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1951 Capitol Records 78 single by Les Paul and Mary Ford, 1451.
1951 sheet music for the Les Paul and Mary Ford recording, Chappell, New York.
The earliest recorded hit version was by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. It was recorded on February 7, 1940, and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 35391, with the flip side "Fable of the Rose". The Les Paul Trio recorded a version released as V-Disc 540B with a spoken introduction which was issued in November, 1945 by the U.S. War Department. In 1948, bandleader Stan Kenton enjoyed some success with his version of the tune. The recording, with a vocal by June Christy, was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 911 (with the flip side "Willow, Weep for Me") and 15117 (with the flip side "Interlude"). It reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on July 9, 1948, its only week on the chart, at #27.
A recording of the song by Les Paul and Mary Ford was made on January 4, 1951. The record was released on March 26 by Capitol Records as catalog number 1451, with the flip side "Walkin' and Whistlin' Blues", and spent 25 weeks (beginning on March 23, 1951) on the Billboard chart, 9 weeks at #1. The record was subsequently re-released by Capitol as catalog number 1675, with "Josephine" on the B-side.
This recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1979 and is on the list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
The song was sung in various recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, becoming (with the Gershwin's "Oh, Lady Be Good!") Ella's signature tune. She first performed the song at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947. Her first recording, backed by the Daydreamers, was recorded December 20, 1947, and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24387, with the flip side "You Turned the Tables on Me". Her most celebrated recording of "How High the Moon" is on her 1960 album Ella in Berlin, and her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."
The song has become a gypsy jazz standard and has been recorded by several musicians of the genre.
Louis Armstrong and his orchestra (recorded in two parts November 30, 1947, released by Decca Records as catalog numbers 28103 & 28104, each with the flip side being a part of a two-part recording of "Body and Soul")
Mitchel Ayres' orchestra (vocal: Mary Ann Mercer: recorded February 8, 1940, released by Bluebird Records as catalog number 10609B, with the flip side "A House with a Little Red Barn".)
Gloria Gaynor (Disco version of the song, on 1975 MGM Records album Experience Gloria Gaynor, catalog number M3G 4997.) Along with the tracks, "Casanova Brown" and "(If You Want It) Do It Yourself", this version went to number one on the disco/dance chart.
Bibbi Johnson and Thore Swanerud (recorded September 19, 1949, in Stockholm, Sweden; released by Savoy Records as catalog number 965, with the flip side "Tout Desire") (also listed as by the Thore Swanerud Sextet, issued by Discovery Records as catalog number 173, with the flip side "Tout D'Suite".)
Paul Weston and his orchestra (released by Columbia Records as catalog number 39299 and 39647, both with the flip side "Over the Rainbow"; also issued on the album Dream Time Music, Columbia catalog number CL 528, released November 2, 1953.)
Another jazz standard, "Ornithology" by Charlie Parker, is based on the chords of "How High the Moon". It was common among jazz musicians (Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton and others) to seamlessly include "Ornithology" in the solo when performing "How High the Moon". Lennie Tristano wrote the contrafact "Lennie-bird" over the chord changes, and Miles Davis/Chuck Wayne's "Solar" is also based on part of the chord structure.. Coleman Hawkins' tune "Bean At Met" is also based on the changes of How High The Moon; this tune starts with simple riffs on the measures 1 to 8 and 17 to 24. The rest is filled up with solos.
John Coltrane's composition "Satellite" is also based on the chords of "How High the Moon", which Coltrane embellished with the three-tonic progression he also used on his composition "Giant Steps".