Billy Strayhorn Interview

That's another thing. I'll tell you what I was trying to do—the original idea of "A" train. I was always a great fan of Fletcher Henderson's. He wrote so many wonderful arrangements. One day, I was thinking about his style the way he wrote for trumpets, trombones and saxophones, and I thought I would try something like that.

Now this was a combination of circumstances. At the end of 1940, there was a fight between ASCAP and radio, and at the beginning of 1941, all ASCAP music was off the air. When we opened at the Casa Mana, the third of January 1941, we had airtime every night, but could not play our library. We had to play non-ASCAP material. Duke was in ASCAP, but I wasn't. So we had to write a new library, and "A" train was one of the numbers.

The reason we gave it that title was because they were building the Sixth Avenue subway at that time, and they then tuned off and went to the Bronx, but the "A" train kept straight on up to 200 and Something Street. People got confused. They'd take the "D" train and it would go the Harlem and 145th Street, but the next stop would be on Eight Avenue under the Polo Grounds and the one after that would be in the Bronx. So I said I was writing directions—Take the "A" train to Sugar Hill. The "D" Train was really messing up everybody. I heard so many times about housewives who ended up in the Bronx and had to turn around and come back.

("Take the 'A' Train," World of Duke Ellington by Stanley Dance. Published by DaCapo Press, New York, 1970. 32-33.)

In partnership with PBS.

NAfME logo

Provided in partnership with NAfME

If you need to teach it, we have it covered.

Start your free trial to gain instant access to thousands of teacher-approved worksheets, activities, and over 22,000 resources created by educational publishers and teachers.

Start Your Free Trial

Follow us on:

Follow TeacherVision on Facebook
Follow TeacherVision on Google Plus

Highlights

Memorial Day
Find a way to honor the American men and women who have sacrificed their lives in wars and military disputes this Memorial Day (May 30). Some of our most popular activities include: World War II Student Project, Chronology of Conscription in the U.S., and American Flag, Memorial Day Videos, and "In Flanders Fields" -- History and Poetry!

May Calendar of Events
May is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: Transportation Week (May 15-21), Museum Day (5/18), and Memorial Day (5/30). Plus, celebrate Asian-Pacific-American Heritage Month, Get Caught Reading Month, Inventors Month, National Family Month (May 8 - June 19), Physical Fitness & Sports Month all May long!

Videos
Interested in using different types of media in your classroom? We have a growing collection of videos, with related activities, for holidays and events, including: slavery & the Civil War, American History, U.S. Presidents, handwashing awareness, the Common Core, women's history, Memorial Day, the American Revolution, and the environment. Enjoy!

Coding & Computer Science
Introduce your students to basic coding and computer science! Our Top 5 Free Coding Tools for Kids, Top 5 Free Coding Tools for Teens, and Hour of Code resources make a great introduction to the computer science skills all students will benefit from.