Thursday, January 15, 2015

Speckled Red - "The Dirty Dozens" (Lyrics, Comments, Example)

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Revised May 7, 2015]

This post showcases the song "The Dirty Dozens" by African American Bluesman Speckled Red (Rufus Perryman). Song lyrics and comments about the song are also included in this post. Information about Speckled Red, and information about "the dozens" are also found in this post.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Speckled Red for his musical legacy. Thanks also to those who are quoted in this post and those who published the featured videos on YouTube.

From [hereafter given as Wikipedia: Speckled Red]
"Speckled Red (October 23, 1899* - January 2, 1973)[2] was born Rufus Perryman in Hampton, Georgia. He was an American blues and boogie-woogie piano player and singer,[1] most noted for his recordings of "The Dirty Dozens", with exchanges of insults and vulgar remarks that have long been a part of African American folklore...

*[Wikipedia gives the incorrect date of 1892. Read the comment section below.]

Speckled Red was the older brother of Piano Red, their nicknames derived from both men being albinos.[3] The brothers were separated by almost a generation and never recorded together. Speckled Red and Piano Red both played in a raucous good time barrelhouse boogie-woogie style, although the elder Speckled Red played slow blues more often. Both recorded versions of "The Right String (But the Wrong Yo-Yo)", Speckled Red first in 1930, and the younger scored a big hit with the song 20-years later...

By his mid-teens he was already playing house parties and juke joints, and moved back to Detroit in his mid-20s to play anywhere he could, including nightclubs and brothels, and was noticed by a Brunswick Records talent scout just before he left for Memphis, Tennessee, where he was located by Jim Jackson.[6] It was here where he cut his first recording sessions, resulting in two classics for Brunswick in "Wilkins Street Stomp" and the hit “The Dirty Dozens”. The following year, 1930, he recorded again, this time in Chicago, Illinois, resulting in most notably “The Dirty Dozens No. 2,” which was not nearly as successful and the pianist was without a contract or label and again playing making the rounds at Memphis venues and St. Louis bars."...

UPDATE [added to this pancocojams post on May 7, 2015]
From;wap2 "The Twelves (Dirty Dozens) page 1 & page 2

"Bunker Hill:
Quote from: si on May 27, 2006, 10:35:33 AM ---I know this song is based on the street game but who wrote it?
--- End quote ---
Mack McCormick in his booklet to The Unexpugated Folksong Of Men (Raglan LP51, 1960) which includes an "anonymous" version by a singer he recorded (actually Lightniin' Hopkins) and describes it as follows. [Hope I've corrected most of the scanning errors, booklet has seen better days]

THE DIRTY DOZENS: There is nothing in American folklore that has quite the reputation of that cycle of insults, known as "The Dirty Dozens." Probably better than ten million people have played the "game" but they've kept it a secret from the rest of America. Still as far back as 1919, a white girl named Gilda Gray was entertaining New Yorkers (see Current Opinion, Sept. 1919) with something derived from the original:

Oh, the old dirty dozen,
The old dirty dozen;
Brothers and cousins,
Living like a hive of bees,
They keep a buzzin', fussin' and mussin'.
There wasn't a good one in the bunch.

Some scraps appeared in the Journal of American Folklore in 1915, and in Publications of the Texas Folklore Society in 1926:

Talk about one thing, talk about another;
But ef you talk about me, I'm gwain to talk about your mother.

A number of derivations appeared on race records such as Henry Thomas' "Don't Ease Me In," Dirty Red's "Mother Fuyer," Gabriel Brown's "You Ain't No Good," State Street Boys; "The Dozen," Victoria Spivey's "From One to Twelve," Bumblebee Slim's "New Mean Mistreater," and Leroy Carr's "The Dirty Dozen." Most of these were inspired by the great commercial success of Speckled Red's famed 1929 record and its sequel "The Dirty Dozen No. 2""...

The name [The Dirty* Dozens/The Twelves] simply derives from the accepted rules of the game which are that the dialogue shall consist of 12 insults hurled back and forth, each of which should surpass what has gone before. In actuality the game is only seldom played with so strict a discipline though these are important points of skill among the more artful players. When this is done, the enumeration may be part of each verse, or more typically each volley will be counted off by a prefacing remark such as "Now, first thing, I'm gonna talk about your old momma . . ." and so on up to the final and climatic twelfth exchange...

"This is what Speckled Red told Dave Mangurian about his recording during a lengthy interview conducted in St. Louis, October 1959 and published in Jazz Journal, June 1960:

So. Mayo Williams come to Memphis. Well, he come out there an' heard me play. He liked the Dirty Dozen when I played it, an' he asked me could I make it on record. I told him I never played on no record. An' then he say, 'Well, I want you to play on record. You'll get paid for it.' An' I said, 'Well, anything to make me some money!'

"So, I played it for him there, an' then he give me a 'signment to play. I went down to the Peabody Hotel in the basement floor. We recorded down there. I made eight songs that day: Dirty Dozen, an' Wilkins Street Stomp, an'...I can't think of the rest of them."

The records (at least The Dirty Dozen and Wilkins Street) were issued by Brunswick in March, 1928. [Specked] Red got $125 at the time of the date, and $75 more a month later. He claims that the money was supposed to be for The Dirty Dozen and that he never got paid for the rest of them. Two hundred dollars was a good fee for a recording session by a "race" artist in those days, but for Brunswick it was a cheap price. The Dirty Dozen became a big hit immediately. It was so well liked that it was learned in one form or another by nearly every blues singer of that time. The song itself written by Red, had an interesting origin.

"You know how boys do be around an' tellin' lots a foolishness, callin' different kind of names? One try to out-talk the other, an' played it when one beat the other one he say, 'Well, you put me in the dozen.' So, I decided I'd make a song. Heh! 'Course, on record it's all right. But I made it bad! When he wanted me to, put it on record, well, I just changed the words. It all mean the same thing but I just changed the words.""
The word “Dirty” is given in this sentence as “Firty”. There's no such word as "firty". Because I believe that “Firty” is a typo , I replaced it with "dirty".

Mack McCormick who is quoted in that Page 1 of that website suggests that "The Dirty Dozens" comes from the African American "Biblical Dozens".

SHOWCASE EXAMPLE: Speckled Red The Dirty Dozen (BRUNSWICK 7116) (1929)

randomandrare, Uploaded on Apr 11, 2010

I do not own the copyright to this recording. This video is for historical and educational purposes

Composed by Rufus Perryman

(Rufus , aka Speckled Red)

Now, I want all you womenfolks to fall in line
Shake your shimmy like I’m shaking mine
You shake your shimmy and you shake it fast
You can’t shake your shimmy, shake your yes, yes, yes

Now you’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

Yonder go your mama going out across the field
Running and shaking like an automobile
I hollered at your mama and I told her to wait
She slipped away from me like a Cadillac Eight

Now she’s a running mistreater, robber and a cheater
Pappy is your cousin, slip you in the dozen
Your mama do the lordy-lord

I like your mama and like your sister too
I did like your daddy, but your daddy wouldn’t do
I met your daddy on the corner the other day
You know by that that he was funny that way

So now he’s a funny mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your papa is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

God made him an elephant and he made him stout
He wasn’t satisfied until he made him a snout
Made his snout just as long as a rail
He wasn’t satisfied until he made him a tail
He made his tail just to fan the flies
He wasn’t satisfied until he made some eyes
He made his eyes to look over the grass
Wasn’t satisfied until he made his yes, yes, yes
Made his yes, yes, yes and didn’t get it fixed
Wasn’t satisfied until it made him sick
It made him sick, Lord, it made him well
You know by that the elephant caught hell

Now he’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

Notice that in the Wikipedia excerpt of Speckled Red's "The Dirty Dozens" found below, the word "lordy-lord: is given as "lawdylawd". That spelled better reflects the way that word was pronounced.

From Wikipedia: Speckled Red
[begins with a lyric excerpt of Speckled Red's "The Dirty Dozens"]

"I want all you women to fall in line"
"And shake yo shimmy like i'm shakin' mine"
"You shake yo shimmy and you shake it fast"
"If you can't shake the shimmy,
shake yo' yes yes yes"
"You a dirty mistreater, a robber and a cheater"
"Stick you in a dozens and yo pappy is yo cousin"
"And yo mama do the lawdylawd"

Although the lyrics were sung rather than spoken, with its elaborate word play and earthy subject matter, "The Dirty Dozens" is considered in some respects an ancestor to rap music."

"The Dozens is a game of spoken words between two contestants, common in Black communities, where participants insult each other until one gives up. It is customary for the Dozens to be played in front of an audience of bystanders, who encourage the participants to reply with more egregious insults to heighten the tension and consequently, to be more interesting to watch. Among African-Americans it is also known as "sounding", "joning", "woofing", "wolfing", "sigging", or "signifying",[1][2] while the insults themselves are known as "snaps".[3][4]

Comments in the game focus on the opposite player's intelligence, appearance, competency, social status, financial situation, and disparaging remarks about the other player's family members—mothers in particular ("yo′ mama...")—are common. Commentary is often related to sexual issues, where the game is then referred to as the "Dirty Dozens".[5]

According to sociologist Harry Lefever and journalist John Leland, the game is almost exclusive to African Americans; other ethnic groups often fail to understand how to play the game and can take remarks in the Dozens seriously.[note 1] Both males and females participate, but the game is more commonly played among males of varying social status.[1]"...

While Speckled Red's "The Dirty Dozens" was quite risqué in the 1929, it probably was a much cleaner version of actual dirty dozens exchanges that were done during that time. And this 1929 recording isn't nearly as "dirty" (nasty) as many contemporary R&B/Hip Hop songs which don't mention the dozens, or contemporary dozens chants*, or actual dozens exchanges. For example, according to mid 20th century and 21th century standards, Speckled Red's "The Dirty Dozens"
contains no explicit sexual references, and only alludes to sexual body parts and/or sexual activity. For example, Speckled Red uses profanity avoidance such as the words "yes, yes, yes" and "shimmy" as substitutes for the word "ass". He also uses "lawdylawd" ("lordylord") rather than what people then and now would consider to be a more vulgar vernacular term for sexual activity. Furthermore, Speckled Red's 1929 recording contains no curse words (according to 21th century definitions).

*Click [#20, posted on 06-19-2001, 12:46 PM by DoggyStyle82] for a considerably dirtier Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. chant. That chant begins with the words "We are Omega, we shoot the Dozens for you We are Omega, we shoot the dozens for you". I should mention that although the words to that chant are dirtier than Speckled Red's "Dirty Dozen" song, they aren't as vulgar as some other fraternity chants that I've come across.

"Omega[s]" and "Ques" are referents for members of the historically Black (African American) Greek letter fraternity Omega Psi Phi, Inc.

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  1. Hi Azizi, Speckled Red was born in about 1899, per the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses.

    1. Hello, Joseph Scott.

      Thanks for that correction. I changed the birth date in this post and referred readers to your comment.

      Best wishes!