Silly Songs From Our Parents' Era
Does Your Mother Know You're Out, Cecilia?
This song was first recorded in September of 1925 by “Whispering Jack Smith,” a.k.a. “The Whispering Baritone.” His real name: Jacob Schmidt, b. 30 May 1896. , d. 13 May 1950. Popular from about 1925 – 1929.
Words by Herman Ruby; music by Dave Dreyer
The version here is by Maurice Chevalier, including his famous "pretend drunkard" mash-up of some of the words in the 2nd verse.
Does your mother know you're out, Cecilia?
Does she know that I'm about to steal ya?
Oh, my, when I look in your eyes,
Something tells me you and I should get together...
Barney Google With the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes
Originally a comic strip, premiered in June of 1919, the strip was titled “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.” A horse named “Spark Plug” was a later addition.
The song it inspired was composed in 1923 by Con Conrad with lyrics by Billy Rose.
The version here is a duet with Ernest Hare and Billy Jones, recorded in 1923.
Barney Google—with the goo, goo, googly eyes,
Barney Google—bet his horse would win the prize;
When the horses ran that day,
Spark Plug ran the other way!
Barney Google—with the goo-goo-googly eyes!
It Ain't Gonna Rain No More
This song originated in oral folk traditions, possibly as early at the 1870s. One source says there are as many as 98 verses!
Recorded in 1923 by Wendel Hall (1896 – 1969).
The most well known is the chorus, of course, and that is what stuck in my head from my dad singing it around the house.
What I did not know as a child, was that other snatches of songs I heard from both parents actually belong to this ditty as some of its verses:
“Peanut sittin' on a railroad track, His heart was all a-flutter. Train came roaring down the track: Choo-choo! Peanut butter!”
“The butterfly flits on wings of gold, The June bug's wings are plain;
The bed bug has no wings at all, but he gets there just the same!”
It ain't gonna rain no more, no more,
It ain't gonna rain no more!
How in the heck can I wash my neck,
If it ain't gonna rain no more?
Yes, We Have No Bananas
Published in July of 1923 by Frank Silver with music by Irving Cohn, the song celebrates Silver's memory of a particular Greek greengrocer's habit of saying “yes” to every inquiry, even if the answer was in the negative.
It hit number one on the charts for five weeks that year, recorded by Billy Jones, Billy Murray, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufmann, “and others” according to Wiki.
The cause of the grocer's lack seems to have been a fungal disease affecting bananas in Central and South America in the early 1920s. It was dubbed “Panama Disease,” and caused widespread shortages of the popular yellow fruit.
Comedian Jimmy Durante was known to often use the song in his routine during the 1950s and 60s on his eponymous “The Jimmy Durante Show.”
Yes, we have no bananas,
We have no bananas today.
We've string beans and onions...
Three Silly Looping Songs
We start with Carl Sandburg, and "My Name is Yon Yonson."
There isn't a lot of point to the song; it's one of those that simply repeats the same sentences over and over and over and over again, ad nauseum! This, and then next two selections, are among those goofy, pointless songs kids love to sing to annoy their “parental units.”
It might be considered “politically incorrect,” these days due to the Scandinavian accent on the name (“Yon Yonson” = John Johnson), however, Sandberg's parents were of Swedish ancestry, so in a sense, he was poking fun at his own heritage—something that usually seems permissible.
The origin may be from a stage comedy of that name, in the 1890s, though there is no record of the song in the play. It would otherwise seem to coincide with the arrival of Swedish immigrants.
The recording features Sandburg himself. However, the audio is quite faint, requiring the speakers to be turned up pretty far to hear it, but I deemed it worth it to hear it from the author.
My name is Yon Yonson,
I come from Wisconsin.
I work in the lumberyard there.
When I walk down the street,
The people all say, "Hello! What's your name?"
Next up is "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schimdt (Smith)," a ditty with which most of us may be familiar from singing (shouting?) it around campfire sing-alongs.
The variation on the "performance" of this song is that it starts at normal volume, and each successive go-round is at increasing volume, until it is virtually yelled, (at which point the melody becomes a moot point), and then, continues down again, softer and softer, ending in a whisper.
“John Jacob” possibly traces its roots to a time when there were many German immigrants coming to the United States; it likely stemmed from vaudeville, and seems to have been well-known by the early 20th century.
The version here is karaoke-style.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith
That's my name too.
Whenever I go out,
The people always shout,
There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith!
We end with "Michael Finnegan." The origins are unknown, but its earliest appearance in print seems to be in a scouting songbook from 1921, and found again in the Oxford Song Book in 1927.
The difference from the others with the “Michael Finnegan” song, is that the repeats keep escalating in speed, until it becomes a real tongue-twister to try and sing and keep up. This usually ends in fits of laughter.
In my research on this piece, I came across versions that actually have different verses that can be added, but this endless-loop format is the most fun for kids.
The version here is karaoke-style.
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He had whiskers on his chinnegan.
Along came the wind and blew them in again.
Poor old Michael Finnegan
That concludes this ramble through the silly side of society. I hope you've enjoyed the jaunt!
© 2019 Liz Elias