"Wang Wang Blues" - Kid Ory

“Wang Wang Blues” (PDF) by Kid Ory, from the album Kid Ory Plays the Blues.
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According to Don Tyler’s book, Hit Songs 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era, “Wang Wang Blues” was composed by Henry Busse, the trumpet player for Paul Whiteman and His Ambassador Orchestra (p. 121).  The 1920 recording has been included in the Library of Congress’ National Jukebox, presumably for its popularity and quaint depiction of the blues.

Despite the avoidance of a traditional 12-bar blues form, the 16-bar phrasing within “Wang Wang Blues” maintains a few elements of the blues style.  For instance, when performed the sorrowful lyrics express the loss of a loved one, and the hymn-like chorus would reflect a somberness if it weren’t for its up-tempo beat, while the use of the word “Wang” in this case is meant to invoke the sounds of crying.  A-hem.

In this Kid Ory version, the crying is imitated in the rhythmic shout section with the assistance of a plunger mute.  It does not appear that Ory manipulated the crying or “wah” and instead sustained the muted tone in response to the lyrical call.  However, the combination of a tight, locked-in rhythm along with an animated shout response is a guaranteed recipe for the sound of hot jazz.

Here is the Library of Congress entry for the Paul Whiteman recording of “Wang Wang Blues.”

Recommended reading: Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz by John McCusker.  Published by University Press of Mississippi.