Friday, September 5, 2014

"The Cat's Got The Measles And The Dog's Got The Whoopin' Cough" (comment, lyrics, videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a pancocojams series about songs that mention whooping cough.This post showcases the Blues song "The Cat 's Got The Measles And The Dog's Got The Whoopin' Cough".

Click "The Old Time Music Roots Of The Camp Song "The Jaybird Died Of The Whoopin' Cough" for Part I of this series. Part I provides comments, lyrics, and examples of a few Old Time music songs that include the verse that begins "jaybird died of the whoopin cough". That post also features examples of children's camp versions of that verse.

Thank to the composers and collectors of this song, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post, and all those who are featured in the videos. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

Thanks also to all health workers who are helping the people who have or are at risk of having ebola, the newest scary infectious disease, as well as those who are helping combat and provide care for the whooping cough disease that people around the world still suffer from.

Excerpt of "Remembering The Old Songs:
by Lyle Lofgren (Originally published: Inside Bluegrass, March 2004)
"I got a flu shot that protects against all varieties except the one going around. The TV news is seriously infected with SARS, chicken flu, ebola, and HIV, all diseases which experts think were originally given to us from other animals. That reminded me of this song.

This version was recorded in 1929 by Walter "Kid" Smith and Norman Woodlief. Both were from the musically fertile area where Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee meet. Smith quit his millhand job to aggressively pursue a career as a professional musician...

From the 1920s to the 1960s, he recorded with lots of different musicians; toured as a tent show comedian with a red wig and blacked-out teeth; formed a family band with his daughters; and performed on radio, stage and TV with his guitarist wife and a yodeling dog. Less than a third of his recordings used his real name. He'd sign an exclusive record contract with each company, then go to the next one and record under a new name. This song, for example, was performed by "Jerry Jordan."

Much of the writing about African-American musical influence on white southern performers concentrates on personal relationships: how Bill Monroe learned from Arnold Schultz, A.P. Carter from Leslie Riddle, or Dock Boggs from Jim White. Actually, most of the influence was from recordings. Many of the white musicians bought "race records" and learned from them. Smith learned this song from a 1925 Paramount recording by Papa Charlie Jackson, modifying it for stringband compatibility. Jackson, of New Orleans, made records that were a prime source for many other musicians, both black and white.

I have no idea where Jackson got the song. Most likely, he cobbled it together. I've been told that the title line is in an old British sea chantey. That's only a springboard, however. The song itself, in an older blues format, uses commonplace verses on a well-worn theme. As with most blues-influenced songs, you have to squeeze together some of the words to get them all in. And I'm not responsible for any verbal or physical attacks if you sing this in public without first delivering a 10-minute lecture on the history and context of gender politics...

Complete Lyrics:
1. Oh, the cat's got the measles,
And the dog got the whoopin' cough, doggone.
Oh, the cat's got the measles,
And the dog got the whoopin' cough.
Doggone a man
Who'd let a woman be his boss,
Doggone my time.

2. Thought I heard a rockin'
Deep down in the ground, doggone.
I thought I heard a rockin'
Deep down in the ground.
It must have been the devil
A-chainin' my good gal down,
Doggone my time.

3. I ain't good lookin'
And my teeth don't shine like pearls, doggone.
I ain't good lookin'
And my teeth don't shine like pearls,
But I've got what it takes
To carry me through this cockeyed world,
Doggone my time.

4. (Repeat verse 1).

5. I ain't no devil,
Just borned in a lion's den, doggone.
I ain't no devil,
Just borned in a lion's den.
And my chief occupation's
Takin' women from the monkey men,*
Doggone my time.

6. Some men don't like me
Just because I keep my pride, doggone.
Some men don't like me
Just because I keep my pride,
But the women cry "Poppa,"
Say they want to be my bride,
Doggone my time.

7. (Repeat verse 1)
*"Monkey men" may be a derogatory referent for "Black men", but I'm not certain of that. It may just be an insulting referent for men who the singer believes have a lower status than he does.

Example #1: Papa Charlie Jackson- The Cats Got The Measles

Nico Fournier, Published on Jun 25, 2014

Papa Charlie Jackson- Complete Recorded Works

Example #2: Walter Smith- The Cat's Got the Measles, the Dog's Got the Whooping Cough

Nico Fournier, Published on Jun 23, 2014
Good for What Ails You- Music of the Medicine Shows (1926-1937)

“Lyr Add: Cat's Got the Measles (Walter Smith)”


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1 comment:

  1. I just read this jump rope rhyme that mentions another infectious disease:

    Caroline Pink
    Fell down the sink.
    She caught the scarlet fever.
    Her husband had to leave her.
    She called in Doctor Blue
    And he caught it too.

    Source: Abrahams (1969)