I’m Gonna Go Fishin’

Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee, 1959
From the movie Anatomy of a Murder

Duke Ellington is often credited with writing the first move jazz soundtrack, when he scored Anatomy of a Murder. Ellington’s music over Saul Bass’s amazing opening graphics montage creates one of the great film openers of all time.

After the movie was released, Duke gave the title song to his friend Peggy Lee and told her to write some lyrics for it. Although Ellington’s score is modern jazz with bluesy and early rock ‘n roll elements—similar to Mancini’s score in Touch of Evil—Lee gives us a straight-ahead blues, called “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’.”

At first blush, the title only peripherally ties in with the film’s plot—early in the film we discover lawyer Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) is a fly fisherman who likes to go trout fishing, which is probably a dramatic device added to underscore a folksy demeanor that belies his crafty legal prowess. Lee’s lyric, however, cleverly offers up a double entendre, as Biegler has no doubt baited and landed many a “trout” on the witness stand.

Peggy Lee’s rendition of “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’” runs through several choruses and modulates to keep the listener’s attention. In our version, we do the same arrangement, but with a trio rhythm section rather than full orchestra. The boys worked overtime on this one—it swings hard, and there’s a big finish.