Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Because of this cute, simple web cartoon illustrating Burl Ives’s rendition of a Daniel Emmett tune I stumbled across last night (Emmett is also credited with “Dixie,” “Jimmy Crack Corn,” and “Old Dan Tucker”), “Polly Wolly Doodle” has been my son’s new favorite song for about 28 hours now. Singing it at the piano tonight, from a children’s music book from 1959 that I bought at a junk shop for a buck 10 or so years ago, the nonsense verses connected up for me with the great western swing Bob Wills tune Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer) and thence the great ‘50s and ‘60s rock and roll nonsense like “Tutti Frutti” and “Surfin’ Bird” and many many others, onward to nonsense chanting dance hits of today -- the continuity of exuberant liberatory nonsense from minstrelsy through country music through rock and roll till now
(and even if “Galang” has denotative meaning in Tamil, it plays as nonsense to the Anglophonic listeners for whom it was intended)
, with a backwards nod to Shakespeare -- yeah yeah yeah, a wop bop a loo bop, baby baby baby, a wocka pooka tecka hoy hoy!

John, if you haven't already, check out Dan Zanes' recording of "Polly Wolly," from his first kids' record, with a nice lead vocal by Sheryl Crow. That whole record is pretty great: great raspy version of "Over the Rainbow," nice "Sidewalks of New York," and more than a dozen others. Plus a lovely Zanes original called "Hello." My kid loves it.

And BTW: Burl Ives is THE SHIT. I'm planning on writing a column about him. In the meantime, check out John Rockwell's essay in that Rose and the Briar anthology...
Thanks for all the tips! Burl Ives's rendition of "Polly Wolly" is nice, but my deepest memory of him is corniness ("Lavendar Blue," which is a really old song; don't know why my vibe on him is corniness), so I look forward to reading a better informed perspective. (Wait, he played Big Daddy in the movie of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," didn't he? He rocked!)

I have a recording of a rural Mississippi drum-and-fife band from the 1940s doing "Sidewalks of New York" -- folk music!
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