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Music of the 1930s: The Essential List

The 1930s Revisited

The 1930s Revisited

Music of the pre-rock era takes some adjustment to properly hear – the long instrumental sections, trilling vocals, and emphasis on the dominant crooning voices over melodies can be jarring. The 1930s were dominated by big bands lead by hit producers like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. Binge listening can make much of the music sound similar and big hits were often covered quickly by a multitude of artists. Bing Crosby, the Ink Spots, and the Andrew Sisters provided the safe pop fare, while Duke Ellington and Count Basie played sophisticated jazz pop for white and black audiences. My choices reflect my own bias towards pop melodies and traditional country; I claim no special knowledge of early jazz and blues material. I’m sure this listing misses a number of worthy entries, but this is a good starting point for the music that made your grandparent’s pre-indoor plumbing life slightly more bearable.



Alabama Song, Lotte Lenya & The Three Admirals with Theo Mackaben’s Jazz Orchestra

Blue Yodel #9 (Standing on the Corner), Jimmie Rodgers

Bring it With You When You Come, Cannon’s Jug Stompers

Chinatown, My Chinatown, Fletcher Henderson

Cocaine Habit Blues, Memphis Jug Band

Crying for the Carolines, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians

Falling in Love Again, Marlene Dietrich

Georgia on My Mind, Hoagy Carmichael

Happy Days Are Here Again, Leo Reisman and His Orchestra

I Got Rhythm, Ethel Merman

If the River Was Whiskey, Charlie Poole

I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas, Louis Armstrong

John Hardy Was a Desperate Man, The Carter Family

John the Revelator, Blind Willie Johnson

A Lazy Farmer Boy, Buster Carter & Preston Young

Motherless Children, Bessemer Melody Boys

Puttin’ on the Ritz, Fred Astaire

Razor Ball, Blind Willie McTell

Sitting on Top of the World, Mississippi Shieks

Somebody’s Been Using That Thing, Big Bill Broonzy,

Sweet Sixteen, Charlie Poole

Ten Cents a Dance, Ruth Etting

What is This Thing Called Love, Leo Reisman,





As Time Goes By, Rudy Vallee

Dallas Blues, Ted Lewis & His Band

Dream A Little Dream of Me, Wayne King

Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues, Skip James

Lazy River, Louis Armstrong

Minnie the Moocher, Cab Calloway & His Cotton Club Orchestra

Mood Indigo, Duke Ellington

Mule Skinner Blues (Blues Yodel No. 8), Jimmie Rodgers

The Peanut Vendor, The California Ramblers

Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, Gene Austin

St. James Infirmary, Cab Calloway

Stardust, Louis Armstrong




All of Me, Louis Armstrong

Brother, Can You Spare Me a Dime?, Bing Crosby

Chinatown, My Chinatown, The Mills Brothers

Diga Diga Doo, The Mills Brothers

It Don’t Mean a Thing (If Ain’t Got That Swing), Duke Ellington

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Noel Coward

Night and Day, Fred Astaire & Leo Reisman

Sweet Georgia Brown, Bing Crosby




The Easter Parade, Gene Austin

Gimme A Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer, Bessie Smith

Gold Digger’s Song (We’re in the Money), Ginger Rogers

I’ve Got the Big River Blues, The Delmore Brothers

Sophisticated Lady, Duke Ellington

Stormy Weather, Ethel Waters

You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me, Bing Crosby



The Continental, Ginger Rogers

Honeysuckle Rose, Fats Waller

I Get a Kick Out of You, Ethel Merman

Inka Dinka Doo, Jimmy Durante

Patsy Montana, Montana Plains

Memphis Shakedown, Memphis Jug Band

The Object of My Affection, Pinky Tomlin

Rhythm Is Our Business, The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra

Tiger Rag, The Mills Brothers

Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Sons of the Pioneers

What A Difference A Day Makes, Freddy Martin Orchestra,

You’re the Top, Ethel Merman




Baby Please Don’t Go, Big Joe Williams

Can the Circle be Unbroken (By and By), Carter Family

Cheek to Cheek, Fred Astaire

I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart, Patsy Montana,

I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, Fats Waller

King Porter (Stomp), Benny Goodman

The Lady in Red, Louis Prima and His New Orleans Gang

Limehouse Blues, Django Reinhardt

Lullaby of Broadway, Dorsey Brothers

Midnight Special, Big Bill Broonzy

Nine Pound Hammer is Too Heavy, Monroe Brothers

O’ Molly Dear, B.F. Shelton,

Sing Sing Sing, Benny Goodman

The Way You Look Tonight, Fred Astaire

What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Ted Wilson featuring Billie Holiday



Benny Goodman, Dinah

Billie Holiday, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

Billie Holiday, Summertime

Robert Johnson, Cross Road Blues

Fats Waller, It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie

No Depression in Heaven, The Carter Family

Ol’ Man River, Paul Robeson with Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra

Pennies from Heaven, Bing Crosby

The Way You Look Tonight, Fred Astaire with Johnny Green & His Orchestra

Billie Holiday, These Foolish Things

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Right or Wrong

Wabash Cannonball, Roy Acuff



Caravan, Duke Ellington

Diminuendo in Blue, Duke Ellington

Dust, Gene Autry & His String Band

Good Morning Little School Girl, Sonny Boy Williamson

Goodnight, My Love, Benny Goodman with Ella Fitzgerald

Hellhound on My Trail, Robert Johnson

The Lady is a Tramp, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra

Loch Lomond, Maxine Sullivan & The Claude Thornhill Orchestra

Mean to Me, Billie Holiday

One O’ Clock Jump, Count Basie



A-Tisket, A Tasket, Chick Webb & His Orchestra with Ella Fitzgerald

Begin the Beguine, Artie Shaw and His Orchestra

The Flat Foot Floogie, Slim & SLam

Hoosier Hot Shots, Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish

Jumpin’ at the Woodside, Count Basie

Roll ‘Em Peter, Joe Turner & Pete Johnson

September Song, Walter Huston

Thanks for the Memory, Bob Hope/Shirley Ross

Them There Eyes, Freddy Green

When the Saints Come Marching In, Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra

W.P.A. Rag, Big Bill Broonzy



All or Nothing at All, Frank Sinatra

Back in the Saddle Again, Gene Autry

Back on the Montana Plaines, Patsy Montana & the Prairie Ramblers

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Count Basie & His Orchestra with Helen Humes

Body and Soul, Coleman Hawkins

Ida Red, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

In the Mood, Glenn Miller

Lester Leaps In, Count Basie’s Kansas City Seven

Mbube, Solomon Linda’s Evening Birds

Moonlight Serenade, Glenn Miller

Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland

Roll ‘Em Pete, Joe Turner and Pete Johnson

Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday

This Train, Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers, Truck Driver’s Blues

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