BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “All Or Nothing At All”


“All Or Nothing At All” was written in 1939 by Arthur Altman with lyrics by Jack Lawrence. It was recorded that year by Frank Sinatra and The Harry James Orchestra, but not released until 1943, during a musician’s strike. Sinatra said this song got them fired from the Club Victor Hugo, and that it was the song he auditioned with for Tommy Dorsey. Here is the original, which is not in the running (meaning any votes for it will be ignored). You’ll understand why in a moment.

This has become a standard over the years, recorded by hundreds of artists, including the three lovely ladies who will be competing in this battle. Listen to the three versions and decide which of them you like the best.

CONTESTANT #1: Sarah Vaughan From her 1962 album Sarah + 2, where she was accompanied by Barney Kessel on guitar and Joe Comfort on double bass.

CONTESTANT #2: June Christy From 2000’s A Friendly Session, Vol. 1 with the Johnny Guarnieri Quartet.

CONTESTANT #3: Billie Holiday Title track from her 1958 album. The band included Joe Mondragon (bass), Alvin Stoller (drums), Barney Kessel (guitar), Jimmy Rowles (piano), Ben Webster (tenor sax), and Harry Edison (trumpet).

So, you know the drill: listen to all three versions, decide which is your favorite, and vote for it in the comments. Then, go over to Stephen T. McCarthy’s Battle of the Bands page, where he has a list of other participants, and visit their Battles. I’ll announce the winner of today’s battle next Thursday, June 8, so be sure and cast your vote before then.

The lines are now open. Best of luck to Sassy, June, and Lady Day!

19 thoughts on “BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “All Or Nothing At All”

  1. JOHN! ~
    As I said in my response to your vote on my BOTB installment…

    “Got yer BOTB vote recorded. But what happened to your vote in the poll?”

    Don’t be shy, John! Your opinion counts, too. You’re not some “lower level BOTBer” who should feel that your view means less than anyone else’s does. In fact, I’ve received a vote in the poll from an old friend of mine who has NEVER posted a BOTB Battle, but is merely a regular voter on my Battles. If HIS opinion of how frequently we should post BOTB contests (i.e., once a month or twice a month) counts in the poll, then li’l ol’ YOU’z opinion should matter, too.

    I want your input recorded, Shy John!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    [Link:) Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews…


  2. It’s fun to hear the different styles and tempos but I am going against the grain and going with June. Christy. She has a nice clear voice and I prefer that tempo. 2nd would be Sarah because ishe made it sound like a tear jerker which set the mood. Poor Billie is last for me because I felt she sang it in between the other 2.


  3. Tough one! All three versions sound good in their own way and I had to listen twice. In the end, Billie’s vocals and the jazzy arrangement did it for me Plus, I’m a sucker for a good guitar riff. Please give my vote to Lady Day. 🙂


  4. Excellent, excellent Battle, JOHNNY BOY!
    And what a teaser, man! Michele already asked the Q I was all prepared to ask. Imagine being the boob who fired Frank Sinatra and Harry James! And over such a classic song, too. Da-ya-m!

    For me, this is strictly between Sarah and Billie. And 98 out of 100 times, I’d probably vote for my gal, Billie. But SARAH’s voice and slower tempo was more right for this song. Even though I still loved Billie’s version. Got Barney swingin’ it on both recordings. And it kills me to vote against a recording that includes Ben Webster, who is my all-time favorite Jazz saxman. Nobody played ballads better’n Ben. Nobody!

    But, yeah, my intellectually honest vote has to go to SARAH this time.

    Terrific Battle! Really enjoyed it.
    …Now let’s see if this comment will post.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    [Link:) Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews…


  5. I’m starting my comment with a question: why did this song get Frank Sinatra fired??

    Of the three, the version I like least is June Christy’s. I’ve noticed that when a battle features Billie Holliday, I never seem to vote for her. And this is the case today as well. I liked her version okay. Nothing wrong with it. And it’s enjoyable. But I really like Sarah Vaughan’s version. I like the slower tempo and her sultry voice won me over. So please give my vote to Sarah.

    Nice battle John. Everybody really has great songs featured in today’s battles.

    Michele at Angels Bark


    1. From The Blogger’s Best Friend:

      In a 1944 interview, Sinatra said of the delayed success of the song, “That was the song, a few days after Harry James and myself recorded it, that gave us our walking papers out of the old Victor Hugo Cafe (a major entertainment venue of the 1930s) on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The manager came up and waved his hands for us to stop. He said Harry’s trumpet playing was too loud for the joint and my singing was just plain lousy and fired Harry, me and the entire band on the spot. He said the two of us couldn’t draw flies as an attraction, and I guess he was right – the room was as empty as a barn. It’s a funny thing about that song. The recording we made of it 5 years ago is now one of the top spots among the best sellers. But it’s the same old recording. It’s also the song I auditioned with for Tommy Dorsey, who signed me on the strength of it. And now it’s my first big record.”


  6. June and Billie both sound great, but for this song I think their versions are a bit too boppy for me.

    Of the three they all are good, but I’ll take Sarah’s dreamy hypnotic version. I like the clean spare arrangement–beautiful desolation.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


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