Basie had a hit record in April 1956.

April in Paris ranks with Basie’s best work, peaking at No. 28 on the Top 40. Originally appearing in a 1930s Broadway musical, the song was recorded by such artists as Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. However, Basie’s version is definitive and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a historically significant recording.

It’s also the tune that Basie plays when the sheriff rides to Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles.

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