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Stompin' At the Savoy (1936)

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Origin and Chart Information
“The vocalist takes the tune through its paces, swinging it gently, scatting a chorus, and percolating over the band’s double time.”

- Sandra Burlingame

Rank 48
Music Benny Goodman
Edgar Sampson
Chick Webb
Lyrics Andy Razaf

By the time twenty-five-year-old Edgar Sampson joined Chick Webb and His Orchestra, he had been playing professionally for seven years, including with the soon-to-be greats Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. But it was while performing as an alto saxophonist with Webb that Sampson came into his own as a composer and arranger. Success arrived in the form of “Blue Lou” (1933) and an arrangement of an instrumental he had previously written, “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” which became Webb’s second major hit after “I Can’t Dance (I Got Ants in My Pants),” a song with little endurance.


More on Chick Webb at JazzBiographies.com

More on Edgar Sampson at JazzBiographies.com

Benny Goodman is nearly always given credit for popularizing the song, but Goodman’s was not the first or second but the third recording to make the pop charts.


More on Benny Goodman at JazzBiographies.com

Chick Webb was first in 1934, and Ozzie Nelson was second, six weeks ahead of Benny Goodman.

  • Chick Webb and His Orchestra (1934, #10)
  • Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra (1936, #12)
  • Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (1936, #11)
  • Chick Webb and His Orchestra (1936, reissue of his 1934 hit, #18)
  • Benny Goodman Quartet (1937, #4)

All of the recordings were instrumentals.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

The title “Stompin’ at the Savoy” refers to the Savoy Ballroom in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. It was originally located at 596 Lenox Avenue, between West 140th and 141st Streets. The Savoy opened in 1926 and featured a large 10,000 square foot dance floor which began to attract the best dancers in New York. In 1927 the Savoy began sponsoring jazz band competitions. Chick Webb’s Harlem Stompers participated in the first of these cutting sessions which was called the “Battle of Jazz.” Over the next several years, Chick Webb and His Orchestra would become the Savoy house band and with his triumphs over the likes of the Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, and Benny Goodman bands, he would be crowned “The King of the Savoy.”

A number of dance crazes began or at least were initially popularized at the Savoy, most notably the Lindy Hop, a partnered jazz dance that evolved into the “jitterbug” and subsequently East Coast Swing.

The Savoy Ballroom was torn down in 1958 to make way for a housing project. In its place today is a commemorative plaque with the text,

Here once stood the legendary Savoy Ballroom, a hothouse for the development of jazz in the Swing era. Visually dazzling and spacious, the Savoy nightly featured the finest jazz bands in the nation, and its house bands included such famous orchestras as those of Fess Williams, Chick Webb, and Teddy Hill. The great jazz dancers who appeared on its block-long floor ranged from professionals like Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers to everyday Harlemites. During a time of racial segregation and strife, the Savoy was one of the most culturally and racially integrated of institutions, and its fame was international. It was the heartbeat of Harlem’s community and a testament to the indomitable spirit and creative impulse of African-Americans. It was a catalyst for innovation where dancers and musicians blended influences to forge new, wide-spread, and long-lasting traditions in music and dance. Whether they attended or not, all Americans knew the meaning of ”Stompin’ at the Savoy.”


More on Andy Razaf at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(This book includes a short biography of Razaf and 10 pages of his lyrics, including those for “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Chick Webb
Stompin' at the Savoy
Asv Living Era
Original recording 1934
The original recording of this tune shows a high level of sophistication for this early juncture in the history of the swing era. The band, which features a young Mario Bauza on trumpet, swings assuredly.
Ella Fitzgerald
At the Opera House
1990 Polygram 31629
Original recording 1957
No vocal versions of “Stompin’ At the Savoy” can beat those performed by Chick Webb’s most famous protege, Ella Fitzgerald. This album boasts two contrasting versions of the tune, and Ella’s voice, scatting and sense of swing are in peak form.
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong
Ella & Louis Again (Dig)
Umvd Labels
Original Recording 1956
The irrepressible joy that Fitzgerald brought to singing was only augmented by her collaborations with the comparably joyous Louis Armstrong. Their ebullient performance here draws particular attention to the warmth and brightness of the song.

- Noah Baerman

Art Farmer
To Sweden With Love/Live at the Half Note
2004 Collectibles 7654
Original recording 1963
Art Farmer, heard here on flugelhorn, possessed a cool tone, a wonderful sense of swing and a soloing style that was at once lyrical and complex. The same things could be said of guitarist Jim Hall, and this performance is one of the crowning moments in their brief but fruitful collaboration. Hall in particular lets loose with a truly stunning guitar solo.
Benny Goodman
Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert
Sony 65143
Original recording 1938
This is a wonderful live recording of Benny Goodman and an orchestra of the who's who of jazz including Count Basie, Gene Krupa, Lester Young, and Johnny Hodges. The group delivers a crisp, swinging version of the song with a superb solo from vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. Two-CD set.
Charlie Christian
Selected Broadcasts and Jam Sessions
2002 JSP 909
Original recording 1941
Charlie Christian was one of the trailblazers of the advanced soloing techniques that would form the foundation of bebop, though he tragically died before that style fully came to fruition. This wonderful performance, featuring Christian in a New York jam session with future bop pioneers Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke, is a great example of Christian’s trailblazing improvisations.
Clifford Brown/Max Roach
Brown and Roach Inc
1990 Emarcy 814644
Original recording 1954
This recording documents the early days of the quintet co-led by Clifford Brown and Max Roach. Both Brown and Roach shine here, as does tenor saxophonist Harold Land.
Karrin Allyson
Azure Te

The vocalist takes the tune through its paces, swinging it gently, scatting a chorus, and percolating over the band's double time. Great solos from the band.
Sarah Vaughan
Viva! Vaughan
2001, Polygram
Original recording, 1964
Vocalist Vaughan delivers a dynamic performance on this Quincy Jones-produced album. With Frank Foster conducting the orchestra and laying down a spicy cha-cha, the singer raises the temperature with a wailing scat.
Bill Mays
Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 26 (Bill Mays at Maybeck)
Concord Records

Volume 26 in the Maybeck series of solo piano concerts shows Mays at his creative best in an unusual reading of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” which recalls the lineage of the stride players.
Steve Turre
TNT (Trombone-N-Tenor)
2001, Telarc 83529

Steve Turre slows the song down for this mid-tempo rendition that features the trombonist trading licks with tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman.

- Ben Maycock

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