DukeEllington_PasadenaConcert_1953_aHere’s to you, the great Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet, improvising beautifully on Duke Ellington’s famous portrait piece with the cryptic title THE TATTOOED BRIDE.

As soon as I have found the below LP again (I’ve unfortunately given it away 20 years ago) with a very rare early, if not the initial version of this composition, waxed for V-Discs (V-Disc #898) at Carnegie Hall on November 13, 1948, I will deliver it as well.

When I recall the Duke’s hilarious announcement at Carnegie Hall correctly, is this composition about a freshly married sailor and his bride. DukeEllington_V-Discs

DukeEllington_seriousIn the wedding night, the groom suddenly recognizes the irritating fact that his young bride is tattooed all over with hundreds of “W’s”, musically painted by the Duke with a phrase he phonetically described as “zaa-zoo-zaa-zaa”.

Funny, huh?

So, stay tuned for the usual update. — As you may meanwhile know, all my articles are works in progress; but what else would you expect from an improvising bugler whose whole life is a work in progress 😉

The virtual Mr. Shaw can be found HERE.

Virtual too,

Yours truly,

Personnel, location & date: Cat Anderson, Willie Cook, Ray Nance, Clark Terry (tp) Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman (tb) Juan Tizol (v-tb) Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts) Rick Henderson (as) Russell Procope (as, cl) Paul Gonsalves (ts) Harry Carney (bars, cl) Duke Ellington (p, ld) Oscar Pettiford (cello) Wendell Marshall (b) Butch Ballard (d) – ‘Civic Auditorium’, Pasadena, California, March 30, 1953.


P.S. (found after writing the above) — Excerpts from a discussion going on HERE:

“A jazz colleague Rod King has brought to my attention a pair of recordings he has recently acquired. (…) There is a spoken introduction by Duke (“The bride was tattooed all over with the letter ‘W'”) which gives no clues to the performance’s origin.

WThe music appears to be complete, apart from the inevitable breaks between the 78rpm sides, and there is a very rare Jimmy Hamilton “fluff” (a “missed” note) in his solo work above the full band during the final fast section. This may assist in identification. (…) Can you identify this mystery “Bride”?

P.S. The music is marvellous (sic!)!

I am wondering why the middle (slow) section of “The Tattooed Bride” is called Aberdeen. A most odd title for Duke to have used, relating to a famous old city on the East Coast of Scotland. And if this section is titled, do the other two fast sections one on each side of Aberdeen also have their own titles?”


“I think I can answer the question of the city Duke referred to as Aberdeen when he called for the number from “The Tattooed Bride”. It was Aberdeen, South Dakota.”

“In late October, l948 Duke had a 5 or 6 day event in Aberdeen, when he likely could have been preparing numbers for his Carnegie Hall concert, set for November 13, l948. Duke and the band came to Washington, DC on November l for a l0-day gig. I had a chat with Sonny Greer, and he told about the fine time they had in Aberdeen (…).

Sonny told me about the big mansion they stayed in, and the fine piano they had in the building. The band left Washington on the morning of November 11, and 2 days later played at Carnegie Hall where the band did its first public performance of ‘The Tattooed Bride’.”


“The Tattooed Bride has 3 movements: Kitchen Stove, Omaha and Aberdeen.”


“It can be read in Eddie Lambert’s Listener’s Guide (p150) that Duke introduced to the audiences two different stories, telling sometimes one and sometimes the other.

Well, I listened to all the introductions to the “Tattooed Bride” (…) and I never heard anything about the first version of the story, that one about the athletic exercise of the husband (too tired in the evening to notice that his new wife was tattooed), but plenty of the second, about the shape of the tattoo and so on.

It would be of great interest if someone has some hint. Please let me know.”



This entry was posted in Artie Shaw, Dedication, Duke Ellington, Etymology, Invented Truths & Actual Happenings, Jazz Stories & Tales, Portrait, Tattoos and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Ken Dryden says: “The Tattooed Bride” is a whimsical extended
    instrumental representing “a musical striptease” (according to Leonard
    Feather’s concert notes to its debut performance)
    , ending with the
    groom’s shocking discovery that his new wife is tattooed in a
    previously hidden location.

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