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Stars Fell on Alabama (1934)

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Origin and Chart Information
Parish titled the song after an actual incident which occured in 1833 when a spectacular meteor shower dazzled the residents of the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama.

- Sandra Burlingame

Rank 238
Music Frank S. Perkins
Lyrics Mitchell Parish

“Stars Fell on Alabama” was the most famous song of composer Frank S. Perkins, who also composed for movies and conducted the orchestras, most notably for the 1962 film adaptation of Gypsy. Mitchell Parish, noted for his lyrics to “Stardust,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Deep Purple,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “One Morning in May,” titled this song after an actual incident. In November 1833, a spectacular meteor shower occurred near the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama. At 3 o’clock in the morning, as tens of thousands of meteors streaked across the sky, it was so bright that people thought the sun had risen and the roosters began to crow. The song was created in 1934, the same year that Professor Carl Carmer’s classic book about early Alabama culture was published with the same title. “Stars Fell on Alabama” was also added to the state’s license plates in 2002.

 

More on Mitchell Parish at JazzBiographies.com
 
 

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The song charted twice in 1934. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians took it to the Billboard chart where it remained for nine weeks, four of them at number one. Richard Himber’s Orchestra had a number two hit with it. Although Himber billed himself as “The Sweet Stylist of the Dance,” his orchestra at various times included many musicians who would later come to fame in the jazz world such as Bunny Berigan, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey.

 

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

The song is very romantic, and the verse, set amidst “Moonlight and magnolias,” expresses disbelief that such a dream of love could come true. The refrain describes the love encounter:

We lived our little drama, we kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama that night.

Vocally “Stars Fell on Alabama” has been recorded by Billie Holiday, Anita O’Day, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald with Louis Armstrong, and pop singers the Four Aces and Jimmy Buffet. Both trombonist/vocalist Jack Teagarden and saxophonist Stan Getz recorded “Stars Fell on Alabama” several times, and it was waxed by pianists Erroll Garner and Jessica Williams, drummer Shelly Manne, and harmonica player Toots Thielemans. It was recorded recently by guitarist Frank Vignola (2000), saxophonist Harry Allen (2001), and bassist Phil Baker (2004).

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages


(Author/composer Wilder analyzes the music in his definitive book on American popular song.)

- Sandra Burlingame

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Reading and Research
Additional information for "Stars Fell on Alabama" may be found in:

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages


(2 paragraphs including the following types of information: music analysis.)

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


(1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Pantheon
Hardcover: 736 pages


(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)
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Jazz History Notes

Clarinetist Benny Goodman was the first jazz artist to record this tune on September 11, 1934, with an early version of his big band. A week later he would record the tune on a session led by trombonist Jack Teagarden. The number became a staple of Teagarden’s repertoire for the rest of his career. Not long after Jack joined Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars in 1947 the ensemble was recorded in concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall, and Teagarden’s version is magnificent, with great obbligato work by Louis behind Jack’s vocal.

Ben Webster, the tenor saxophonist who is remembered for his great work with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, recorded an excellent album of ballads with string accompaniment. “Big Ben” had a wonderful, sensuous approach on slow tunes, the complete opposite of his up-tempo work, and his version of “Stars...” is superb.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Benny Goodman
1934-1935
Classics 744

Jack Teagarden
Father of Jazz Trombone
Avid Records UK
Original Recording 1944
iTunes
Louis Armstrong
Satchmo at Symphony Hall
Verve 661

iTunes
Ben Webster
Music for Loving:Ben Webster with Strings
Polygram Records 527774

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

Mitchell Parish and Frank S. Perkins

Year Rank Title
1934 238 Stars Fell on Alabama

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