SOME OF THE ORIGINAL SINGERS OF THE DIRTY BLUES

 

SOME OF THE ORIGINAL SINGERS OF THE DIRTY BLUES

Sippie Wallace (born Beulah Belle Thomas, November 1, 1898 – November 1, 1986) was an American singer-songwriter. Her early career in tent shows gained her the billing “The Texas Nightingale”. Between 1923 and 1927, she recorded over 40 songs for Okeh Records, many written by her or her brothers, George and Hersal Thomas. Her accompanists included Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver, and Clarence Williams. Among the top female blues vocalists of her era, Wallace ranked with Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, and Bessie Smith. In the 1930s, she left show business to become a church organist, singer, and choir director in Detroit and performed secular music only sporadically until the 1960s, when she resumed her career. Wallace was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1982 and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Julia Lee (October 31, 1902 – December 8, 1958) was an American blues and dirty blues musician. Her inclusion in the latter category is mainly due to a few numbers she performed, eg “King Size Papa” and “Snatch and Grab It”. However, it would be misleading to characterize her music as always being in this vein. Born in Boonville, Missouri, Lee was raised in Kansas City, and began her musical career around 1920, singing and playing piano in her brother George Lee’s band, which for a time also included Charlie Parker. She first recorded on the Merritt record label in 1927 with Jesse Stone as pianist and arranger, and launched a solo career in 1935. In 1944 she secured a recording contract with Capitol Records, and a string of R&B hits. As these titles suggest, she became best known for her trademark double entendre songs, or, as she once said, “the songs my mother taught me not to sing”. The records were credited to ‘Julia Lee and Her Boy Friends’, her session musicians including Jay McShann, Vic Dickenson, Benny Carter, Red Norvo, Nappy Lamare, and Red Nichols.

Lil Johnson (fl. 1920s-1930s, dates and places of birth and death unknown) was an African American singer who recorded dirty blues and hokum songs in the 1920s and 1930s.Her origins and early life are not known. She first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by the pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs, including “Rock That Thing”. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935, when her more risqué songs included “Get ‘Em from the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts)”, “Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage?”,and “Press My Button (Ring My Bell)” (“Come on baby, let’s have some fun / Just put your hot dog in my bun”). She also recorded a version of “Keep A-Knockin’”, which later became a hit for Little Richard. From her second session onwards, she formed a partnership with the ragtime-influenced pianist “Black Bob” Hudson, who provided ebullient support for her increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly for Vocalion Records, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Her other songs included “Was I?”, “My Stove’s in Good Condition”, “Take Your Hand Off It” and “Buck Naked Blues”. She sang in a vigorous and sometimes abrasive manner. All her songs have been anthologized on later blues collections. There is no record of what became of Johnson after her recording career ended in 1937.

Mary Jane “Mae” West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades. Known for her lighthearted bawdy double entendres, and breezy sexual independence, West made a name for herself in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer in the motion picture industry, as well as on radio and television. For her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute named West 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema. One of the more controversial movie stars of her day, West encountered many problems, especially censorship. She bucked the system, making comedy out of prudish conventional mores, and the Depression-era audience admired her for it. When her cinematic career ended, she wrote books and plays, and continued to perform in Las Vegas, in the United Kingdom, and on radio and television, and to record rock and roll albums. Asked about the various efforts to impede her career, West replied: “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” While true, she also suffered greatly because of it, even going to prison for her right to freedom of speech.

Trixie Smith (1895 – September 21, 1943) was an African-American blues singer, recording artist, vaudeville entertainer, and actress. She made four dozen recordings. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Smith came from a middle-class background. She attended Selma University, in Alabama, before moving to New York City at the age of twenty around 1915.Soon after, she began working in a number of different cafés and theaters in Harlem and Philadelphia. She began her career as a vaudeville and minstrel entertainer who performed as a comedian, dancer, actress, and singer in traveling shows. Between 1916 and the early 1920’s, she worked in minstrel shows and toured as a featured singer. She also worked on the Theater Owners Bookers Association vaudeville circuit before making her first recordings for Black Swan Records in 1922,among which was “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” (1922),written by J. Berni Barbour, of historical interest as the first secular recording to use the phrase rock and roll. Her record inspired various lyrical elaborations, such as “Rock That Thing” by Lil Johnson and “Rock Me Mama” by Ikey Robinson. Also in 1922, billed as the “southern nightingale,” Smith won first place and a silver cup in a blues singing contest in which she sang her own composition, “Trixie’s Blues”, competing against Alice Leslie Carter, Daisy Martin and Lucille Hegamin, at the Inter-Manhattan Casino in New York, sponsored by the dancer Irene Castle.[8] She is best remembered for “Railroad Blues” (1925), which features one of her most inspired vocal performances on record, and “The World Is Jazz Crazy and So Am I” (1925). Louis Armstrong played the cornet on both songs. Smith was a polished performer, and her records include several outstanding examples of the blues, on which she is accompanied by artists such as James P. Johnson, and Freddie Keppard. She recorded with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra for Paramount Records in 1924 and 1925. As her career as a blues singer waned, she sustained herself mostly by performing in cabaret revues and starring in musical revues such as New York Revue (1928) and Next Door Neighbors (1928) at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem. She also appeared in Mae West’s shortlived 1931 Broadway show, The Constant Sinner. Two years later, Smith was elevated to the stage of the Theatre Guild for its production of Louisiana. She appeared in four movies: God’s Step Children (1938), Swing! (1938), Drums o’ Voodoo (1934), and The Black King (1932). Two of these films were directed by Oscar Micheaux.[12] She appeared at the concert From Spirituals to Swing, produced by John H. Hammond, in 1938. She recorded seven titles in 1938 and 1939. Most of her later recordings were with Sidney Bechet for Decca Records in 1938. In 1939 she cut “No Good Man” with a band including Red Allen and Barney Bigard.Known in later life as Trixie Muse, she died in New York in 1943, after a brief illness, at the age of 48. Bessie Smith The 1900 census indicates that Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 1892, a date provided by her mother. The 1910 census gave her age as 16. A birth date of April 15, 1894, appears on subsequent documents and was observed as her birthday by the Smith family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, but later interviews with Smith’s family and contemporaries did not mention them among her siblings. She was the daughter of Laura (born Owens) and William Smith, a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher (he was listed in the 1870 census as a “minister of the gospel”, in Moulton, Lawrence County, Alabama). He died while his daughter was too young to remember him. By the time Bessie was nine, her mother and a brother had also died. Her older sister Viola took charge of caring for her siblings. To earn money for their impoverished household, Smith and her brother Andrew began busking on the streets of Chattanooga; she sang and danced, and he accompanied her on the guitar. Their favorite location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm streets, in the heart of the city’s African-American community. In 1904, her oldest brother, Clarence, left home, joining a small traveling troupe owned by Moses Stokes. “If Bessie had been old enough, she would have gone with him,” said Clarence’s widow, Maud. “That’s why he left without telling her, but Clarence told me she was ready, even then. Of course, she was only a child.” In 1912, Clarence returned to Chattanooga with the Stokes troupe and arranged an audition for his sister with the managers of the troupe, Lonnie and Cora Fisher. She was hired as a dancer rather than a singer, because the company already included the well-known singer Ma Rainey. Smith eventually moved on to performing in various chorus lines, making the “81” Theater in Atlanta her home base. She also performed in shows on the blackowned (Theater Owners Booking Association) (T.O.B.A.) circuit and became its biggest star after she signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. Smith’s recordiing ing career began in 1923. She was then living in Philadelphia, where she met Jack Gee, a security guard, whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first record was being released. During the marriage—a stormy one, with infidelity by both partners—Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows, which sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers, and touring in her own custom-built railroad car. Gee was impressed by the money but never adjusted to show business life or to Smith’s bisexuality. In 1929, when she learned of his affair with another singer, Gertrude Saunders, Smith ended the relationship, although neither of them sought a divorce. Smith later entered a common-law marriage with an old friend, Richard Morgan, who was Lionel Hampton’s uncle. She stayed with him until her death. Meri Wilson Edgmon (June 15, 1949 – December 28, 2002), known professionally as Meri Wilson, was a model and singer-songwriter, best known for singing double entendre novelty songs. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, at a United States military base, but raised in Marietta, Georgia. Her father played trumpet, her mother taught piano, and her siblings could all sing and play an instrument. At the age of two Meri began singing, learned piano, cello, and eventually the guitar and flute. She went on to earn a BS in music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, and later earned a Masters degree in music education at Georgia State University. In the early 1970s, she moved to Dallas, Texas, where she sang and played guitar. Initially a guitar soloist, she later fronted a trio in such popular clubs as Daddy’s Money, Arthur’s, and Papillion. After a car accident in 1975, she was forced to wear a body cast for months. After her recovery, she began performing at a club in Underground Atlanta and made ends meet by working as a model and singing for commercial jingles]

Ethel Waterss (October 31, 1896 – September 1, 1977) was an American blues, jazz and gospel singer and actress. She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, but she began her career in the 1920s singing blues. Her best-known recordings include “Dinah,” “Stormy Weather,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Heat Wave,” “Supper Time,” “Am I Blue?” and “Cabin in the Sky,” as well as her version of the spiritual “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” Waters was the second African American, after Hattie McDaniel, to be nominated for an Academy Award. She was also the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award, in 1962. Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, on October 31, 1896, as a result of the rape of her teenaged mother, Louise Anderson (believed to have been 13 years old at the time, although some sources indicate she may have been slightly older), by John Waters, a pianist and family acquaintance from a mixedrace middle-class background. He played no role in raising Ethel. Soon after she was born, her mother married railroad worker Norman Howard. Ethel used the surname Howard as a child, before reverting to her father’s name of Waters.She was raised in poverty and never lived in the same place for more than 15 months. She said of her difficult childhood, “I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” Waters married at the age of 13, but her husband was abusive, and she soon left the marriage and became a maid in a Philadelphia hotel, working for $4.75 per week. On her 17th birthday, she attended a costume party at a nightclub on Juniper Street. She was persuaded to sing two songs and impressed the audience so much that she was offered professional work at the Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore. She later recalled that she earned the rich sum of ten dollars a week, but her managers cheated her out of the tips her admirers threw on the stage. After her start in Baltimore, Waters toured on the black vaudeville circuit. As she described it later, “I used to work from nine until unconscious.” Despite her early success, she fell on hard times and joined a carnival, traveling in freight cars along the carnival circuit and eventually reaching Chicago. Waters enjoyed her time with the carnival and recalled, “the roustabouts and the concessionaires were the kind of people I’d grown up with, rough, tough, full of larceny towards strangers, but sentimental and loyal to their friends and co-workers.” She did not last long with them, though, and soon headed south to Atlanta, where she worked in the same club with Bessie Smith. Smith demanded that Waters not compete in singing blues opposite her. Waters conceded and sang ballads and popular songs. Around 1919, Waters moved to Harlem and there became a celebrity performer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

Maria Muldaur was born Maria Grazia Rosa Domenica D’Amato in Greenwich Village, New York City, where she attended Hunter College High School. Muldaur began her career in the early 1960s as Maria D’Amato, performing with John Sebastian, David Grisman, and Stefan Grossman as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band. She then joined Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band as a featured vocalist and occasional violinist. During this time, she was part of the Greenwich Village scene that included Bob Dylan, and some of her recollections of the period, particularly with respect to Dylan, appear in Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary film No Direction Home. She married fellow Jug Band member Geoff Muldaur, and after the Kweskin outfit broke up, the two of them produced two albums. She began her solo career when their marriage ended in 1972, but retained her married name. Her first solo album,

Maria Muldaur, released in 1973, contained her hit single “Midnight at the Oasis”, which reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. It also peaked at number 21 in the UK Singles Chart.[4]Later that year, she released her second album, Waitress in a Donut Shop. This included a re-recording of “I’m a Woman”, the Leiber and Stoller number first associated with Peggy Lee and a standout feature from her Jug Band days. The title of this album is taken from a line in another song on the album, “Sweetheart”, by Ken Burgan. Around this time, Muldaur established a relationship with the Grateful Dead. Opening for some Grateful Dead shows in the summer of 1974, with John Kahn, bassist of the Jerry Garcia Band, eventually earned her a seat in that group as a backing vocalist in the late 1970s. Around the same time Muldaur met and eventually collaborated with bluegrass icon Peter Rowan. The two became close, and she was chosen to be the godmother of his daughterAmanda Rowan. She appeared on Super Jam (1989), the live recording of the German TV series Villa Fantastica, with Brian Auger on piano, Pete York on drums, Dick Morrissey on tenor saxophone, Roy Williams ontrombone, Harvey Weston on bass and Zoot Money, also on vocals.[citation needed] Muldaur continued to perform, tour, and record after her success in the mid-1970s, including a turn at the Teatro ZinZanni in 2001. Her 2005 release Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul was nominated for both a Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Award) and a Grammy Award in the Traditional Blues category. In 2013, she was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female) category.

Ida Cox1886- 1967 Ida Cox sang in church choirs as a child in Georgia. She ran away from home in 1910 when she was a teenager and performed in minstrel and tent shows as a comedienne and singer. Sometime during this period she married a performer minstrel named Alder Cox. Ida worked her way into vaudeville and eventually became a headliner. She toured the country throughout the Teens and 1920s sometimes singing with Jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton and with King Oliver at the Plantation Cafe in Chicago. In 1923 she began her recording contract with the Paramount label, who billed her as the Uncrowned Queen of the Blues. She recorded extensively throughout the 1920s often using pseudonyms such as Kate Lewis, Velma Bradley, Julia Powers and Jane Smith. Cox wrote many of her own songs, and had several of her own touring companies such as Raisin’ Cain and Darktown Scandals which criss-crossed the country during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Unlike many of the Classic Blues singers of the 1920s Cox continued to perform and occasionally record during the Depression. She was married to Blues pianist Jesse Crump during the 1920s and 1930s. They recorded together often for Paramount. In 1934 Cox and Bessie Smith appeared together in the musical revue Fan Waves at the Apollo Theatre. She spent most of the rest of the decade on the road until 1939 when she performed regularly at the Cafe Society night club in New York City. She also appeared in John Hammond’s Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall in 1939. Which briefly revitalized her recording career. She released records under the name of Ida Cox and her Allstar Band and Ida Cox and her Allstar Orchestra during this time period. In the mid 1940’s she had a stroke and passed out during a performance in New York. She left show business and moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where she lived with her daughter. Sometime in the 1950s she began performing again sporadically. In 1961, Cox recorded for the last time on the Riverside label. The album was called “Blues for Rampart Street”. She was accompanied by the Coleman Hawkins Quintet on this record. She died

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What is Dirty Blues?

 

Dirty blues encompasses forms of  blues music that deal with socially taboo subjects, including sexual acts and/or references to drug use of some kind. Due to the sometimes graphic subject matter, such music was often banned from radio and only available on a jukebox. The style was most popular in the years before WWII although it had a revival in the 1960s.

Many songs used innuendo, slang terms, or double entendres, such as Lil Johnson’s  “Press My Button (Ring My Bell)” (“Come on baby, let’s have some fun / Just put your hot dog in my bun”) which we perform.   However, some were very explicit. The most extreme examples were rarely recorded at all. Lucille Bogan’s song, “Shave ‘Em Dry” (1935), being a rare example. It was noted by one music historian as “by far the most explicit blues song preserved at a commercial pre-war recording session”

We don’t sing that one! But we might!

Here’s a really good list with links from Wikipedia if you are interested in learning a lot more.

 

Year Title Artist References
1924 See See Rider Ma Rainey [6][7]
1927 “Bow Wow Blues” The Allen Brothers [8][9]
1928 “It’s Tight Like That” Tampa Red and Georgia Tom [10]
1928 The Duck’s Yas-Yas-Yas James “Stump” Johnson [11]
1929 “I Had to Give Up Gym” The Hokum Boys [9]
1929 “Rock That Thing” Lil Johnson [12]
1929 “You’ll Never Miss Your Jelly Until Your Jelly Roller Is Gone” Lil Johnson [13]
1929 “Bumblebee” Memphis Minnie [9]
1930 “Please Warm My Weiner” Bo Carter [14][15]
1930 “Good Grinding” Irene Scruggs [16]
1930 “Must Get Mine in Front” Irene Scruggs [17]
1931 “Pin in Your Cushion” Bo Carter [14][15]
1931 “Banana in Your Fruit Basket” Bo Carter [14][15]
1931 “My Pencil Won’t Write No More” Bo Carter [14][15]
1931 “My Girl’s Pussy” Harry Roy [18]
1931 “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl” Bessie Smith [19]
1933 “Tom Cat and Pussy Blues Jimmie Davis [20]
1935 “Shave ‘Em Dry” Lucille Bogan [3]
1935 “Let Me Roll Your Lemon” Bo Carter [14][15]
1935 “Get ‘Em from the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts)” Lil Johnson [13][21]
1935 “Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage?” Lil Johnson [13][21]
1935 “Press My Button (Ring My Bell)” Lil Johnson [1]
1936 “Trucking My Blues Away” Blind Boy Fuller [22]
1936 “Sam the Hot Dog Man” Lil Johnson [23]
1936 “My Stove Is In Good Condition” Lil Johnson [24]
1937 They’re Red Hot Robert Johnson [25][26][27]
1937 “Meat Balls” Lil Johnson [16]
1937 “If It Don’t Fit (Don’t Force It)” Lil Johnson [16]
1938 “Don’t You Feel My Leg?” Blue Lu Barker [16]
1939 “I Want Some of Your Pie” Blind Boy Fuller [28]
1941 Crosscut Saw Tommy McClennan [29]
1942 Let Me Play With Your Poodle Tampa Red [30]
1944 “Salty Papa Blues” Dinah Washington [16]
1946 “Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got” Julia Lee [31]
1947 (Opportunity Knocks But Once) Snatch and Grab It Julia Lee [31]
1947 Mother Fuyer Dirty Red [32]
1948 “Lolly Pop Mama” Wynonie Harris [33]
1948 King Size Papa Julia Lee [31]
1948 “I Want A Bowlegged Woman” Bull Moose Jackson [34]
1949 “Long John Blues” Dinah Washington [35]
1949 “Mountain Oysters” Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis [36]
1950 “Butcher Pete” Roy Brown [36]
1950 “My Man Stands Out” Julia Lee [31][36]
1950 “I Like My Baby’s Pudding Wynonie Harris [37]
1950 “Sittin On It All The Time” Wynonie Harris [37]
1950 “I’m a Hi-Ballin’ Daddy” Tiny Bradshaw [38]
1950 “Silent George Lucky Millinder [39]
1951 “Rocket 69” Todd Rhodes [36]
1951 Sixty Minute Man Billy Ward and His Dominoes [37][40]
1951 “Lemon Squeezing Daddy” The Sultans [36]
1951 “The Walkin’ Blues (Walk Right In, Walk Right Out)” Fluffy Hunter [36]
1951 “It Ain’t the Meat” The Swallows [37]
1952 “Keep on Churnin'” Wynonie Harris [36]
1952 “Big 10-Inch Record” Bull Moose Jackson [37]
1952 “Nosey Joe” Bull Moose Jackson [41]
1952 Little Girl Sing Ding-A-Ling Dave Bartholomew [42]
1952 “Drill Daddy Drill” Dorothy Ellis [37]
1953 “Wasn’t That Good” Wynonie Harris [36]
1953 “Laundromat Blues” The “5” Royales [36]
1954 Work with Me, Annie The Midnighters [37]
1954 Shake, Rattle and Roll Big Joe Turner [35]
1954 “Big Long Slidin’ Thing” Dinah Washington [37]
1954 “Baby Let Me Bang Your Box” The Toppers [36]
1954 “Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball The Clovers [37]
1954 “Toy Bell” The Bees [36]
1954 “Sexy Ways” Hank Ballard [43]
1956 “Salty Dog” Blind Willie McTell [5]

 

What Is Hokum?

 
hokum4

Definitions of HOKUM are legion but generally refer to any of the following:

  1. a) Flattery.
    b) To hoax.
    c) Anything designed to make a melodramatic or sentimental appeal.
    d) Bunkum.
    e) Lie: “All that is hokum, I want the truth”.
    f) Tall tale.
    g) Theatrically: obvious or familiar elements of low comedy, melodrama, sentimentality, or the like, designed to appeal strongly to an unsophisticated audience.

According to various dictionaries of slang, the word HOKUM is probably derived from a combination of hocus–pocus [which, itself, means nonsense] & bunkum. The most common meaning, therefore, is simply ‘nonsense’.
By the end of the 1920’s, however, it had become far more commonly associated with sexual innuendo…

Edited from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: In this context the article that follows specifically refers to a particular song type of American blues music.

Hokum is a particular song type of American blues. Hokum songs are humorous songs that use extended analogies or euphemistic terms to make sexual innuendos. The song type goes back to the earliest blues recordings and is still occasionally found in modern American blues and blues-rock.

In a general sense, hokum was a style of comedic farce, spoken, sung and spoofed, while masked in both risqué innuendo and “tomfoolery”. It is one of the many legacies and techniques of 19th century low comedy.  Like so Hokum was stagecraft, gags and routines for embracing farce. It was so broad in its meaning that there was no mistaking its ludicrousness. Hokum also encompassed dances like the cakewalk and the buzzard lope in skits (sketches) that unfolded through spoken narrative and song. W.C. Handy, himself a veteran of a minstrel troupe, remarked that, “Our hokum hooked ’em,” meaning that the low comedy snared an audience that stuck around to hear the music. In the days before ragtime, jazz or even hillbilly music or the blues were clearly identified as specific genres, hokum was a component of “all around” performing, entertainment that seamlessly mixed monologues, dialogues, dances, music, and humor.

Amongst the early performers of hokum who surfaced among the Memphis, Tennessee jug bands heard in Beale Street’s saloons and bordellos were the light-hearted and humorous jug bands such as Will Shade’s Memphis Jug Band and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers who played good time, upbeat music on assorted instruments, such as spoons, washboards, fiddles, triangles, harmonicas, and banjos, all anchored by bass notes blown across the mouth of an empty jug. Their blues was rife with popular influences of the time, and had none of the grit and plaintive “purity” of the nearby Delta blues. Cannon’s classic composition Walk Right In, originally recorded for Victor in 1930, resurfaced as a Number One hit 33 years later, when the Rooftop Singers recorded it during the Folk Revival in New York’s Greenwich Village, and a jug band boom ensued once more.

An example of hokum lyrics is seen in these first two verses from the song Banana In Your Fruit Basket by Bo Carter (Chatmon), who recorded it in 1931:

I got a brand new skillet, I got a brand new lead,
All I need is a little woman, just to burn my bread,
Then I’m tellin’ you baby, I sure ain’t gonna deny it,
Let me put my banana in your fruit basket, then I’ll be satisfied.

Now, I got the washboard, my baby got the tub,
We gonna put ’em together, gonna rub, rub, rub,
Then I’m tellin’ you baby, I sure ain’t gonna deny it,
Let me put my banana in your fruit basket, then I’ll be satisfied.

Hokum blues lyrics specifically poked fun at all manner of sexual practices, preferences, and eroticized domestic arrangements. Compositions such as Banana In Your Fruit Basket, written by Bo Carter of the Mississippi Sheiks, used thinly veiled allusions, which typically employed food and animals as metaphors in a lusty manner worthy of Chaucer. The hilariously sexy lyric content usually steered clear of subtlety. Another master of the genre was the bottleneck guitarist Tampa Red, who recorded It’s Tight Like That for the Vocalion label in 1928, accompanied by Thomas A. Dorsey on piano. The song was so popular that the two became the core of the recording group, the Famous Hokum Boys. Both had previously performed in the band that accompanied Ma Rainey when she sang the vaudeville circuit. The Hokum Boys recorded over 60 songs by 1932, most of them written by Dorsey, who later put the blues aside and became the founding father of black gospel singing. Dorsey later characterized his hokum legacy as “deep moanin’, low-down blues…!”

References:
BEALE, Paul (ed.)
(1989) Partridge’s Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, from the work of Eric Partridge. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York.
GREEN, Jonathon.
(1986) The Penguin Slang Thesaurus. Penguin Books, London, I>etc (Second edition, 1999)
LIGHTER, J.E. (ed.)
(1997) Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. Volume 2, H–O. Random House, New York.
SPEARS, Richard A.
(1989) NTC’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions. National Textbook Company, Lincolnwood.

Why Dirty or Hokum Blues?

5-img_1914WARNING EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

Why Hokum Blues?
Hokum…
Full Definition of hokum
1: a device used (as by showmen) to evoke a desired audience response
2: pretentious nonsense : bunkum

Because I love it. It is funny and dirty and rowdy and wild. It also comes from my grandmother’s generation and earlier! I find it fascinating the way I find burlesque and other types of entertainment from the 1910’s through the 1950’s and even up to the current day. People were not so willing to use words like sex, penis, vagina, intercourse and many other types of words we find almost clinical today. Of course they were also not going to go around saying things like: Pussy, tits, balls, cock and fucking either. OH sorry…pardon my French! They did use these words but never, well mostly never, in mixed company out in the streets or in any other public place. To use them was akin to doing them. Even Mae West who we now see as a comedienne that used double entendre to get a laugh was arrested and jailed for almost a year for producing a show whose name was simply, “Sex.”
We have come a long way into a sexual freedom and a way of expressing ourselves that is more free and easy. Sex itself is more openly discussed and is considered a normal function of the body one has every right to enjoy…to most anyway.
I love history and going into these songs was like a journey back in time to the mind, the mood the feeling of prohibition, the depression, WW! And WWII as well as the beginnings of Rock and even a little jaunt into the beginning of a more pornographic era beginning in the 1970’s.
I also love the Blues. I love the Blues Jazz and Rock like I love to breathe. I have studied and do sing many different genre of music but when I sing these, especially the blues either clean or dirty I feel plugged into something much bigger and more powerful than any other music I have sung. It is physical, this music, it is emotional and it is fun.
I also wanted to do it with older singers. I think having people of a certain age, especially women who are obviously knowledgeable about sex makes it all the more sexy, powerful and funny. I hope you love it all as much as we do.
I am so very happy to be presenting this piece and hope to get it out to many other venues. If you are interested in having us perform these songs and more (we have tons more) we would be very happy to talk to you. My e mail address is maryelizabethmicari@gmail.com