Too Good to Be True (Clay Boland song)

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"Too Good to Be True" is a popular song composed by dentist-songwriter Clay Boland and published in 1936. It has since been recorded by many jazz and swing musicians including Benny Goodman and Roy Eldridge.


Composition and notable recordings

Clay Boland, while studying dentistry at the University of Scranton and University of Pennsylvania, taught himself to play piano and worked in dance bands. In 1936 he started work as a writer/director for Penn's Mask and Wig show. One of his first compositions for the production Red Rumba was "Too Good to Be True", for which Boland wrote the lyrics and music. [1] The song, which became a favorite of the swing era, recalls the proverbial expression "it seems too good to be true," and alludes to the singer's presumed love interest. [2] Musician-author Warren Vaché called the song "a little gem" that was "promptly slated for immortality with an outstanding recording by the Benny Goodman Trio featuring Helen Ward on the vocal." This version, originally released on a Victor 78 rpm record in 1936, was later included on The Complete Benny Goodman, Vol. 2 (1935-1936) compilation album. [1] [3]

Trumpeter Roy Eldridge also released a version of the song in 1936. The recording features the Teddy Wilson Orchestra, which included a rhythm section consisting of Wilson (piano), Sid Catlett (drums), and Israel Crosby (bass). Musician-writer John Goldsby noted that "Too Good to Be True" is among the songs that exemplified Crosby's early playing. "You can hear the seeds of Israel's melodic style, especially in the eighth-note countermelodies he plays behind Chu Berry's saxophone solo." [4] Trumpeter-writer John Chilton described Berry's solo as "a ravishing interpretation of the 32-bar theme" and suggested it was reminiscent of Coleman Hawkins' saxophone playing on the 1933 song "The Day You Came Along". [5]

Other versions

The song has been recorded many other times, and can be considered a standard. Among the recordings are versions by:

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  1. 1 2 Vaché, Warren (2000). The Unsung Songwriters (1st ed.). Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. pp. 33–4. ISBN   978-0810835702.
  2. Brunvand, Jan Harold (2002). Encyclopedia of Urban Legends . New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p.  275. ISBN   978-0393323580.
  3. Pareles, Jon (30 April 1998). Helen Ward, 82, Who Sang Hits With Goodman's Band in the 30s, The New York Times
  4. Goldsby, John (2002). The Jazz Bass Book - Technique and Tradition. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 54. ISBN   978-0879307165.
  5. Chilton, John (2002). Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz Giant. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 320. ISBN   978-0826456922.
  6. discography of Melotone Records 1936 releases
  7. Mosaic Records discography of Chu Berry
  8. Description of "Lars Erstrand and Four Brothers" album Archived 2011-02-24 at the Wayback Machine
  9. The Keith Ingham New York 9, Vol. 1 at Allmusic
  10. Julie Is Her Name, Volume II on
  11. Manhattan Moods: Outstanding Live Recordings at Allmusic
  12. Brunswick Records 7500-7999 discography