An odd novelty tune, 1946's "Stone Cold Dead in the Market (He Had It Coming)" placed Ella Fitzgerald in the studio with swing master Louis Jordan to record a lively calypso duet about a wife beater whose wife murders him with a frying pan in public.
One of the first black musicians to find major crossover success with mainstream white audiences, "King of the Jukebox" Jordan wrote and performed many singles that topped the R&B charts and simultaneously reached the top ten in pop as well, scoring at least four hits that sold over a million copies.
The song, written by Trinidad/Tobago musician Wilmoth Houdini, was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five for Decca Records. It was just one of many #1 R&B singles Jordan would record (others including "Caldonia," "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," "Beans and Corn Bread," and "Ration Blues," which also went #1 pop). It held the top R&B spot for one month in late summer 1946.
"Stone Cold Dead" also reached the #7 spot on the pop chart, and its B-side, "Petootie Pie," was a #3 R&B hit. (Maya Angelou would record "Stone Cold Dead" a decade later for his Miss Calypso album.)
Ella and Jordan would re-team three years later for "Baby It's Cold Outside," which would also reach the top ten on both charts.
"Stone Cold Dead in the Market" became known and beloved around the world in recent years after being one of over 30 postwar jazz and pop tunes included in highly successful 2011 detective-action video game L.A. Noire. By February 2012, the game had sold over 5 million copies; today, six years later, the game has likely been played by more than 10 million people on multiple continents. A visit to any of the multiple YouTube links playing the song inevitably finds scores of comments from viewers of all ages, each mentioning L.A. Noire - many of them people who might never have heard the name Ella Fitzgerald before playing it.
Ella 101 is a daily look at 101 essential recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, who was born 101 years ago this month. Tune in to Equinox, Monday nights from 8 - 11 p.m. on WYSO, to hear Ella and more great jazz with host Duante Beddingfield.