"Sugar Blues" - Kid Ory
If you haven’t done so yet, Google the phrase “foreign Star Wars posters” to discover the fascinating lost-in-translation artwork for the iconic franchise. A long time ago, before the dark times, before the Disney empire and Photoshop-ed movie posters, promotional materials were suggestive abstracts designed to lure your curiosity into the movie theater, or to listen to an Ornette Coleman album, and the impressionistic liberties taken to depict the classic space opera are simply incredible. In hindsight, the connection between the artwork and the original source material is traceable, but the distance traveled to get to here from there is surely longer than twelve parsecs and an antiquated process.
“Sugar Blues” was composed by trumpeter Clyde McCoy and it would become his theme song because of his signature Harmon mute wah effect used throughout the performance. Regardless of who actually invented the technique, McCoy popularized its novelty in an early recording and assumed the credit. Decades later when electronics could replicate the manual sweeping-filter effect, McCoy’s name was associated with the original Cry Baby wah foot pedals, but the path to Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock from the emergence of Chicago-style jazz appears to stray more randomly than an Imperial blaster.
Perhaps the most fascinating anachronism surrounding “Sugar Blues” is that McCoy recorded the tune for multiple record labels over the years, with each version being a unique performance. When the song became popular, everybody wanted a cut of the action and McCoy appeased them because each recording generated new money for him. This business model seems like a fallacy in this digital age of exclusivity and “leaked” music. More incredible is that McCoy traveled across the nation to re-record the song because it was more efficient than having one record label distribute a single recording throughout the galaxies far, far away.
Here is a YouTube video of one of Clyde McCoy's versions of "Sugar Blues."
Recommended reading: Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz by John McCusker. Published by University Press of Mississippi.