Louis Armstrong made this song famous two years after it was written, recording the most enduring version of on December 4, 1928, with the help of his orchestra. It went on to be included on numerous anthologies and greatest hits compilations, and recorded by many other artists.
Basin Street is a section of New Orleans, in Louisiana, which is a thoroughfare running through the Storyville Quarter. The area earned a name in the early days of jazz music as being a hub for jazz and blues singers and bands to make a name for themselves.
Back in its heyday, Storyville was an area where prostitution was legal. In fact, the district was set up for the specific purpose of keeping prostitution within its limits, basing the planning upon studies done of red light districts in foreign ports. The city offered booklets or brochures guiding visitors to the various "services," providing pricing information, "specialized services," and even a description of the "stock."
The buildings along Basin Street, slum properties and elegant mansions alike, were razed in the 1930s to make way for the Iberville Projects, which replaced the music haunts and speakeasies. However, there are a few scattered buildings still standing original from Louis Armstrong's time in the Quarter.
The writer of this song was Spencer Williams, a popular music composer of the early jazz days who had a hit with this tune and several others. While touring Europe in the mid-'20s, he wrote for Josephine Baker and the Folies Bergeres. Williams was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, 5 years after his death at age 76.