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Stairway to the Stars (Park Avenue Fantasy) (1935)

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Origin and Chart Information
Lyricist Parish was a perfect choice since he was a specialist in “retrofitting” lyrics to instrumentals, honing his craft on such hits as “Stardust,” “Solitude,” and “Sophisticated Lady.”

- Chris Tyle

AKAStairway to the Stars
AKAPark Avenue Fantasy
Rank 167
Music Matt Malneck
Frank Signorelli
Lyrics Mitchell Parish

Vocalist Ray Eberle, with Glenn Miller’s orchestra, recorded “Stairway to the Stars” in May, 1939. Their record hit number one and stayed in the charts for 13 weeks. It was Miller’s second number one record.


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

Violinist Matt Malneck and pianist Frank Signorelli’s composition “Park Avenue Fantasy” was recorded by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra for Victor Records on September 11, 1934. The following year it was published by Robbins Music as “a modern composition for piano.”

“Park Avenue Fantasy” is what is referred to as an extended work, rather than a 32-bar popular song, similar to other pieces recorded by Paul Whiteman such as George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” and “Cuban Overture.” It is the melody of the final theme that became “Stairway to the Stars.”


More on Matt Malneck at JazzBiographies.com

More on Frank Signorelli at JazzBiographies.com

Malneck and Signorelli collaborated on a number of pieces. Frequently the tunes would begin as an instrumental with the lyrics added at a later time. “I’ll Never Be The Same,” an early hit for the two, was recorded in 1928 by Eddie Lang as a guitar solo, and three years later Joe Venuti, along with Lang and Signorelli, recorded it as “Little Buttercup.” The lyrics, by Gus Kahn, didn’t appear until the sheet music was published in 1932.

A similar situation befell “Park Avenue Fantasy.” Although Whiteman performed the piece on his Kraft radio program, it wasn’t the type of material that really clicked with the public. The piece languished from 1935 until early 1939, when Malneck used it as the theme for his radio show, “Music by Malneck.” At that time either Signorelli or Malneck approached Mitchell Parish to write lyrics for the finale section of the piece. Lyricist Parish was a perfect choice since he was a specialist in “retrofitting” lyrics to instrumentals, honing his craft on such hits as “Stardust,” “Solitude,” and “Sophisticated Lady.”


More on Mitchell Parish at JazzBiographies.com

Once the publishers had the final copy, they began plugging the tune with various bandleaders. The up-and-coming band led by Glenn Miller was in a position to promote the tune. Miller had worked with both Signorelli and Malneck during his freelance years and was familiar with their talents. Enlisting the aid of arranger Bill Finegan, an arrangement was made of the number featuring vocalist Ray Eberle. It was recorded by Victor Records May 9, 1939, to be issued on their budget label Bluebird. On May 17, 1939, Miller performed the tune during a live broadcast from the Meadowbrook Ballroom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and on May 29, from the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York. This type of air play brought the number to the attention of the public, so once the record was released there would already by a ready audience.

Interestingly Ray Eberle’s brother Bob (who spelled his last name Eberly), recorded the tune with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra, their version moving to third position in the charts.

More information on this tune...

Thomas S. Hischak
The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 552 pages

(Hischak’s encyclopedia relates the history of the song and its performers.)

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Recommendations for This Tune
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Glenn Miller
Essential Glenn Miller
Original recording 1939

Miller’s band is heard at it’s hippest, thanks to a clever arrangement by Bill Finegan. Also noteworthy are the understated vocals of Ray Eberle

Ella Fitzgerald
Early Years 2
Original recording 1939

This ballad performance has a bit of swing to it and Fitzgerald’s vocals are subtle but exuberant, with a somewhat brash arrangement behind her. Her opening melody statement is straightforward, with a bit more embellishment the second time around

Sarah Vaughan
Live at Mister Kelly's (Reis) (Rstr) (Dig)
Original recording 1957

Vaughan takes things at a very slow tempo on this live recording. Her melody statement is beautiful and faithful, albeit with some subtle acrobatics, and she is accompanied perfectly by her longtime associates Jimmy Jones, Richard Davis and Roy Haynes.

Bill Evans, Jim Hall
Blue Note Records

Pianist Evans and guitarist Jim Hall team up as a duo here and come up with a slow, lyrical version of “Stairway to the Stars,” sharing melody duties with one another. The accompaniment provided by each is subtle yet full, and their solos are terrific as well.

Dexter Gordon
Our Man in Paris
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1963

Tenor saxophonist Gordon’s mastery of the jazz ballad is on full display on his stunningly lyrical interpretation of “Stairway to the Stars,” recorded live in Paris. Pianist Bud Powell contributes a particularly melodic solo of his own.


- Noah Baerman

Bill Evans
1999 APO 9428
Original recording 1962
Pianist Evans’ interpretation of the song is soft and romantic. In this, his first recording after the death of his beloved bassist Scott LaFaro, Chuck Israels ably fleshes out the trio with drummer Paul Motian.
Milt Jackson
Bags Meets Wes
2001 Riverside Records 9407
Original recording 1961
Jackson’s vibraphone rings out bluesy, elongated tones in contrast to guitarist Wes Montgomery’s subtle chords. Pianist Wynton Kelly accents the proceedings.
Kevin Mahogany
My Romance
1998 Warner Bros Records 46226
Original recording 1998
Mahogany underlines the subtle beauty of the song with his understated approach that retains the vocalist’s muscular phrasing while softening his deep, resonant voice.
Spike Robinson
Stairway to the Stars
1995 Hep Records 2049
Original recording 1990
Robinson was not as well known stateside as he deserved to be because he made his home in England. But he had a beautiful, light, and unforgettable tone on tenor sax.

- Ben Maycock

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