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Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me) (1941)

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Origin and Chart Information
[In 1941] “...The mass of Americans were simply not ready for a show of ‘social significance,’ as the phrase went, promoting the idea that blacks were as good as anybody else.”

- James Lincoln Collier

AKAJust Squeeze Me
AKASqueeze Me
Rank 231
Music Duke Ellington
Lyrics Lee Gaines

In 1941 Duke Ellington’s Orchestra was in Los Angeles, and, according to biographer James Lincoln Collier in Duke Ellington, during a jam session at the home of Hollywood songwriter Sid Kuller, the idea for a Negro revue was born. The idea was to celebrate the banishment of Jim Crow and Uncle Tom by eliminating all stereotypes from the show.


More on Duke Ellington at JazzBiographies.com

In Reminiscing in Tempo: A Portrait of Duke Ellington author Stuart Nicholson quotes Ellington as saying, “Fifteen Hollywood writers and I did Jump for Joy.” The show opened on July 10, 1941, at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles. The material was clever, the performances by such stars as Dorothy Dandridge, Ivie Anderson, Herb Jeffries, and Joe Turner (his first time out of Kansas City) were sophisticated, and the wonderful Duke Ellington Orchestra was in the pit. The songs included “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Rocks in My Bed,” and an instrumental, “Subtle Slough,” which Ellington played on stage and which became “Just Squeeze Me, Don’t Tease Me” when Lee Gaines added the lyric.

Despite the show’s quality it closed after only 12 weeks and 101 performances. According to David Hajdu in his biography of Billy Strayhorn, Lush Life, black audiences loved it, but white critics didn’t: “They didn’t know what to make of it.” James Lincoln Collier further explains, “...The mass of Americans were simply not ready for a show of ‘social significance,’ as the phrase went, promoting the idea that blacks were as good as anybody else.”

It is not known how much Billy Strayhorn had to do with the production. Hajdu says, “As the manuscript score of Jump for Joy illustrates, Strayhorn had a big hand in no fewer than five compositions.” Strayhorn is credited as co-author with Duke and Mercer Ellington on “Bugle Breaks” and as “musical arranger” along with Duke and Hal Borne. But Ellington’s was the name on which the show rested, and Billy seemed delighted to be working along side him.

“Just Squeeze Me, Don’t Tease Me” was recorded by the Ellington band on July 9, 1946. However their version did not chart. It was Paul Weston and His Orchestra with vocalist Matt Dennis that took the song to the charts on December 28, 1946, where it remained for four weeks, peaking at number 21. In 1952 the popular singing group the Four Aces took the song to the charts for two weeks where it peaked at number 20.


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

The melody is a lively swinger, and Lee Gaines’ simple, staccato lyric fits the tempo perfectly. Gaines, who was the bass singer with the Delta Rhythm Boys, also collaborated with Ellington on “Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’” (1945). “Just Squeeze Me” is both a plea for love and an avowal of love in the absence of the loved one:

I’m in the mood to let you know
I never knew I loved you so
Please say, you love me too

When I get this feeling
I’m in ecstasy
So squeeze me
But don’t tease me

“Just Squeeze Me” was featured in the award-winning Broadway show Sophisticated Ladies which opened in 1981 and ran for 767 performances. It remains a popular song with jazz artists and since 2000 has been recorded by trumpeters Clark Terry and Warren Vache; vocalists Mark Murphy, Tierney Sutton, Carol Sloane, and Jane Monheit; saxophonist Harry Allen; and guitarist Martin Taylor.

- Sandra Burlingame

Musicians' Comments

This song has been done super slow and really up-tempo, and both work. So, I decided to record the tempo somewhere in the middle, emulating the old-school big band style singers. The recording came out great and a good addition to the varied choices on the record. My only regret is that there is an error in crediting the song in our liner notes due to confusion with the Fats Waller tune “Squeeze Me” listed on many publishing licensing sites. It was said that Ellington was frustrated that there was so much confusion after he recorded his song, titled the same, so he extended the title with “....But Please Don’t Tease Me” to differentiate it from the Waller song.

Amanda Carr, jazz vocalist/pianist

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Reading and Research
Additional information for "Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me)" may be found in:

Gary Giddins
Visions of Jazz: The First Century
Oxford University Press; New Ed edition
Paperback: 704 pages

(Song’s origin in “Subtle Slough.”)
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By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

A 1955 recording by Miles Davis’ Quintet is the second recording session for tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Miles’ beautiful Harmon-muted trumpet is featured, but ‘Trane gets a little spot, too.

Ex-Ellington trumpeter Clark Terry’s 1957 session not only included Duke’s right hand man Billy Strayhorn on piano, but key saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves. Their arrangement of “Just Squeeze Me” is definitely different from Ellington’s version and pleasantly so.

A live performance from 1959 by Shelly Manne and his Men is striking. They play Duke’s tune as a waltz, an approach that was gaining favor at that time. The band gets into a nice blues groove, and there are fine solos by Richie Kamuca (tenor sax), Joe Gordon (trumpet), and Victor Feldman (piano).

Finally, the great meeting of Duke and Louis Armstrong in 1961 produced a tasty rendition with Louis doing the vocal honors with aplomb.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Miles Davis
Miles Davis Plays for Lovers
Prestige 6019

Clark Terry
Duke With a Difference
Riverside/OJC 229
Original recording 1957
Shelly Manne
At the Blackhawk, Vol. 4 Original
Jazz Classics 659

Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington
The Great Summit: The Master Takes
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1961
CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
John Frigo
I Love John Frigo...He Swings
2004 Verve 145602
Original recording 1952
Violinist Frigo swings with a gypsy lilt on this pleasant, disharmonic reading that slows down the tempo and engages each instrument to blend imaginatively on the chorus.
Ernie Andrews
Ernie Andrews
2001 GNP Crescendo 2274
Original recording 1969
Andrews has an earthy quality to his voice that makes every word he sings believable. Here he gives “Squeeze Me” a rhythm and blues feeling within the big band setting.

- Ben Maycock

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Duke Ellington and Lee Gaines

Year Rank Title
1941 231 Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me)

Duke Ellington, Lee Gaines and Billy Strayhorn

Year Rank Title
1945 461 Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'

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