Durham put him ‘In a Sentimental Mood’

“We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us [at the N.C. Mutual Building in Durham].

“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”

— Duke Ellington, as quoted by Stanley Dance in his liner notes to “The Ellington Era, 1927-1940, Vol. 2″

According to jazzstandards.com, ” ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 1930s…. [It] was the theme song for no less than nine radio shows.”

Pictured: celluloid watch fob with image of N.C. Mutual Building.


4 thoughts on “Durham put him ‘In a Sentimental Mood’”

  1. I’m so excited to learn that this song has a hometown connection. Guess I need to learn to read my liner notes… Thanks for sharing!

  2. As a history major at NCCU (Diamond Anniversary Class of 1986) this comes as a surprise but also as a normal response. There is something in the air once you get to know Durham that effects many people in a positive way. Duke Ellington was a favorite composer of both of my parents and our whole family as well. One of his singers just passed the other day and her name was also Ellington but she was no relation to him. Her name was Maria Ellington Cole.

    She was the mom to a friend of my youngest brother who had a radio show every friday night on WFDD FM which is the NPR station that is owned by Wake Forest University. Jim always played his (Duk Ellington’s)compositions and the music of many other composers as well. And Duke Ellington was a product of the African-American upper class in Washington,DC so he could communicate with not only them but to anyone from any walk of life just as we should all with the kindness and grace that not only he possesed but Maria Ellington Cole as well. Jane Steele,MA

  3. Jane,
    As you may know, Maria Ellington Cole was more than just one of Duke Ellington’s singers. She was also the wife of Nat King Cole. As you note, she died on July 10.

    Maria Frances Hawkins was born in Boston. Her mother died when she was a child so she was sent to North Carolin to live with her aunt, Charlotte Hawkins Brown. You probably know Brown. She was the famed African-American educator who started the Palmer Institute near Greensboro. Maria took the last name Ellington when she married Spurgeon Ellington, one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

    There are numerous obituaries for Maria Cole on the web. Here’s a link to The New York Times’ obit:

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