Written in 1939 by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers, The Viscounts took the tune to the Hot 100 chart in 1959. Unfortunately, it only made it to the #52 slot when it was originally issued on the small private Madison Records label.
Seven years later, Amy Records re-released the single for a modicum of success. Barely scratching the surface of the Top 40 in 1966, “Harlem Nocturne” peaked at the #39 position.
Starting with Joe Spievak playing fifths on his bass guitar, the key to “Harlem Nocturne’s” eerie sound is actually the slow speed amp tremolo used on Bobby Spievak’s guitar. To add to the effect, Spievak strummed the guitar backwards at the beginning of the piece and occasionally during other parts of “Harlem Nocturne.”
Following a crescendo on Clark Smith’s crash cymbal, the song’s mystique is punctuated by Harry Haller’s gritty tenor sax. Listen closely and you might be able to hear Larry Vecchio on organ deep in the mix; however, I haven’t been able to confirm it is present as of yet. Good stuff from The Viscounts, but I must retire to comb the hair on the back of my neck.