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Monday, April 6, 2015

"Strut Miss Lizzie" (information, lyrics, & sound files)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides lyrics and two sound files of the 1921 Ragtime song "Strut Miss Lizzie". Information about the composer and lyricist of this song are also included in this post, along with information about the vocalist for the first rendition of that song that is presented in this post.

This post also includes definitions for the words "strut", "swagger", and "prance".
[Added 4/7/2015] My explanations of certain other words and phrases in 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 Henry Creamer and Turner Layton for their musicial legacy. Thanks also to all the vocalists and musicians who are featured in these examples. And thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube and all those who are quoted in this post.

This post serves as a companion to the following pancocojams post: http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/04/soulful-struts-definition-examples-of.html "Soulful Struts (Definition & Examples Of Strutting)"

The African American playground singing game "Strut Miss Lucy" (also known as "Strut Miss Suzie" and "This a Way Valerie") was undoubtedly inspired by the Ragtime song "Strut Miss Lizzie". Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/04/this-way-valerie-strut-miss-lucy-strut.html for a pancocojams post on those playground games.

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INFORMATION ABOUT THE LYRICIST & THE COMPOSER OF "STRUT MISS LUCY"
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Creamer
"Henry Creamer (June 21, 1879 – October 14, 1930) was an African American popular song lyricist. He was born in Richmond, Virginia and died in New York. He co-wrote many popular songs in the years from 1900 to 1929, often collaborating with Turner Layton, with whom he also appeared in vaudeville.

Henry Creamer was a singer, dancer, songwriter and stage producer/director.[1][2] He first performed on the vaudeville circuit in the U.S. and in Europe as a duo with pianist Turner Layton, with whom he also co-wrote songs...

Also in 1926, Creamer and James P. Johnson wrote Alabama Stomp. In 1930 they achieved another hit with If I Could Be with You which was recorded by Ruth Etting. The song also became the theme song for McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and was also a hit for Louis Armstrong (Okeh 41448).[6]
Creamer was a co-founder with James Reese Europe of the Clef Club, an important early African American musicians and entertainers organization in New York City."...

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From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turner_Layton
"Turner Layton (July 2, 1894 – February 6, 1978), born John Turner Layton, Jr., was an African American songwriter, singer and pianist. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1894, he was the son of John Turner Layton, "a bass singer, music educator and hymn composer."[1] After receiving a musical education from his father, he attended the Howard University Dental School, later coming to New York City in the early 1900s, where he met future songwriting partner, lyricist Henry Creamer. He is best known for his many compositions with Creamer, the best known of which is the standard "After You've Gone", which was written in 1918 and first popularized by Sophie Tucker. The two contributed music and lyrics to many Broadway shows, including the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917, 1921 and 1922, Three Showers (1920), Some Party (1922) and Creamer's own Strut Miss Lizzie (1922).[1]"...

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LYRICS - STRUT MISS LIZZIE
(Henry Creamer, Turner Layton)

At the barber's ball in the barber's hall
All the dusky belles were there
Such a glancing, prancing, strutting and dancing
They were doing for fair
All the belles and beaus prancing on their toes
Tried to do the cake walk swell
When a midnight blonde came prancing on
They were heard to yell

Won't you strut miss Lizzie
Get busy, I want to see you walk
For the folks all state the way you syncopate
Is the whole town talk
When you move so pretty it's a pity
The other girlies frown, but the men you meet
Like the way you shake your feet
Oh you knock 'em dizzy
Strut miss Lizzie Brown

They were stepping sweet they were stepping neat
They were stepping super fine
To the singing, swinging, fancy pigeon winging
They were falling in line
Every dame and dude struck at attitude
For to win that cake they tried
But when Lizzie Brown came prancing round
Everybody cried

Won't you strut miss Lizzie
Get busy, I want to see you walk
For the folks all state the way you syncopate
Is the whole town talk
When you move so pretty it's a pity
The other girlies frown, but the men you meet
Like the way you shake your feet
Oh you knock 'em dizzy
Strut miss Lizzie Brown

(I'll bet you've got the cutest little strut in town)

Source: http://www.lyricsvault.net/php/artist.php?s=44430#axzz3WYaNc1hB
-snip-
These are the lyrics that are found on the sheet music for this song that is displayed on the "In Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana [University] website.

Additional lyrics for an adapted form of that song that was recorded by Irving Mills & his Hotsy Totsy Gang from June of 1930 are the chorus as given above nd these words:
Go down the street, by the school,
Pack your feet you struttin' fool!
Strut your stuff by the kirk.
Trot your tootsies by the church!

Through the alley, dodge the cans,
Shake Miss Ellie's pots and pans.
Cool your dog, we're comin' through,
Except for Lennox Avenue!

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WHAT "STRUT" MEANS
From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/strut+one's+stuff
"1. parade, flourish. Strut and swagger refer especially to carriage in walking. Strut implies swelling pride or pompousness; to strut is to walk with a stiff, pompous, seemingly affected or self-conscious gait: A turkey struts about the barnyard."

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WHAT "SWAGGER" MEANS
From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Swagger
"to walk or strut with a defiant or insolent air."

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WHAT "PRANCE" MEANS
From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/prance
"3. To step in a lively and showy manner"...

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MY EXPLANATIONS OF CERTAIN OTHER WORDS & PHRASES IN THIS SONG [Added April 7, 2015]
"ball" = dance

hall = building

"dusky belles" = Black beautiful ladies [beautiful women of any African descent]

"They were doing for fair" = probably a common African American saying for "They were pretty good" [in this context] at dancing. [Note that this is my guess. I've never heard this phrase or read it outside of this song.]

"Tried to do the cake walk swell" = tried to do the cake walk very well - The cakewalk is a 19th century African American originated dance in which couples strut in imitation of formal European dances. The couple who is judged to be the best calk walkers wins a cake as their prize.

"When a midnight blonde" - a light skinned black beauty (formerly known as "yellow", and/or "high yellow". [Note that this is my guess. I've never heard "midnight blonde" used before and never read that phrase outside of this song. Also note that "yellow" and "high yellow" haven't been used as referents for African Americans since at least the 1950s.]

"syncopate" - dance to the music's rhythm and beat

"knock 'em dizzy" - make them lightheaded and excited with admiration

"struck an attitude" -held their body and had facial expressions that conveyed poise, self-confidence, pridefulness, insolence, and more.

"strut your stuff" = strut your body

"by the kirk" = by the church

Trot your tootsies by the church! = basically means the same thing as "strut your stuff by the church, except "tootsies" mean "toes" [feet]

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FEATURED EXAMPLES
Example #1: STRUT MISS LIZZIE - MARY STAFFORD & HER JAZZ BAND



lindyhoppers Published on May 24, 2012

STRUT MISS LIZZIE
Composed by Harry Creamer & J. Turner Layton
-snip-
[The text about Mary Stafford in the beginning of this sound file is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Stafford_(singer)
"Mary Stafford (ca. 1895 – ca. 1938) was an American cabaret singer in the classic blues style. In January, 1921, she became the first African American woman to record for Columbia Records. She toured widely throughout the mid-Atlantic in the 1920s and into the 1930s. She performed at the Lafayette Theater in New York City, where she appeared in Rocking Chair Revue in 1931 and in Dear Old Southland in 1932.[1] After 1932 she worked outside the music industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she is thought to have died ca. 1938.[1]"

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Example #2: Victor Credenza Victrola, plays Hot Jazz from 1930, "Strut Miss Lizzie" The Hotsy Totsy Gang"

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Bruce Victrolaman Young, Uploaded on Jan 19, 2009

Here is Irving Mills & his Hotsy Totsy Gang from June of 1930. The Composition is "Strut Miss Lizzie" by Cramer & Layton. This is considered one of the greatest "White" jazz bands of this era, and at times included such notables as Bix on Cornet, Hoagy on piano, Celeste and Vocals, Jimmy & Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Joe Venuti on Jazz Violin, and Miff Mole among others. The Record is 10" Brunswick #4983....

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6 comments:

  1. "Sissy that walk" is a contemporary saying that means almost the same thing as "strut your stuff".

    Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/05/what-sissy-that-walk-means-with-video.html for a pancocojams post the meaning of "sissy that walk" and examples of that strut.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't found the meaning of "midnight blonde", but a vintage postcard (c.1920s?)for sale on the internet uses the phrase. The card shows a little black girl in a very big sunbonnet and very short dress. She is standing in a bashful pose with her hands behind her back, peeping out cutely from under her bonnet. The wording on the card says " Iss yo partial to blonds? Ise ah blond - ah midnight blond." But the girl in fact is shown as very dark-skinned, with naturally textured hair.

    Somehow I feel the words may be a quote, perhapsfrom a show, and perhaps originally delivered by an adult woman?There is something slightly unsettling in the juxtaposition of words and image.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, slam2011.

      Thanks for your comment and info about that vintage postcard with the phrase "midnight blond". Based on that example of the dark skinned little girl referred to as a midnight blond, I'm now doubting my guess that that phrase "midnight blond" referred to a light skinned Black female.

      That postcard's caption with its exagerrated Southern Black dialect suggests that that phrase was used facetiously to disparage Black people. Perhaps that's why it's unsettling to you. Btw, what is the link to that internet picture of that postcard?

      I wonder if "midnight blond" in the Strut Miss Lizzy song meant an attractive Black female, since mainstream (read) White cultures have considered blondes to be the epitome of female beauty.

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    2. I doubt that the phrase "midnight blonde" in the early 20th century song "Strut Miss Lizzy" really referred to a Black woman with blonde hair. However, it's become relatively common in the USA for Black adults to dye their hair blonde. Here's a link to a pancocojams post on Black female singers with blonde hair:

      http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/03/seven-black-female-singers-with-blond.html.

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    3. The postcard image is at http://postcards.bidstart.com/BLACK-AMERICANA-Cute-Girl-MIDNIGHT-BLOND-postcard-2023-/22632635/a.html

      I may be overreacting to it, it's drawn in a sort of Mabel Lucie Attwell style I find too sentimental. Also, we police ourselves more these days when it comes to images of children.

      I enjoyed the article on hair. I'd say any grown woman should be free to experiment with any style she thinks suits her. Keeping kids away from chemicals though is just good sense.

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