Wednesday, August 30, 2023

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Classic American Filthy Songs


Today is Robert Crumb's 80th birthday! I've saluted Crumb's musical career a couple of times on his birthday on a couple of previous Wacky Wednesdays (CLICK HERE and HERE), so today let's do something different.

I was reminded recently of a song I first heard done by Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders many decades ago. It was Harry Roy's "Pussy," sometimes known as "My Girl's Pussy"  from back in 1931. And that reminded me how, despite all the moral outrages over music through, well since the recording industry began, smutty songs have been part of American life.

Makes me proud to be an American!

First let's look at a tune by Gov. Jimmie Davis, years before he became Louisiana's chief executive. Though he's far better known for his signature song "You Are My Sunshine,"

The late Nick Tosches wrote of Davis in his book Country: The Biggest Music in America (1977): "He sang a country music that drew heavily  from the blues of the deep South, more heavily even than that of his idol, Jimmie Rodgers."

 Here's a tune describing the interactions between a pussy and a cock:

Here's a classic by Butterbeans & Susie (Jodie and Susie Edwards), which received frequent airplay on the KUNM blues show back when I was at the University of New Mexico in the early '70s:

O.K., this one, "Shave 'em Dry" by Lucille Bogan, which opens with the notorious rhyme, "I got nipples on my titties big as the end of my thumb / I got somethin' 'tween my legs 'll make a dead man come" is perhaps the raunchiest tune in the American songbook. But it doesn't really count because it never was publicly released in her lifetime. 

Bogan, under the name of "Bessie Jackson," recorded "Shave," (which had been done previously by Ma Rainey as well as Papa Charlie Jackson)  in the mid '30s (I've seen it listed as 1933, 1934 as well as1935). But Melotone Records released a relatively mild version (no reference to nipples, etc.) in 1935.

According to Dick Spotwood's liner notes to Columbia Legacy's 2004 CD, Shave ’Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan:

Bogan made two triple-X rated pieces for her own amusement and that of others in the studio. `Shave `em Dry' and `Til the Cows Come Home' were surreptitiously entered in the [American Record Corporation] recording book as trial recordings with no indication of their contents. A few pressings were made for studio workers and friends and the masters destroyed. Until recently, no copies were known to have survived.

The dirty version started appearing on blues compilations inn the early 1990s. But even though there were no available versions back in the early '70s, I remember hearing about the song when I was in high school. You can hear it now:

But now let's get back to that song that Crumb taught us:

And, like I said above, something recently reminded me of this classic. It was when I watched the movie Babylon a couple of weeks ago. Actress Li Jun Li sings a reimagined lesbian version (with the help of soundtrack composer Justin Hurwitz.) 

Later in the film a snatch (sorry) of the original Harry Roy version can be heard.

But Babylon wasn't the first time the song has appeared in a drama in recent ears. Here's Michael Zegen as Bugsy Siegel in Boardwalk Empire in 2014

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