Saturday, March 18, 2006

I'd Never Kick When Lulu Came to Polish Up My Horn

Last weekend la famille Jingo drove about the landscape, some routine errands to perform. As we casually set fire to a few gallons of $2.55 gas we happened to have lying around, National Treasure Dick Spottswood regaled the front-seat passengers (the back-seat ones being enthralled with the modern gunge their earphones poured directly into their brains) with his utterly wonderful "Obsolete Music" radio show. We no longer have the Lomaxes with us, John and Alan, and the practice of tooling around Appalachia or the Delta with a 120-pound Revox reel-to-reel recording the banjo kid from Deliverance playing his unique take on "Little Darlin', Pal o' Mine" has become ever-so-slightly vieux jeux. But National Treasure Dick Spottswood does nicely to chase away the Strip-Mall Blues.

I listened with half an ear as I piloted the family bus, pondering this and that, when the chorus of one particularly louche Thirties-sounding number reached out and grabbed me by the lapels, demanding my attention:
Bang away my Lulu
Bang away good and strong
What are we going to do for banging
When Lulu's gone?

My goodness, that certainly sounds filthy, doesn't it?

Intrigued, I researched the song, found the recording Dick played. Here it is, go ahead and listen (it will open in a new window).

It turns out Grand Ol' Opry fixture Roy Acuff, "King of the Hillbillies," the "Backwoods Sinatra," the "Caruso of Mountain Music," in the earliest moments (ca. 1937) of his extremely long and distinguished career, cut a few "risqué" sides with some pickup sidemen. "When Lulu's Gone" was released under the name "The Bang Boys" -- which ought to make youngsters casting about for a punk-band name stand up and whinny. You could do lots worse.

(By way of gauging Acuff's influence on the world of country music, the song you're listening to is absolutely one of the first applications of the Dobro resophonic guitar to a hillbilly song.)

"Bang Away Lulu,"which I naturally thought was the name of the song, produces some mightly rich Google results. Quite plainly, Roy and the Bang Boys spent quite a bit of effort toning down a song that already had been quite a bit filthier even than the pretty racy one they put out. One version, to be found here, has as its first verse,

I wish I was a diamond upon my Lulu's hand,
And every time she wiped her ass, I'd see the promised land,
Oh, Lordy.

Bang away, my Lulu; bang away good and strong.
Oh, what'll we do for a damn good screw when our Lulu's dead and gone?

Roy and the Boys watered that down to:

I wish I was a diamond upon my Lulu's hand
Every time she'd take her bath I'd be a lucky man
Oh lordy!

Bang away my Lulu; bang away good and strong
What are going to do for banging when Lulu's gone?
Another Googled version of the song reveals it as a "teasing song," the sort of parlor game where the rhyme is only clear if you know your Durty Wurdz:

Lulu's got a rooster.
Lulu's got a duck.
She put them in the bathtub
To see if they would --

Bang, bang Lulu.
Lulu's gone away.
Who we gonna bang, bang
Since Lulu's gone away?

All of this is by way of showing, I suppose, that despite their best efforts to hide it, our ancestors had themselves some libidos. My parents came from somewhere, and for all I know "Bang Away Lulu" might have helped that happen.

More proof of libidinous grandparents comes in the form of the Depression-era Tijuana Bible, little 8-page pornographic booklets that parodied popular comic strips and movies of the day. Examine those Bibles closely, with the particular thought in mind of the influence they can't possibly have failed to exert on Sixties underground cartoonist R. Crumb.

Now, to tie a nice little bow around our whole little excursion into Depression-era lubricity, listen to R. Crumb's Cheap Suit Serenaders with their own filthy little tune, "My Girl's Pussy."

There. My work here is done. Go ye and produce a generation of your own. I hope a few of 'em look like Steve Canyon and think like Roy Acuff.


roxtar said...

"Bang Bang Lulu" is, as far as I know, still a staple of the frathouse repertoire. It's also heard in those drunken singalong bars in such spring-break haunts as Panama City Beach. The tune approximates "Good Night, Ladies".

It's almost a shame that filth isn't as filthy as it was a generation or two ago. The Interwebs have given us broadband pornography, but you've gotta feel bad for all those kids who will never know the thrill of finding a stash of skin mags. In a world where every manner of perversion is as close as your (pardon the expression) laptop, the dewy, fuzzy, airbrushed offerings of Playboy seem almost innocent. Even the pink ones.

The buggy whip, the pay phone, the record player, the 8mm b/w skin-flick...all victims of technology. Yesteryear's "Lucky Burglar" has been replaced by half a dozen channels of on-demand porno, bouned off a geo-synchronous satellite and discreetly delivered to adventurous couples and lonely geezers alike.

It makes me appreciate retro-smut all the more. Why, after only one listen to the eminently whistleable Cheap Suit Serenaders, I'll be going around with "My Girl's Pussy" on my lips all day.

fgfdsg said...

The 1931 original by Harry Roy and His Bat Club Boys.

Neddie, Neddie, Neddie... Not only did they have libidos back then, they also had a sense of playful mischief and relaxed ease with their sexuality that makes so many of these old records such damn fun, and far sexier than any kind of Barry White 'pump n' groan' type of music.

If you read my blog you might remember how historical sexuality is a hobby of mine, so I have collected a lot of this kind of music.

There's some good ones out there: 'It's Too Big Papa', 'If I Can't Sell It, I'll Keep Sitting On It', 'Hot Nuts', 'Pussy Pussy Pussy', 'I'm A Bear In A Lady's Boudoir', 'What's That Smells Like Fish?', 'You Can't Tell The Difference After Dark'. Happy to share more if you're curious.

Some of them go futher than playful innuendo. 'Bessie Jackson' AKA Lucille Bogan sings in 1935's 'Shave Em Dry II' that her 'titties are big as thumbs' and that she 'can make a dead man cum'.

How'd we all end up so repressed?

Ronzoni Rigatoni said...

Ohh, dang! Steve Canyon? Didn't ol' Milton Caniff contribute a few of them there Tiajuana Bibles hisself? And who among us doesn't love the Copulatin' Blues series (Put a li'l sugar in my bowl, put a li'l hotdog in my roll...). A personal fave a la Bob Wills: When the moon goes down on Medina Lake, I'm gonna go down (thump thump) on yew.... Whee!

The Viscount LaCarte said...

"teasing song," the sort of parlor game where the rhyme is only clear if you know your Durty Wurdz:
Lulu's got a rooster.
Lulu's got a duck.
She put them in the bathtub
To see if they would --

Wow! I guess that explains this little ditty that I learned in middle school circa 1970:

Miss Lulu had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
Miss Lulu went to heaven
And the steamboat went to

Hello operator
Dial number nine
And if you disconnect me
I'll kick your

Behind the refrigerator
There was a piece of glass
Miss Lulu sat upon it
And scratched her little

Ask me no more questions
I'll tell you no more lies
The boys are in the bathroom
Pulling down their

Flies are in the city
Bees are in the park
The teachers in the teaching room
Kissing in the dark!

I had to google a little to fill in the blanks - that is the version that we learned but there are others.

R. Crumb

See the documentary. Talk about dysfunctional families!

Will Divide said...

give a listen to hartman's heartbreakers (with betty lou) and their immor(t)al "feels so good", ca. 1934. it is archived under 'songs' at

nick toches has a whole chapter on smutty country songs in his rilly fine book 'country', btw.

Will Divide said...

hell, save you the trouble of looking:,

Gavin M. said...

Lulu's got a rooster.
Lulu's got a duck.
She put them in the bathtub
To see if they would --

Would there be a slapstick sound-effect 'bang' at this moment, d'you suppose?

Bang, bang Lulu.
Lulu's gone away.
Who we gonna bang, bang
Since Lulu's gone away?

tbcass said...

My father used to sing the chorus like this;

Bang away on LuLu
Bang Her Good and Strong
What are WE Going to do for Banging
When LuLu's Dead and Gone.