The Count speaks.
The Count speaks.

Count Basie with Joe Williams – The Tonight Show With Steve Allen – September 28, 1955 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

Further evidence the early days of TV were days of eclectic wonderment, this excerpt from an episode of the original Tonight Show, starring Steve Allen (before Jack Paar took over and long before Johnny Carson) and featuring a set by Count Basie and His Orchestra, with vocals by Joe Williams.

A little over 17 minutes, but a wonderful example of just how diverse programs like The Tonight Show were at the time – aside from the fact that it was 1 hour an 45 minutes, it also ran the gamut of artists and personalities of the time. And since Steve Allen was an avowed Jazz aficionado, many legendary names got guest spots during his tenure.

I don’t think this performance has shown up anywhere via collectors circles or private labels – since the early days of TV were also notoriously not preserved, it’s not entirely likely a kinescope (or early videotape) of this exists. I may be wrong, but that’s no excuse not to enjoy this small slice of Jazz on Network Television in the 1950s.


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