Friday, February 14, 2014

Cab Calloway - Minnie The Moocher (information, lyrics, and examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases two examples of Cab Calloway performing his 1931 song "Minnie The Moocher". Information about Cab Calloway, as well as lyrics and information about this song are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Cab Calloway for his musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

"Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was a jazz singer and bandleader. He was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer.

Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States' most popular big bands from the start of the 1930s through to the late 1940s...

In 1931 he recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". That song, along with "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "The Old Man of the Mountain", were performed for the Betty Boop animated shorts Minnie the Moocher, Snow White, and The Old Man of the Mountain, respectively. Through rotoscoping, Calloway not only gave his voice to these cartoons, but his dance steps as well. He took advantage of this and timed his concerts in some communities with the release of the films in order to make the most of the attention. As a result of the success of "Minnie the Moocher," he became identified with its chorus, gaining the nickname "The Hi De Ho Man"."
Click for a pancocojams post on "The Hi De Ho Man"."

"Minnie the Moocher" is a jazz song first recorded in 1931 by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, selling over 1 million copies.[1] "Minnie the Moocher" is most famous for its nonsensical ad libbed ("scat") lyrics (for example, "Hi De Hi De Hi De Hi"). In performances, Calloway would have the audience participate by repeating each scat phrase in a form of call and response. Eventually Calloway's phrases would become so long and complex that the audience would laugh at their own failed attempts to repeat them.

"Minnie the Moocher" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

The song is based both musically and lyrically on Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's 1927 "Willie the Weeper"[2][3] (Bette Davis sings this version in The Cabin in the Cotton). The lyrics are heavily laden with drug references. The character "Smokey" is described as "cokey", meaning a user of cocaine; the phrase "kicking the gong around" was a slang reference to smoking opium.[4]"

(Songwriter(s): Cab Calloway, Irving Mills, Clarence Gaskill, Joseph C. Liggins)

Folks, here´s a story about Minnie the Moocher
She was a red hot hoochie-koocher
She was the roughest, toughest frail
but Minnie had a heart as big as a wha-a-le

Heedey-hee-dee-hee-dee hee

She messed around with a bloke named Smoky
She loved him though he was cokey
He took her down to Chinatown
He showed her how to kick the gong around

Heedey-hee-dee-hee-dee hee

She had a dream that the King of Sweden
He gave her things that she was needin´
He built her a house of gold and steel
A diamond car with platinum wheels


he gave her his townhouse and his racing horses
Each meal she ate was a dozen courses
She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes
she sat around and counted them all a million times

Heedey-hee-dee-hee-dee hee

Now Min and Smokie, they started jaggin'
They got a free ride in a wagon
She gave him money to pay her bail
But he left her flat in the county jail

Whoooa, yeaaaah
Hey de he de he he
Whoa Whoa

Poor Min met old Deacon Lowdown
He preached to her that she ought to slow down
But Minnie wiggled her jelly roll
And Deacon Lowdown yelled, "Lord save my soul!"

Hi de hi de hi de hi
Ho de ho de ho de ho
Skiddley doodley doodly do
Skiddly diddly day

They took her where they put the crazies
Now poor Min's kicking up those daisies
You've heard my story this is her song
She was just a good gal, but they done her wrong

Hi de hi de hi de hi
Skooby de be do
He de he de he de he
Whoa, Whoa Whoa

Poor Min, Poor Min, Poor Min.

The word "frail" is "jive talk' for female, from the English word meaning "fragile".

Click for a listing of words and phrases from Cab Calloway's hepster dictionary.

Example #1: Cab Calloway - Minnie the Moocher

moontreal, Uploaded on Mar 18, 2008

Example #2: Blues Brothers - Minnie the Moocher (Cab Calloway)

SantoriniAJC·Uploaded on Jan 22, 2012

'Minnie the Moocher' from the [1980] film Blues Brothers. I do NOT own the video.

Cab Calloway songs include lots of "jive talk". Read this pancocojams post about jive talk:

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  1. Have you seen this example?

    This is a very young Dr House playing an English man-about-town in the Roaring 20s, who thinks he can sing 'Minnie the Moocher'. His butler doesn't agree :)

    1. Thanks slam2011. I clicked the link you provided and watched that comedic video of Jeeves and Wooster singing Minnie the Moocher.

      I admit that this is the first that I've ever watched that a portion of that series although I've read the saying "Ask Jeeves" and at least was aware that Jeeves was a Butler who knew a lot. As a commenter wrote on that video's viewer comment thread: "See, that is the beauty part of social media; I get to learn about stuff I wouldn't otherwise." :o)

      PS. I'm also not familiar with Dr. House. Is that also a British tv series?

    2. Oh well, in the Jeeves and Wooster stories the TV programme's based on, the joke is always that the rich young guy Wooster is practically an idiot while his servant Jeeves is super-smart, and manipulates him all the time.

      Although the writer of the original stories was British he moved to America in the 1910s. He worked in the musical theatre in New York in the Twenties, so I suppose it's possible he may even have met Calloway.

      The actor singing 'Minnie' in the clip is Hugh Laurie, who much later played a doctor in a Fox TV series called 'House'. He's English but the 'House' series was made in America. By an odd coincidence, in real life Laurie is fascinated by jazz and blues - he's made documentaries on New Orleans music for British TV.

    3. Hi slam2011.

      Thanks for that information. Not to insert politics but one reason why I didn't know about that Fox tv series "House" is that for general principles, I avoid that television station.

    4. I missed 'House' too when it aired over here, not being a big fan of medical dramas. So Fox is a Murdoch channel? I understand. He owns newspapers here which are right-wing so I expect his American TV interests reflect similar views.

  2. Yes and yes. To describe that tv station that way is an really big understatement.