East St. Louis Toodle-oo

This is a cover of a cover!

1941: Portrait of American jazz musician Duke Ellington (1899 – 1974) standing behind an upright piano and reaching over the legs of actor Louise Franklin, sitting atop the piano, to play an E Flat, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images)

East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” (also “Toodle-O” and “Todolo“) is a composition written by Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley and recorded several times by Ellington for various labels from 1926–1930 under various titles.[1] This song was the first charting single for Duke Ellington in 1927 and was one of the main examples of his early “jungle music”.[2] This composition (which entered the public domain on January 1, 2023[3]) was covered by Steely Dan on their 1974 album Pretzel Logic.

Recording history

Ellington first recorded “Toodle-Oo” in November 1926 for Vocalion Records, which was released as Vo (1064). He recorded the composition twice more in early 1927 for Brunswick Records; the first version was not released at the time, but the second was released as Br (3480).[1] He recorded his hit version in March 1927 for Columbia Records, under the name “the Washingtonians”. Along with recording “Toodle-Oo”, two other compositions were recorded at the same session, “Hop Head” and “Down in Our Alley Blues”, the former of which would be released as the B-side of Columbia 953-D.[4]

  • November 29, 1926 E-4110 Vocalion 1064
  • February 3, 1927 E-21636 E-21637 E-21538 Brunswick rejected
  • March 14, 1927 E-21872 Brunswick 3480, Brunswick 6801, Brunswick 80000, Vocalion 1064 (some later pressings)
  • March 22, 1927 W 143705-3 Columbia 953-D
  • December 19, 1927 41245-1 Victor 21703
  • December 19, 1927 41245-2 Victor 21703, Bluebird B-6430, Montgomery Ward M-4889
  • January 19, 1928 W 400032-A OKeh 8638 (as “Harlem Twist”, by Lonnie Johnson’s Harlem Footwarmers, which features Johnson on guitar)
  • March ?, 1928 2944-A and B Cameo 8182, Lincoln 2837, Romeo 612 (as The Washingtonians), and 108079-1 Pathe 36781, Perfect 14962 (as The Whoopee Makers) (identical to one of the takes of 2944)
  • April 3, 1930 150167-3 Diva 6046-G, Velvet Tone 7072-V (as Mills’ Ten Black Berries)
  • February 9, 1932 71812-2 and 3 Victor L-16007 (33 1/3 10″ long playing transcription, first part of a 3-song medley)
  • March 5, 1937 M-180-1 Master MA-101, Brunswick m7989 (as “The New East St. Louis Toodle-O”)
  • February 7, 1956 Bethlehem Be BCP-60


“East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” features a growling plunger-muted trumpet part played by co-composer Bubber Miley, one of the first jazz trumpeters to utilize the style.[4] This style was carried on by later Ellington trumpeters Cootie Williams (1937 recording),[5] and Ray Nance (1956 recording).

For Steely Dan‘s 1974 cover of the song, Walter Becker played the melody with a wah-wah pedal to imitate Miley’s trumpet style, while Jeff “Skunk” Baxter used a pedal steel guitar for the trombone part.[6]

Other notable recordings

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