This Week in Elder News: 7 February 2009
Short Term Memory Shot to Hell

Elder Music: Oddities and Novelties

category_bug_eldermusic Musical oddities, novelties and just plain silly songs amuse me – in short bursts, anyway. Almost all, I'm grateful to report since most don't have staying power, are shorter than three minutes. I have dozens of these on my computer collected for all kinds of reasons. Here are a few, not necessarily the best of a dubious genre, I found on YouTube.

In the summer of 1960, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Bryan Hyland’s Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini. I never liked it – and it’s all the worse because it’s damned hard to get out of your head. [2:18 minutes]

Among my favorite actors is Robert Mitchum, not because he ranks with the finest – he would be the first to say he doesn’t. I just like the persona he projected on screen which, I discovered when we interviewed him for The Barbara Walters Specials, is pretty much who he was off-screen.

He wrote, directed (it is rumored) and starred in one of best B movies ever made, Thunder Road, released in 1958, and he co-wrote and sang the theme song. Mitchum made two record albums during his career – one of standards including Thunder Road and another of – wait for it – calypso tunes which I have on vinyl stored away somewhere as one of my oddities for its wretchedness. [2:29 minutes]

When I was nine years old, this truly dumb song, The Thing, was my favorite and I was apparently not alone. It was a number 1 hit in 1950 from Phil Harris. The modern-day video that goes with it here is only mildly amusing. [2:31 minutes]

Hoagy Carmichael was on the radio a lot when I was growing up and although he is best known for writing the perennial favorite, Stardust, I was more interested in his novelty tunes when I was a kid. Hong Kong Blues, about a poor guy who gets in deep trouble for “kicking old Buddha’s gong” stands out a bit these days for the politically incorrect lyric in the first line, but hey – it was published in 1943. The accompanying video biography is a nice reminder of the many great standards Carmichael wrote – and I’ve always liked his voice; he sounds like someone I’d like to have known. [2:59 minutes]

Randy Newman took a lot of grief in 1977 for this tune – “bigoted” said people who are irony challenged. But Short People was then and remains a silly favorite of mine because it was released just about the time I met the only man in my life who didn’t give me a crick in my neck looking at him – he was 5’ 3” to my 5’ 2”. I should have married him, although not for his height. But that’s a private story. [2:12 minutes]

Ray Stevens made a career of novelty songs – tunes like The Streak, Ahab the Arab and Gitarzan among others. This game-style video that goes with Steven’s version of I’m My Own Grandpa is pretty good. The song was originally recorded decades earlier by Phil Harris (which I prefer) and you can listen to that one here. [2:42 minutes]

Mairzy Doats may be the first song I learned by heart; I have no memory of not knowing it. This is a fun version from Spike Jones released in 1943. [2:41 minutes]

I found this online list of 150 novelty songs and Wikipedia has another good list.


Good memories! Yes, 'Mairzy Doats' is one of my first musical memories as well. That and 'Meet in St. Louis, Louis'.

And during the early 70's we used to listen to Dr. Demento every evening, broadcasting from a low powered FM station in Long Beach, CA. He played all of those songs on the list and more. This was before the good Dr. became a cult favorite.

Yup to Maizy Doats which I learned from my mother. Also, Charlie on the MTA, I well remember the Bikini song which I loathed but the one I really never want to hear again is the Pina Colada Song.
When I was a kid I loved those albums of silly acts by the Smothers Brothers (who are still around and I think played in Maine a while ago) and who was it did the Camp Grenada song, Hello Mudda Hello Fadda?
And do you remember great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts and mutilated monkey meat? How in the world do I remember that from maybe 50 years ago? It was one of the anthems of a childhood spent as a wild thing on Cape Cod with a gang of other wild things.

I had to giggle, the other day, at an allusion that Fred First (Fragments from Floyd, in your left side bar) made to The Streak. "Don't look, Mable!"

I sang Mairzy Doats to my youngest granddaughter when she was small. Once it's in your head, it will never go away.

Another one I would like to forget, but can't, is "The 3 itty fitties in the itty bitty pool." Boop, boop dittum - - - Oh no, there is goes rumbling around in my head again.

All of these old songs (which I definitely remember) bring back the first line of a song that was one of my favorites as a kid. It started "I give to you a paper of pins, and that's the way my love begins - if you will marry me, me, me. If you will marry me." Does anyone know that song and what the other verses are? Each one lists another thing he will give her.

Ah, I found it -- by the Four Lads -- here:

Actually, there are many different versions of the song that you can find via Google. But this is the one I remember.

I love Robert Mitchum in anything he did, or even when he narrated as he did for the film Tombstone. His singing voice was great. he also sang the title song to 'River of No Return.' Actually he and Marilyn both sang it but I preferred his version.

At my towering 5'0", I love Randy Newman's, Short People.

I also love the phrase 'irony challenged'. :-)

"The Thing" ?!?!? Never heard of it! I can't believe there was a song that popular that I've never heard! Anyway, pretty goofy. Fun!

WHEEE ... we obviously grew up in the same era!! I, too, loved these fun songs as a kid (and still do). "I'm My Own Grandpa" was sure a hit in West Virginia! So was "Grandma's Lye Soap" -- remember that one? My Dad loved "Saturday Night Poker Game" by Phil Harris. And after that (in the 50s) it was the party LPs by such great people as Brother Dave Gardner (sp?) and Bob Newhart of beloved memory and Andy Griffin's "The Football Game"
Wow -- bunch of memories here.
Thanks for the lists of where to find these. I have some CDs of old radio shows with some of these on them. !!

Hello Mudda ... here I am in Camp Grenada is by Allen Sherman.

Lyrics to Paper of Pins ...
I'll give to you this paper of pins
If that's the way our love begins
If you will marry me, me, me
If you will marry me.

I'll not accept your paper of pins
If that's the way our love begins
And I'll not marry you, you, you
No, I'll not marry you.

I'll give to you this dress of red
All stitched around with golden thread
If you will marry me, me, me
If you will marry me.

I'll not accept your dress of red
All stitched around with golden thread
And I'll not marry you, you, you
No, I'll not marry you.

I'll give to you this golden chest
So you may have money at your request
If you will marry me, me, me
If you will marry me.

I'll not accept your golden chest
So I may have money at my request
And I won't marry you, you, you
No, I won't marry you.

Well, I'll give to you my hand and my heart
So we may marry and never part
If you will marry me, me, me
If you will marry me.

I will accept you hand and your heart
That we may marry and never part
And I will marry you, you, you
And you will marry me, me, me
Yes, I will marry you

oh, yeah! how about Bobby Vee's "Rubber Ball"??

I remember as a young girl in the '40s hearing Mairzy Doats lyrics and struggling to learn the crazy words that weren't really words in my mind -- what today I would have thought as a bunch of nonsense syllables with an occasional word. It wasn't until years later as a young adult that I found out there really were words -- mares eat oats, etc. Oh, and I had worked so hard learning that nonsense. If I had only known.

Great post, Ronni. Love those old tunes, in fact my favorite one is called Bless This House and I played it on the piano in the 6th grade and am still playing it at age 65..maybe someday I'll get it right. That is one hobby playing tunes from Fake Books. Love Hoagy Carmichael. I also like the songs of the 20's - Ivor Novello - what an artist he Gosford Park has his tunes.

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