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How High the Moon?

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Wolf Moon ~ First 2011 Full MoonI enjoy listening to different interpretations of the same tune. Sometimes I collect different recordings so I can compare them. One of the tunes which I have collected and is a favorite is How High the Moon.

How High the Moon was written in 1940 by Morgan Lewis with lyrics by Nancy Hamilton. It has been recorded extensively. One of my favorite versions is by Ella Fitzgerald. Two other notable early recording were made by Benny Goodman (1940), Stan Kenton with vocal by June Christy (1948). But for guitarists, the version that set the standard was the 1951 version by Les Paul and Mary Ford, husband and wife at the time of the recording.

Most guitarists recognize Les Paul for Gibson Guitar model named after him. But Les Paul was an tinkerer, inventor and innovator who introduced us to multi-track recording, overdubbing and other special effects.

Les Paul and Mary Ford on TV performing How Hight the Moon. Notice they are playing along with a tape machine which is playing back the the pre-recorded tracks.

By the way, do you know what color Les’s guitar was in the above video clip? It was probably a classic color you can still get from Gibson today, though there’s no longer a reason for it. A color named “TV Yellow” was made and first used on Les Paul guitars that appeared on the Les Paul and Mary Ford television show. In the days of black and white television, yellow looked more natural than a natural finish did.

Many recording of How High the Moon pay homage to the Les Paul version. Here are a couple of examples.

The Manhattan Transfer

Jeff Beck

This next one still suggest the Les Paul version, though not as close as the previous two.

Frank Vignola and Tommy Emmanuel

Something a bit different, very nice. Acoustic guitar.

Here’s George Benson with a young award winning guitarist.

And an older Les Paul showing his versatility and chops.

You can find an extensive list of recordings of How High the Moon at Wikipedia, but I doubt it is complete.

1 thought on “How High the Moon?”

  1. The guitar Les played on that clip was his “number one”, the first (or more likely one of the first) Les Pauls made (so it was a gold top), a pre-production model already heavily modified by Les.

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