Here’s my take on the old New Orleans standard, "Basin Street Blues:"
This tune has a rich and interesting history. Basin Street was in the heart of the New Orleans red-light district, known as Storyville. There were brothels up and down the street, and they had live music, so Basin Street was a great place for music. Say what you will about legalized prostitution - it fostered the environment in which jazz developed and blossomed.
During WWI, the US Navy grew concerned that sailors on leave in New Orleans were getting a little too distracted. So the New Orleans City Council decided to criminalize prostitution. The legal brothels lining Basin Street closed down, and the jazz musicians had to seek their fortune elsewhere.
One of the musicians who left New Orleans was composer/pianist/singer Spencer Williams (1889-1969). Williams wrote “Basin Street Blues” when he was living in New York in the 1920s. For most songwriters, nostalgic songs about the south were pure fiction. They were usually written by northerners who hadn’t been south of Atlantic City. But “Basin Street Blues” was legit. Spencer Williams had actually lived on that street.
When they closed down those brothels, Basin Street was renamed North Saratoga Street. But by the 1940s, “Basin Street Blues” had been immortalized by Louis Armstrong, and it was pretty clear that this North Saratoga business had to go. In 1945, native sons Sidney Bechet, Bunk Johnson, and Louis Armstrong returned to their hometown for a much heralded concert at Municipal Auditorium, and it was then that North Saratoga was officially changed back to Basin Street. Such is the power of music!