Tin Roof Blues (Rusty Nail Blues) for String Orchestra ''Jazz for 5 Strings Series''

By: Composed by the NROK/Buddy Petit?
For: String orchestra
page one of Tin Roof Blues  (Rusty Nail Blues) for String Orchestra ''Jazz for 5 Strings Series''

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Composed by the NROK/Buddy Petit?
Year of composition
Year of arrangement
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
3 minutes
Blues music
License details
For anything not permitted by the above licence then you should contact the publisher first to obtain permission.

An arrangement of Tin Roof Blues for String Orchestra

As the origin is controversial, I have published the work with no print licence.

"Tin Roof Blues" is a jazz composition first recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1923. It was thought to have been written by band members Paul Mares, Ben Pollack, Mel Stitzel, George Brunies and Leon Roppolo, but this is still in debate!

The tune has become a jazz standard and is one of the most often played early New Orleans jazz pieces.

The sheet music was published by Melrose music, with an illustration of a dance hall on Washington Avenue in New Orleans.

The origin of the composition has caused some controversy over the years, it has been claimed that the tune was based on New Orleans pianist Richard M. Jones’s earlier composition "Jazzin’ Babies Blues", specifically Joe "King" Oliver’s rendition of it. Oliver recorded Jones’s tune in June 1923, two months after NORK’s "Tin Roof Blues" was released. Listeners claimed that the NORK had already been playing the tune several months before recording it. Jazz critic Martin Williams argues in his book that "the only real similarity [he] hear[s] between them is that they are both 12-bar blues."

The simple melody which is shared as a strain in "Tin Roof" and "Jazzin’ Babies Blues" was known to earlier New Orleans musicians under various titles; the white musicians being more familiar with it under the title "Pee Hole Blues" and the "colored" musicians as "Don’t Get Funky ’Cause Your Water’s On".

The Rhythm Kings first recorded the number on 13 March 1923 for Gennett Records. There are three surviving alternative takes of the number from this session. The alternative takes were created as part of the phonograph recording and manufacture process; the musicians did not expect there to be different versions released which would be compared later. The Solos on the original records contained less improvisation than much of later jazz, and more than earlier jazz. Brunies’s and Roppolo’s solos were played similar but noticeably different on each of the three takes. Brunies continued to play the solo from the most famous take of the NORK recording for the rest of his career.

First recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Richmond, Indiana, March 12-13, 1923. Said to be an early blues riff by legendary New Orleans cornetist Buddy Petit, the theme was called ‘Rusty Nail Blues’ around New Orleans. The verse is a 12 bar blues statement leading to the famous riff that is also a 12 bar blues form. This is the melody that has been renamed a number of times: “Jazz Baby Blues” in 1926, “Make Love To Me” in 1950 as recorded by Kay Starr.i1

The Tin Roof Cafe at Washington street and Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans was converted into a vinegar factory around 1910. Tin Roof Blues began life, according to George Brunies, as a routine the NORK often did at the Friars’ Inn. Their name for it was The Rusty Rail Blues until Walter Melrose came along looking for publishable properties. “He liked the tune,” Brunies said, “gave us a $500 advance on it,” and said `You don’t mind if I do anything with it do you?'” But he needed a better title, something evocative of New Orleans. So they named it after the Tin Roof Cafe on Baronne Street Back home, later known as the Suburban Gardens. They put all their names on it, “because we didn’t figure it was going to do anything.” A generation later, with a new title and lyric and an eight-bar release added, it hit the 1953 pop charts as Make Love to Me (sang by Jo Stafford made it a second place in 1954) much to the surprise of the surviving musicians–though the presence of eight names on the composer credits (including that of Melrose) guaranteed that no one person would get rich on royalties. Bill Norvas and Allan Copeland added the new lyric in 1954. Because the melody of Tin Roof bears some resemblance to one strain of Richard M. Jones’s Jazzin’ Babies Blues as recorded by King Oliver, it has been suggested that NORK stole the number. NORK, however, recorded their tune first and Jones did not copyright Jazzin’ Babies until early 1924. In any case, Tin Roof and Jazzin’ Babies are melodically quite dissimilar.

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