Saturday, June 29, 2013

At the Music Hall: Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay, 1891

A sweet tuxedo girl you see 
A queen of swell society 
Fond of fun as fond can be 
When it's on the strict Q.T. 
I'm not too young, I'm not too old 
Not too timid, not too bold 
Just the kind you'd like to hold 
Just the kind for sport I'm told 

Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay! 

Everyone knows this song. It’s been a part of American culture (as well as International fame) since it was first written and its melody has been borrowed for a variety of other uses, including the theme song from the Howdy Doody Show.

The true authorship of the song has been the subject of much debate for many decades. Early printings of the song attribute it to Henry J Sayers who claimed the copyright after introducing the song in a musical revue entitled, “Tuxedo” in 1891. Sayers would later admit that he did not, in fact, write the song, but had heard it performed by an African American performer, Mama Lou, in a notorious St. Louis, Missouri, brothel.

Sayers would give the rights to the song to music hall star, Lottie Collins, who made the most of its suggestive lyrics and caused quite a stir with her titillating and scandalous performances. Richard Morton added to the lyrics, making them even spicier than the original version and Angelo A. Asher composed a new arrangement to give the song a little, "oomph."  Since then, the piece has been used for more innocent purposes and is often associated with programs geared toward children. Though everyone may not know the lyrics (in fact, several different sets of lyrics exist), everyone knows the tune to this day.

Here’s a version of the song as performed in 1943 by Mary “Mother of Larry Hagman” Martin.

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