Friday, July 7, 2017

"The Crazy Song" - A Mid 1950 Cheerleader Song That May Be A Precursor To African American Originated Stepping Chants, Foot Stomping Cheers, And Stomp & Shake Cheers

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases two 2015 videos of Crispus Attacks High School (Indianapolis, Indiana) cheerleaders from 1955-1956 singing a rendition of that school's cheerleader song entitled "The Crazy Song". I believe the song's performance by cheerleaders and its lyrics are precursors to African American originated fraternity sorority stepping chants, foot stomping cheers, and stomp & shake cheers.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, historical, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composer of this song and thanks to the women who are featured in this video. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Hat tip to Dan Robinson, the publisher of this 2016 Crispus Attucks cheerleading video : for alerting me to "The Crazy Song" video.

Example #1: Crispus Attucks Crazy Song

19nine, Published on Feb 25, 2015

Butler University honored the 1955 and 1956 Crispus Attucks basketball teams at Hinkle Fieldhouse on February 25, 2015. Their cheerleaders celebrated by singing the Crazy Song once again.
Another slightly shorter YouTube video of this same rendition of "The Crazy Song" can be found on YouTube.

Example #2: Attucks Crazy Song

Anthony Beverly, Published on Jan 31, 2015
This January 2015 video of Attucks High School (Indianapolis, Indiana) cheerleaders singing "The Crazy Song" shows some younger cheerleaders dressed in uniforms are shown singing this song at a program (and not an actual athletic game) in an auditorium/gym. The cheerleaders sing while standing in place, shaking their hips a little bit, moving from one foot to another, and waving their arms to the song's beat.

One woman- Stop
All others- Stop
One woman- Look
All others- Look
All – and take it slow
They can beat everybody
But they can’t beat us.

Hi-de hi-de hi-de-hi
Hi-di hi-di hi-de ho-o
Boh skip bop beat-um
That’s the crazy song.

We’re gonna pull them boys
Right over the line
But they never did mind
They were so far behind
Hi-de hi-de hi-de-hi
Hi-di hi-di hi-de ho-o
Boh skip bop beat-um
That’s the crazy song.
That’s the crazy song!
Transcription by Azizi Powell. (Please correct any mistakes that I made in this transcription. Thanks!)

As indicated above, I learned about Crispus Attucks High School cheerleader's "The Crazy Song" from Dana Robinson, the publisher of a 2016 stomp & shake video of Attucks High School cheerleaders. Dana Robinson's comment that mentions the 1950s Attucks High School cheerleader song entitled "The Crazy Song" was written in response to a previous comment exchange that we had about the current Attucks High School cheerleaders performing in a stomp & shake cheerleading style. Here's one of my comments from that stomp & shake video's discussion thread:

Azizi Powell, July 6, 2016
"Dana, the Facebook comments* about the Attucks cheerleaders were very interesting. I'm assuming from those comments that this stomp & shake style of cheerleading isn't common in Indianapolis.

Some commenters mentioned that this style is common in the South (I'm assuming that those commenters meant among a number of African American cheerleading squads in parts of the south. -Note One person on that Facebook thread from Miami wrote that this is the way cheerleaders cheer in that city. But I've read comments from people in Texas who were unfamiliar with this cheerleading style.) ....


Here's Dana Robinson's reply to that comment:
Dana Robinson, July 6, 2017
"Azizi Powell This style of cheerleading isn't very common in the USA. The Attucks cheerleaders from even the 1950's did some cheers like this. Look up "The Crazy Song" on YouTube. I think there is an interview of some of those cheerleaders singing it. The song was written by one of the students from Attucks back then.
As you mentioned, only the southeastern states mention cheering in this manner. It may stem from sorority /fraternity stepping but, it being that there is a history dating back to the 1950's of some form of this, I don't know. However, looking at some of the African styles of dance, I think it may have come out of those."
I thanked Dana Robinson for sharing information about Attucks High School's "The Crazy Song" cheerleading song. I also wrote "With all due respect, I disagree that cheerleaders in the 1950s did cheers like what we now refer to as "stomp & shake cheerleading" unless you are referring to the self-bragging and opponent insulting elements of "The Crazy Song" and not to its performance style."

I mentioned to Dana Robinson that I had taken the liberty of transcribing "The Crazy Song" and I referred her to this pancocojams post for my additional thoughts about this song.


The type of song:
Crispus Attucks High School's mid 1950s cheerleading song entitled "The Crazy Song" and the way that it is sung remind me more than anything of the singing traditions of historically White (University based) Greek letter fraternities and sororities*. Those singing traditions also influenced the past and present day singing customs of historically Black (university based) Greek letter fraternities and sororities.

Note: One widely known example of a PWI* (predominately White Institutions) fraternity song is "The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi". Like BGLOs (Black Greek Letter Organizations), PWI have self-bragging and competitor organizations' insult chants. However, I'm not that familiar with the history of PWI songs/chants and therefore I don't know whether their songs also included/include competitor organization insults, and if so how long that content has been included in PWI songs.

*"PWI" (predominately White institutions) is an acronym that I've often seen online for historically White Greek letter fraternities and sororities, particularly in online discussions among members of historically BGLOs (Black Greek letter organizations)

The singing style
From the two different videos* that I watched of Attucks High School cheerleaders singing "The Crazy Song" it appears that the cheerleaders sung/sing that song while standing in place, clapping their own hands in accompaniment, and moving side to side or from one foot to another to the song's rhythm/beat. This singing style- and particularly the swaying back and forth while accompanying the singing with individual hand claps-is the same way that I recall seeing PWI fraternities and sororities sing their songs in the "quad" during their "Sing Outs" at the predominately White college that I attended in the mid 1960s. That said, one difference between the PWI fraternity and sorority "sings" that I recall and the second "The Crazy Song" video in which the cheerleaders sing at an actual game is that the cheerleaders appear to sometimes move their hips to the beat of that song, and moving one's hips wasn't something that PWI sororities (let alone fraternities) did. Also, moving one's hips was -and largely still is- considered anathema to many proponents of mainstream cheerleading.

It should also be noted that historically Black [university based] fraternity and sorority chanting and stepping evolved from those groups' singing while standing in place and also (perhaps later in the evolution of this performance art) while marching around the university campus.

*My guess is that the January 2015 video of the Attucks High School cheerleaders singing "The Crazy Song" during a program may have been done as a tribute to that school's 1950s cheerleaders and not a usual part of the contemporary cheer repertoire of that high school. The cheerleaders who were shown appeared to be standing relatively in place and (it seems mostly unsuccessfully) directing or encouraging people in attendance at the game to sing and/or clap along with them.

While an Attucks cheerleader in that second video at auditorium/gym program is shown moving from one foot to another to the beat of that "Crazy Song", that movement isn't the synchronized, metronome-like percussive, bass sounding stomps that characterized foot stomping cheers, not to mention that this movement activity isn't done in a group as is the case with foot stomping cheers.

With regard to the subject of stomp & shake cheerleading, I agree with Dana Robinson that stomp & shake cheerleading movement performances were/are greatly influenced by BGLO stepping, and other African American/African/Caribbean dramatic elements such as pattin juba (rhythmically alternating hand clapping with knee or chest patting), and leaning forward in an aggressive stance toward your opponents. But I think the words of many stomp & shake cheers were/are more directly influenced by girls' self-bragging and opponent insulting foot stomping cheers. Click for a pancocojams post on foot stomping cheers.

The Attucks High School (Indianapolis, Indiana) mid 1950s cheerleader song entitled "The Crazy Song" and most stomp & shake cheerleader cheers have different focuses. The cheerleaders singing "The Crazy Song" mildly* brag about their basketball sports team by mildly* putting down (insulting, dissing) the opponent's team. Also, unlike stomp & shake cheerleader cheers (and foot stomping cheers, and historically Black Greek letter organization stepping chants), even the title of "The Crazy Song" mildly self-deprecates the cheerleaders who are singing it (and/or their athletic team players).

In contrast, in many stomp & shake cheerleading cheers, the focus isn't on the athletic game being played or on the cheerleader's athletic team or their opponent's athletic team. Instead, in many stomp & shake cheers the focus is on the cheerleading squad and/or their opponent's cheerleading squad.

Furthermore, although the cheerleaders sing this song, they use the "voice" of the basketball (or football?) players: i.e. "We’re gonna pull them boys/Right over the line".

*These brags and insults are "mild" given in comparison with later self-bragging and insulting songs, chants, and cheers. Yet the very fact that this song includes self-brags and opponent insults distinguishes it from many mainstream cheerleader cheers of the 1950s, and aligns it closer to the African American originated chants and cheers that I've mentioned.

To clarify, I believe that stomp & shake cheerleading appears to have begun (in Virginia and North Carolina) in the early to mid 1970s or the early 1980s as the latest beginning date.

Note also that the "hi di hi" chorus in this song is a form of scatting. The "hi di hi" vocalizations were popularized by Cab Calloway's 1934/1935 "Hi di Hi" song. Click for a vintage film clip of that now classic Cab Calloway "hi Di Hi" song.

I believe the video starts with one woman saying the word "Stop" and then everyone else saying the word "stop" and the same woman saying the word "look" and everyone else saying "look". If that's correct, then that brief call & response pattern may be significant in that a lot of contemporary cheers (including a lot of stomp & shake cheers) begin with a captain or lead caller starting the cheer and then the entire squad chanting and performing the cheers.

The song has a moderate tempo which isn't very percussive (using today's criteria). The women clap own hands to the beat and maintain that same beat throughout the entire song. This is similar to the metronome-like way that girls doing foot stomping cheers alternate (individual) hand claps with their own foot stomps. However, in this mid 1950s cheerleading song, the woman stay standing in place and sway back and forth while singing this song and there don’t appear to be any foot stomps.

Any additional information and comments about this cheerleader song or cheerleader songs like it would be greatly appreciated.

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