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October 1999 Edition
Novelty Songs


Throughout musical history, composers and lyricists have exhibited their sense of humor through their music. Sometimes it is purely through the music as with Mozart's "A Musical Joke". At other times it it through the lyrics. Popular song has always been fertile ground for humor and novelty in sound and words.

During the late 19th and early 20th centurys a type work emerged called the "novelty song". These works were usually characterized by use of unusual musical elements or more often, were simply lyrically unusual. The lyrics of these songs ranged from sublime to the rediculous. Many were extremely creative and have become lasting treasures. Others were very popular for a while and then faded into obscurity.

This month we present you with a sampling of some of the novelty songs from our collection. Musically all are excellent examples of the style of the times, lyrically they are fun and in some cases downright silly. We hope that this month's edition brings you a smile and brightens your day

Sheet Music Cover I've Been Floating Down The Old Green River
1915
Music by: Joe Cooper
Lyrics by: Bert Kalmar
Cover artist: Barbelle

Here we have an example of a song that uses humorous lyrics to tell the story of an errant husband trying to make up an excuse for returning home after an all night binge with his buddies. The music is upbeat and fun, the lyrics are pretty funny. The song is from a 1915 stage production, "Maid In America". With a song like this in it, I can only imagine what a wild show it must have been. Since much of the joy of these novelty songs this month is in the lyrics, we will be providing most of the lyrics for you to enjoy.

(9 bar introduction followed by 4 bar "vamp")
Half past four, Dan Mc Graw, came sneak-ing to his wif-ey's door.
She'd been wait-ing up all night, Wait-ing for him to go to bed.
Dan-ny smiled, like a child, but his wif-ey grew very wild
Where have you been all night long?, she cried
And this is what Dan-ny re-plied:

I've been float-ing down the old green riv-er on the good ship Rock and Rye.
But I floated to far, I got stuck on a bar,
I was out there a-lone, wish-ing that I was home.
The ship got wrecked with the captain and crew,
And there was on-ly one thing left to do,
So I had to drink the whole green riv-er dry
to get back home to you.
(Repeat chorus)

Do you think she bought his story?

Listen to this original stage work.

Sheet Music Cover I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
1919
Music & Lyrics by: Jaan Kenbrovin & William Kellette
Cover Artist: unknown

This is one of those timeless works that has survived as a popular song classic. At 80 years old, this song is as fresh as the day it was published in 1919. Here is a case of a novelty song that is musically a beautiful waltz. Without the lyrics, it stands on its own as a work of art. The cover art is supposedly from a photograph and is captioned "Posed especially by Miss June Caprice, Famous Wm. Fox Screen Star". Miss Caprice's fortunes must have changed soon after this for I cannot recall hearing of her or seeing her in any films. Perhaps one of our fans can enlighten us as to Miss Caprice's bio.

The lyrics are more allegorical than they are literal and speak to one's hopes and dreams.

(Chorus)
I'm for-ev-er blow-ing bub-bles, Pret-ty bub-bles in the air.
They fly so high, near-ly reach the sky, Then like my dreams, they fade and die.
For-tune's al-ways hid-ing, I've looked ev-'ry where
I'm for-ev-er blow-ing bub-bles, Pret-ty bub-bles in the air.

Though I think we all have grown up singing this song as a funny and cute novelty song, I personally don't believe the composers wrote it with that in mind.

Hear this lyrical old song.

Sheet Music Cover My Little Bimbo (Down On The Bamboo Isle)
1920
Music by: Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by: Grant Clarke
Cover artist: Rose

Here we have another variation on the shipwrecked theme. This time the story is about a sailor named Bill McCoy, a daring sailor boy who is shipwrecked on a "Feejee" isle. But of course old Bill finds himself a Feejee "bimbo" who helps him cope with the miseries of being shipwrecked.

The music is terrific, an extremly fast paced and upbeat song with a cute story. The lyrics tell the sad story of Bill's horrible experience:

(Eight bar introduction, 4 bar vamp)
Sail-or Bill Mc-Coy was a dar-ing sail-or boy,
His ship got wrecke'd a while, on a Fee-jee-ee-jee Isle.
He led a sav-age life, and he hun-ted with a knife
He said I'll tell you a-bout it, don't tell my wife

(Chorus)
I've got a bim-bo down on the Bam-boo Isle,
She's wait-ing there for me, Be-neath a bam-boo tree.
Be-lieve me she's got the oth-er bimbos beat a mile
She dan-ces gay-ly, dai-ly, she'd be a hit with Bar-num Bail-ey
I'll build a bun-ga-loo on the bam-boo Isle
'Cause when I go a-gain, I'll stay a while
I've seen wrecks, Plen-ty of wrecks, out on the storm-y sea
But by heck there nev-er was a wreck like the wreck she made of me
For all she wore was a great big Zu-lu smile
My lit-tle bim-bo, down on the Bam-boo Isle (Repeat Chorus)

Hear sailor Bill's sad story.

Sheet Music Cover
Monkey Doodle Dandy
1909
Music by: Harry Frantzen
Lyrics by: Jack Drislane
Cover artist: Unknown

The cover of this work is one of the more striking ones in the collection. I have studied it closely but have been unable to determine who the artist is. Clearly, he or she was one of the most talented of the period cover artists.

Musically the song is quite sophisticated and with a different set of lyrics could be a much more serious work. I sometimes wonder where the inspiration for some of the lyrics for songs come from. What prompts a composer lyricist team to write a song about a monkey king and his girlfriend? Isn't creativity wonderful?

(eight bar introduction, eight bar vamp)
It was leap year in monk-ey land, and in a tree so high
There lived the king of monk-ey clans, bach'-lor so ver-y shy
Un-til a maid-en came, anx-ious to change her name
Who smiled a smile of love, She sim-ply rolled her rogu-ish eyes,
And sang, to him a-bove.

(Chorus)
Monk-ey Doo-dle, Dood-le Dan-dy, That's a ver-y fun-ny name
Some-day it may come in han-dy, You look lone-some it's a shame
If you think I'm all the can-dy, Then I'll tell you what to do
Just hand me all your boo-dle
Now don't go off your noo-dle, And I'll be your monk-ey doo-dle do.
(Repeat Chorus)

Listen to this song.

Sheet Music Cover
Sipping Cider Thru A Straw
1919
Music & Lyrics by: Carey Morgan & Lee David
Cover artist: Starmer

This is one of the silliest songs you may ever try to sing. The lyrics are cute and trying to sing it is guaranteed to make you laugh. We insist, you must sing along with this this song, it will make your day! The song cover states "Dedicated to Fatty Arbuckle The Famous Paramount Comedian". Arbuckle was one of the most popular silent film stars of the era. A wealthy and adored artist, his career and public life came to an abrupt end when he was accused, tried and after three trials, was acquitted of raping and killing a lovely young starlet. Interestingly enough, the starlet, Virginia Rappe, is featured on the cover of the song, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" from 1919 which is also in our collection and can be found on our January 98 Gallery page

Regardless of Arbuckle's problems and the tragedy of Miss Rappe's murder, this song is a delight. Musically it is great but it is these lyrics that make it one of the greatest novelty songs written.

(four bar introduction, four bar vamp)
When Sweet-est girl I ev-er saw, Was sell-ing ci-der in a groc-'ry store,
At half-past six when the sun would set, I used to go to see my pet
She'd take the key and lock the door, We'd get some ci-der and a big long straw.

(Chorus)
Thip-ing thi-der thru a thtraw, We sat there for hours or more,
I thipped firtht and she thipped latht,
But she thipped motht be-cause she thipped tho fatht,
We thipped till our thtraw did thlip; And I thipped thi-der from her lip,
That's how I won my moth-er-in-law, Thip-ing thi-der thru a big long thtraw.

(Second chorus refrain)
Thip-ing thi-der thru a thtraw, We sat there for hours or more,
I thipped firtht and she thipped latht,
But she thipped motht be-cause she thipped tho fatht,
Cheek to cheek like Paw and Maw, We thipped till our lipth got sore,
Now I've got ten kids or more,
Thip-ing thi-der thru a big, long thtraw.

If you made it through that without a thlip of the tongue, you deserve thome recognithion.

Listen to "Thipping Thider".


Sheet Music Cover
The Lunatic's Lullaby
1926
Music & Lyrics by: Leslie Moore, Johnny Tucker & Edgar Leslie
Cover artist: Barbelle

Talk about whacky songs! The Lunatic's Lullaby is one of the whackiest I have seen. First, the cover. You could spend hours looking at it and still not catch all the detail. This one is like the "Where is Carmen" of the 20's. Even the guy on the cover, Paul Ash looks a little looney. We featured this work over two years ago and as much as we want fresh material for our featured page, this work is worth a second look. The lyrics are the silliest I have seen so let's just enjoy them as a finale to this month's novelty songs feature. (The lyrics have been deleted due to copyright issues, we are sorry.)

 

Listen to "The Lunatic's Lullaby".

Be sure to visit this month's gallery for more great songs, including "Rackety Coo", "Dizzy Fingers", "HoHum!" and a redeux of some of our favorite featured works you may have missed.



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