We'll take a boat to the land of dreams
Come along with me on down to New Orleans
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New Orleans in the south of the United States is famous for many things. One is traditional jazz. Another is the regions in the city which are divided into areas known as Quarters. And in the French Quarter is a well-known area called Storyville, and its main thoroughfare is Basin Street, the basis of this song. Storyville became a red light district in the 1870s. So if you were heading down the mighty Mississippi to New Orleans and you ended up in Basin Street, there's a fair chance you'd hear some jazz and see a little of the local night life.
Basin Street historic photo, the Storyville district
Actually, the verse in this article was added by two great band leaders, Glenn Miller and Jack Teagarden, many years after the song became popular. Louis Armstrong made the tune his own with a recording way back in 1928.
Jazz music was mainly played by black Americans in its early days and the lyrics of this song about "dark and light folk" was later replaced by the lyrics of "young and old folk" - a sign of the times, perhaps. In fact, the song has had several lyric changes over the years. But it must have great appeal, as recordings continue over the decades from such performers as Ella Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli, and Jo Stafford and Frankie Laine recorded it as a duet.
Many of Basin Street's mansions became part of the red light district. But after World War I, many Storyville buildings were demolished, and the area was rebuilt in several areas and so returned to more genteel surrounds.
Basin Street - "Up the Line"
Transportation was a major part of the growth of cities in the early days of the US, and while the mighty river was and still is a place for all kinds of trade and pleasure craft, the railroad played its part, as well. A one-acre site beside the French Quarter was home to the magnificent Basin Street Railroad Station, which today has been rebuilt and become a cultural center with all manner of treats for visitors. The facade replicates the original building erected at the beginning of the 20th century. It's a wonderful opportunity to catch a glimpse of the New Orleans of yesteryear and indulge in cultural activities both past and present.
The city of New Orleans is filled with attractions for even the most discerning visitor. The bars and restaurants are renowned for their local cuisine. The music, including jazz and opera, is internationally famous. There is a vast range of accommodation, including many period hotels. The not so distant tragedy of Hurricane Katrina is re-lived in a museum, and sporting and cultural events abound. The mighty Mississippi is there for all to enjoy.
The sustained popularity of the song "Basin Street Blues" is perhaps best gauged by a recording in the 1960s by Louis Armstrong, who first recorded the song some 40 years earlier. One YouTube version of Armstrong performing the tune has had well over half a million hits. Basin Street is alive and well today as ever it was.Cen Fox
April 20, 2011
Basin Street Blues Songfacts
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