Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Similarities & Differences Between "Bang Bang Lulu" & "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post suggests certain similarities between "Bang Bang Lulu" and "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" (or similar titles).

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

WARNING: Examples of "Bang Bang Lulu" that are featured in this pancocojams post are less sexually suggestive than most examples of that rhyme/song. Other examples of that rhyme/song, including those found in the hyperlinks provided within this post, usually include much more sexually suggestive content.

1. Both of these compositions are from the same "Lulu"/"Lulu Gal" song source.

However, versions of "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" are also usually composed of strung together verses from two or more other playground rhymes which have other sources than "Lula" songs.

2. Both of these compositions star a female by the name of "Lulu".

In the case of "Bang Bang Lulu" that female is often named "Rosie". In the case of "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat that female was probably originally named "Lulu" but is now often named "Susie", "Lucy", or other female names.

3. Both of these compositions include a strategy to suggest but don't say a sexually suggestive word.

Different strategies are used in these "profanity avoidance" compositions. In some examples the taboo word is intentionally omitted. That omission is represented in spoken examples by the chanter or singer briefly pausing. In written examples a series of dots [ellipses] is provided in place of that taboo word.

In other examples of this rhyme [and other profanity avoidance rhymes] the beginning of the next line suggests a sexually suggestive word. And in some examples of "Bang Bang Lulu", the sexually suggested lyrics are completed by the song's chorus.

4. Some versions of "Bang Bang Lulu" and "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" also include the character Sonny Jim [who is most commonly known now as "Tiny Tim".] However, nowadays "Tiny Tim" is most often associated with versions of "Miss Lucy Had A Baby", another rhyme that is a member of the Lulu family.

5. Some examples of these compositions contain the same "ask me no question/I'll tell you no lie" line.

1. A verse from "Bang Bang Lulu" verse was included in Owen Wister's 1902 novel The Virginian. However, I'm unsure if any early example of "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" was included in any early 20th century published works.

But consideration of certain lines in the "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" rhyme can help pinpoint early dates for that rhyme's composition.

For instance, the line in "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" that goes "Hello Operator, give me #9" suggest that this rhyme was composed between 1878 and the 1920s as the 1920s was when direct dial telephones began in the United States.

According to
"In January 1878 George Willard Croy became the world's first telephone operator when he started working for the Boston Telephone Despatch company....
[And] Emma Nutt became the world's first female telephone operator on 1 September 1878 when she started working for the Boston Telephone Dispatch company".

Also, the fact that the steamboat era was in the later half of the 19th century also pinpoints the earliest "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" rhyme to those years.

Furthermore, read the comment posted by Eoin November 3, 2012 at 1:34 PM in
That commenter indicates that the use of the words "fly" and "refrigerator" in versions of "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" help to establish the dates of those versions - "fly" meaning the zipper in front of men's pants] was first used in the 1930s and "refigerator" instead of "ice box" was first used in the 1920s.

2. The performance activities for "Bang Bang Lulu" and "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" are different.

"Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" is a playground rhyme whose accompanying performance activity prior to about the late 1960s was skipping rope. However,like other jump rope rhymes in the United States, by at least the mid 1970s, "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" had been converted to a (two person) hand game.

While "Bang Bang Lulu" could also be considered a "playgroung rhyme", there is no accompanying movement while chanting that composition.

3. The usual populations that performs these two compositions are different.

"Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" is most often sung by females between the ages 7-12 years. In contrast "Bang Bang Lulu" is most often considered a "boys' rhyme". "Bang Bang Lulu" has also been performed as a military cadence.

Here's an excerpt of a comment posted in response to a query about military cadences:
What is your favorite Cadence?
-Doc Hudson answered in 2007
..."Then there were the many dozens of verses of Bang Bang Lulu, some of which are even repeatable in mixed company, but not many of them. We once got in trouble marching along to some of the racier verses...

Unfortunately, I've forgotten most of the old jody calls, after all it has been nearly 30 years since I used them."
"Racy" [racier"] means mildly sexually suggestive. That adjective has nothing to do with the noun "race".

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Bang Bang Rosie "Bang Bang Rosie" [hereafter given as "Bang Bang Lulu"
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 11:57 PM

I'm curious about the origin of this song. I know it goes back to recordings done in the 20's as "My Lulu."...

Also it seems this song may be related to "Shout Lula/ Shake Lulu"* banjo songs...

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Bang Bang Rosie [Mudcat: Bang Bang Rosie]
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 11:25 AM

My Lulu
From Carl Sandburg, The American Songbag, pp. 378-379. No source
indicated, though Sandburg implies that the verses are only a selection of those known to him.

1. My Lulu hugged and kissed me,
She wrung my hand and cried,
She said I was the sweetest thing
That ever lived or died.

2. My Lulu's tall and slender,
My Lulu gal's tall and slim,
But the only thing that satisfies her
Is a good big drink of gin.

5. I ain't goin' to work on the railroad,
I ain't goin' to lie in jail,
But I'm goin' down to Cheyenne town
To live with my Lulu gal.

6. My Lulu she's an angel,
Only she aint (sic.) got no wings.
I guess I'll get her a wedding ring
When the grass gets green next spring.

7. My Lulu, she's a dandy,
She stands and drinks like a man,
She calls for gin and brandy,
And she doesn't give a damn.

8. Engineer blowed the whistle,
Fireman rang the bell,
Lulu, in a pink kimona
Says, "Baby, oh fare you well."

9. I seen my Lulu in the springtime,
I seen her in the fall;
She wrote me a letter in the winter time,
Says, "Good-bye, honey," that's all.
The American Songbag was published in 1927. I've read that Carl Sandburg wrote that he published "nine of nine hundred verses of "Bang Bang Lulu", most of them unprintable".

A version of the song "He Hugged Me And He Kissed Me" is included in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 collection Negro Folk Rhymes, p. 131

Example #1:
From Ed Cray, iThe Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs [2nd edition], p. 178 from Google Books

[This is the "Bang Bang Lulu" verse that Owen Wister included in his now classic 1902 Western novel The Virginian
If you go to monkey with my Looloo gal
I’ll tell you what I’ll do
I’ll carve your heart with my razor
AND I’ll shoot you with my pistol too

Example #2:
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Bang Bang Rosie [Mudcat: Bang Bang Rosie]
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 10 Sep 05 - 10:17 AM

Here's the version my I learned from my Mom (she says she used to shock her Aunties with it when she was a kid):

Bang bang Lulu, Lulu's gone away
Who's gonna bang bang Lulu
Now that she's away?
Lulu had two boyfriends, both were very rich
One was the son of a banker
The other was a son of a
Beech nuts, beech nuts, five cents a pack
If you don't like them, I'll shove them up your
Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no more lies
A man got hit with a bag of (pause)
Right between the eyes.
The line “Beech nuts, beech nuts, five cent a pack” refers to the Beechnut brand of chewing gum. "Nuts" probably also alludes to the sexual term “nuts”.

Example #3:
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Bang Bang Rosie [Mudcat: Bang Bang Rosie]
Date: 09 Sep 05 - 06:28 PM

Lulu (Rosie) had a baby
His name was Sonny Jim
She put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim;
Sank to the bottom
Swam to the top
Rosie got excited and
Grabbed him by the
Cocktail, ginger ale,
Five cents a glass
If you don't like it
Shove it up your
Ask me no questions
Tell me no lies
If you ever get hit
With a bucket of sh&t*
Be sure to close your eyes.

Ah, meaningful songs from the age of nine.
*That complete word was spelled out. Whether or not it was actually said probably depended on when this example was chanted and who was around while it was chanted.

Example #1:
Miss Susie had a steamboat. The steamboat had a bell.
The steamboat went to heaven. Miss Susie went to ——.

Hello, operator. Give me number nine,
And if you disconnect me, I'll chop off your ——.

Behind the refrigerator, There was a piece of glass.
Miss Suzie sat upon it, and cut her little ——.

Ass-k me any question, I tell no lies.
The boys are in the girl's bathroom, Zipping down their ——.

Flies are in the city. Bees are in the park.
(Friend's name) and her (his) boy (girl) friend, Are kissing in the D-a-r-k, D-a-r-k, D-a-r-k, dark, dark, dark.

The dark is like the movies. The movies like the show.
The show is like the TV set, and that is all I know.

I know I know my ma. I know I know my pa.
I know I know my sister with the forty-acre bra.

My mother is Godzilla. My father is King Kong.
My brother is the stupid one who taught me this song.

My mother gave me a nickel. My father gave me a dime.
My sister gave me her old boyfriend. His name was Frankenstein.

He made me do the dishes. He made me wash the floors.
He made me clean his underwear, so I kicked him out the door.

I kicked him over London. I kicked him over France.
I kicked him over Hawaii where he learned the hula dance.

He swam across the ocean. He swam across the sea.
He swam across the tub just to get to me.

I flushed him down the tub. I drained the water good.
I kicked him out just like my mama said I should.

In Hawaii, he met the good girls. In Hawaii, he met the bad.
Halfway through Hawaii he ran into my dad.

The good girls go to heaven, So the bad girls go to ——.
Hello, operator. Give me number ten,
And if you disconnect me, I'll sing this song again!

-Elle F.;, November 18, 2006

Example #2:
From; Contributed by Joanna - Thank you!
Miss Susie had a steamboat
the steamboat had a bell
Miss Susie went to heaven
the steamboat went to...
Hello operator please give me number nine
and if you disconnect me
i'll kick you from...
behind the refrigerator there was a piece of glass
Miss Susie fell upon it and cut her little...
ask me no more questions
tell me no more lies
Miss Susie told me everything the day before she...
Died her hair in purple,
died her hair pink,
died her hair in polka-dots
and washed it down the...
Sink me in the ocean,
Sink me in the sea,
Sink me in/down the toilet,
But please don't pee on me!
Notice that there's no profanity avoidance in some lines from contemporary versions of "Miss Susis Had A Steamboat" [for instance in the line "sink me in the toilet". However, the rhyme still mentions something "naughty".

Three other examples of "Miss Susie Had A Steamboat" are found on that page. The title of that page includes the information that "Miss Susie Had A Steamboat" is also known as [aka] "Hello Operator.

Click for a pancocojams post on the song "Shout Lula". That song is also a part of the large Lula song family.

Click a pancocojams post about "Miss Lucy Had A Baby".

Click for "Song Sources For The Children's Rhymes Verse "I Wish I Had A Nickel; I Wish I Had A Dime"

My thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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