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(ELLINGTON, Duke, Nat King Cole, and Sarah Vaughan.)

The Biggest Show of ’51 – signed programme.

Published: New York: 1951

Stock code: 81997

Price: £600

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Signed in ink at their portraits by Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, and Sarah Vaughan. Billed as “the biggest Negro talent package ever assembled … with a huge weekly overhead … of $25,000”, “The Biggest Show Of ’51”, kicked off on 21 September 1951 in Boston, and after an extensive and gruelling tour of the US and Canada, ended on 28 November with two dates in Ohio. The package was styled after vaudeville show, featuring seasoned performers including dancers Maria Bryant and Peg Leg Bates, and comedians Timmie Rogers – who was given his big break on the Nat Cole show – and Stump & Stumpie – the first three have also signed at their portraits, all of them backed by the Ellington Orchestra; but the real stars of the show were the Duke and two of the most popular singers on the planet, Sarah Vaughan and Nat Cole, both of whom fronted the Ellington band during the two hour concerts, with Cole also appearing at the piano with his trio. Leonard Feather, reviewing a sold out performance at Carnegie Hall for Downbeat magazine, observed that “the Ellington band currently boasts the most expensive vocal team in history: a girl singer named Vaughan and a boy singer named Cole … After their co-starring tour breaks up, maybe Duke could put them on the payroll. For a mere twelve grand a week he’d have himself a bargain”. Wonderful memento of a remarkable collaboration.

Quarto. Wire-stitched in the original pictorial wraps on coated paper. Profusely illustrated with performer portraits. Upper wrap panel of the wraps with a narrow sunned strip at the head, some pin-holes around the margins throughout, a little rubbed, light browning, but overall very good.

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