Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbows, and Blues, Boston: Northeaster UP, 1996 (paper bound ed. 1998 shown).
Stardust Melodies: A Biography of 12 of America's Most Popular Songs. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2002.
(paper bound Ed. 2004 shown).
"Stormy Weather" was originally performed in the Harlem revue Cotton Club Parade of 1933 where the featured vocalist was Ethel Waters singing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. According to Harold Arlen biographer Edward Jablonski, Arlen and Koehler originally wrote "Stormy Weather" with Cab Calloway, who was supposed to star in the Cotton Club Revue of 1933 with his orchestra; however, Calloway surprised them by dropping out at the last minute. He and his orchestra were replaced by Duke Ellington and his band. Unlike Calloway, Ellington was not a vocalist, so they were at a loss as to who would sing their new blues number, "Stormy Weather." Fortunately, at least for the show, news reached them that Ethel Waters, already a very famous performer who at the moment was suffering through some hard times, was back in New York and available. Arlen and Koehler met with her and after a few changes were made to please her and to make the song work for a woman singer, she agreed to do it. As Jablonski puts it, "They had their star (who could do more justice to the song than Calloway) and she had her song" (Jablonski, pp. 50-51). (Listen to a Waters recording of "Stormy Weather" made later in 1933, the same year she introduced the song in The Cotton Club Revue." --See in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet, just at right.)
Somewhat ironically, Lena Horne also appeared in the same revue as a chorus girl. Later, of course, "Stormy Weather" became Horne's signature song. She first recorded it in 1941, and below she sings it in an extended production number in the 1943 Twentieth Century Fox movie Stormy Weather. It was this performance that made the song forever after associated with Horne.
Lena Horne sings "Stormy Weather" with the Twentieth Century Fox Orchestra, featuring Katherine Dunham and her dancers (in a truncated version of their ballet) in the 1943 movie, Stormy Weather.
For a complete discussion of the song and and its performance history see the chapter on "Stormy Weather" in Will Friedwald's indispensable book Stardust Melodies: A biography of 12 of America's Most Popular Songs.
(This section is incomplete and remains in preparation.)