Jazz journalist Bob Bernotas interviewed Frank Foster, saxophonist and musical director (1986-1995) of the Count Basie orchestra, in 1991. Here is the text of that interview as it pertains to “Shiny Stockings.”
In his 11 years with the Count, Foster contributed a tall stack of marvelous charts to the Basie book (“Blues Backstage,” “Down for the Count,” “Blues in Hoss’ Flat,” “Back to the Apple,” “Discommotion,” the entire Easin’ It album), but none suited the Chief’s prerequisites better than “Shiny Stockings.”
“I wrote `Shiny Stockings’ in 1955 and we had a rehearsal at a place called Pep’s Bar in Philadelphia. We had just arrived in town. Everybody was sleepy, tired, hungry, and evil. Nobody felt like rehearsing. We rehearsed `Shiny Stockings’ and it sounded like a bunch of jumbled notes, just noise, and I said, `Wow, all the work I put into this, and it sounds so horrible. I know Basie will never play it.’ And then something very strange happened. He continued to play and it came together. Finally, we recorded it and, well, it’s the very best known piece that I have contributed to the Basie book.
“It embodies all the things that were important to him. It builds-it starts soft and ends with and explosion. It leaves space for the rhythm section to do whatever it’s going to do. It has that ensemble writing which the band can sink their teeth into and really make happen-and a wonderful trumpet solo by Thad Jones.” One more thing: it swings.
“Years later,” Foster remembers with pride, “Basie gave me the supreme compliment. Every now and then, he’d say about a chart, `Oh, it’s very nice, kid,’ and then leave it at that. Well, he grabbed me, he said, `Junior, you know that “Shiny Stockings”? You really put one down that time.’ You couldn’t receive a better compliment from Count Basie.”
- Courtesy of Bob Bernotas
You can visit Bob’s website at www.jazzbob.com.
The full text of the interview is in Bob Bernotas’ excellent book, Reed All About It: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz’s Leading Reed Players.
“Shiny Stockings” has two sets of lyrics, by both Ella Fitzgerald and Jon Hendricks. Fitgerald recorded the tune with her lyrics in July of 1963 on Ella and Basie: On the Sunny Side of the Street. Hendricks recorded his lyrics in January 1963 on Recorded in Person at the Trident. Earlier recordings may exist. The ASCAP ACE database lists Foster as the writer for the instrumental version and both Foster and Fitzgerald for the vocal version. Sarah Vaughan recorded Fitzgerald’s lyrics in 1964 on Viva Vaughan.
For years, Frank Foster collected no songwriting royalties for “Shiny Stockings.” In an NPR article published on July 2, 2010, reporter Felix Contreras stated:
When I interviewed Foster at his home in Virginia in 2005 for a series on the economic plight of older jazz musicians, he explained why he gave away his publishing rights and royalties: he simply didn’t know any better. And every time someone recorded it, Foster had to watch the majority of the royalties go to a company that had collected publishing rights to the songs they had purchased.
But thanks to a provision in the U.S. Copyright law and a Rutgers-Newark legal team made up of mostly law students, Foster will be able to collect all songwriting royalties for “Shiny Stockings.” More on this can be found at NPR Music.