Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Ladies And Gentlemen, Children Too" Playground Rhyme

Edited by Azizi Powell

The Pointer Sisters: Wang Dang Doodle [1974]

Uploaded by SafariCreations on May 22, 2009

This post presents examples of and suggested sources for certain words to the playground rhyme "Ladies And Gentlemen, Children Too".

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes. The copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to all the contributors of these examples presented in this post. My thanks also to The Pointer Sisters and to others associated with the performance, production, and uploading to YouTube of the video that is featured in this post.

[Presented in relative chronological order]

Example #1 (movement rhyme)
Ladies and gentlemen, children too
This brown girl
She gonna boogie for you
She gonna turn all around
She gonna wear her dresses up above her knees
She gonna shake her fanny just as much as she please.
I never went to college.
I never went to school.
But when it comes to boogie,
I can boogie like a fool.
You go in out, side to side.
You go in out, side to side.

[Here's a second rhyme that the contributor indicated is sometimes sung right after "Ladies And Gentlemen"]
Hey baby, how about a date?
I'll meet you round the corner
'Bout half-past eight.
Hands up!
Tachie Tachie Tachie
Hands down!
Tachie Tachie Tachie!
Tachie Tachie Tachie
Hands down!
Tachie Tachie Tachie!
- Barbara Ray (African American female), memory of childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s; collected in November 1996 & in August 2009 (second interview) by Azizi Powell
I asked Barbara what "Sans Boots" meant and she said she didn't know. She said that it was just something they sang.

[For their record, there's some discrepancy about my transcription of these two rhymes. The words that I believe I wrote in the first interview in 1996 were somewhat different than the words that Barbara sung to me in the 2009 interview.]

I have since learned that that "how about a date...half past eight" rhyme is one that was sung as a "skipping rhyme" in the UK in the 1950s and also as a verse in the "I'm A Nut" rhyme in the USA.
Click for a pancocojams post about the rhyme "Hey...How About A Date".

Example #2 (dramatized skit)
Fast forward to current time. The guys(yes boys) at campfires and Diocese-wide events here in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark (NJ) do a dance off to the following with one guy sitting down after each sing through. I'll check around, but I know it goes back to the mid 1990's

Seven little sisters
Like to boogie down
Like to turn around
Like to touch the ground
Like to wear their skirts above their knees
Now they've never been to college
And they've never been to school
But when it comes to dancin'
They can boogie like a fool.

Hands up, shake-shake, shake, shake
Hands down, shake-shake, shake, shake
To the front, to the back to the side, side, side
to the front, to the back, to the side, side, side

Six little sisters.....
-Tinker, "We Wear Our Hair In Curls" , August 23, 2009

[continue counting down "five little sisters", "four little sisters" etc]

In another comment on that discussion thread, Tinker shared that wrote that this camp (called "The Eagles Nest") in the Newark, New Jersey area was a racially/ethnically integrated summer experience for high academic achieving girls and boys. It appears to have been part of the camp's tradition that only the boys performed "Seven Little Sisters" for fun as part as a performance for the entire camp.

Tinker posted a query about this song on that camp's alumni page. Other posters remembered this song, and one remembered it having been sung by boys "in the 1960s". But neither Tinker nor anyone else knew where it came from.

My sense is that the title and lyrics "Seven Little Sisters" has nothing at all to do with the term "Seven Sisters" as used for either the astronomical constellation, the Greek mythology, the Hoodoo referent or any other referent. Instead, it seems to me that in that children's rhyme "seven little sisters" is just a way of counting down the number of "girls" who are performing that rhyme.

Example #3 (movement rhyme that serves as an introduction to song "Wang Dang Doodle" by The Pointer Sisters); transcription by Azizi Powell from the video [additions & corrections welcome

[Intro to song “Wang Dang Doodle” performed by the Pointer Sisters without any backup instrumental music, and accompanied by the audience handclapping]

Thank you!
Here we go:

Walkin down the alley, alley, alley
Shakin your jally, jally, jally.
Swingin your partner, partner, partner.
LADIES, and gentlemen, children too
These brown babies gonna boogie for YOU.

[Do motions as indicated; For “boogie” & “cha cha cha”, wiggle your hips from side to side]

They gonna turn around,
And touch the ground
They gonna step back, and step back
And boogie on down.
Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Ah Cha cha cha cha.
To the front, to the back, to the side by side
To the front, to the back, to the side by side
To the front, to the back, to the side by side
I never went to college,
I never went to school
But when I came back
I was an educated fool.

[One of the performer's say "Come on! Join in. Ya’ll love it!"; Drum beat begins]

Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Ah Cha cha cha cha.

[increase tempo]

Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Ah Cha cha cha cha.

[tempo remains the same]

Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Cha cha cha cha.
Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Cha cha cha cha.

Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Cha cha cha cha.
[music begins for the song “Wang Dang Doodle]
Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Cha cha cha cha.

Hands up! Ah Cha cha Cha cha
Cha cha cha cha.

["Wang Dang Doodle" song begins at 1:32]
- ; Uploaded by SafariCreations on May 22, 2009 [That video is posted at the top of this page]

Example #4 (jump rope rhyme)
Ladies and gentlemen
Children too,
This young lady's
Going to boogie for you.

She's going to turn around. (Jumper turn around)
She's going to touch the ground. (Jumper touch ground)
She's going to shimmy, shimmy, shimmy (Jumper wiggles hips)
Till her drawers fall down.

She never went to college.
She never went to school.
But when she came back,
She was a nasty fool.

Source: Knapp (1976), posted on

Example #5 (performance activity not given)
down down baby down by the rollercoaster
sweet sweet baby, I'll never let you go
shimmy shimmy coco pop, shimmy shimmy rah!
shimmy shimmy coco pop, shimmy shimmy rah!
I like candy, I like tea, I like a little boy
and he likes me.
so step off jack, your hands are black
your looking like a monkey on a rail road track
To the front to the back to the side by side
To the front to the back to the side by side,
Ladies and gentlemen children too
this old lady's gonna boogie for you
she's gonna turn around
touch the ground
boogie boogie boogie till her pants fall down!!!

this version i remember from when i was little..i loved it!!
-GUEST,guest..jenna; October 1, 2010 "We Wear Our Hair In Curls".

UPDATE October 19, 2013
Example #6:
Any number can be substituted for "three". Dancers do the actions suggested in the chant. They boogie* or clap on the "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha".

Ladies and gentlemen and children, too,
Here are three girls gonna boogie for you,
They're gonna turn all around,
They're gonna touch thee ground,
They're gonna shake their shoulders,
Till the sun goes down.
Hands up! Ha-ha, Ha-ha-ha.
Hands down! Ha-ha, Ha-ha-ha.
Got a penny, call Jack Benny. Ha-ha, Ha-ha-ha.
Got a nickel, buy a pickle. Ha-ha, Ha-ha-ha.
Got a dime, ain't it fine. Ha-ha, Ha-ha-ha.
-Margaret Taylor Burroughs, Did You Feed My Cow: Street Games, Chants, and Rhymes (Chicago, Follet Publishing Co., 1969, previously published in 1956; p. 67 [African American children, Chicago, Illinois]

*Boogie = dance shaking your hips

[The source for the lines]
Never went to college
never went to school
but when it comes to boogie
I'm an educated fool

[or similar lines]
Unknown African American composer/s

Found in Dorothy Scarborough's On The Trail Of Negro Folk-Songs (Folklore Associates, Inc. edition, 1963, p. 71; originally published by Harvard University Press, 1925)

"Old Jesse was a gemman.
Among de olden times.

N****r never went to free school.
Nor any odder college,
An' all de white folks wonder whar
That n****r got his knowledge."...

-end of quote-
Editorial Notes:
This is not the same song as the African American secular slave song & old time banjo song [Here Comes]"Uncle Jesse".

In this post, the word "n****r" is the way I choose to write the pejorative referent for Black people which is now commonly known as "the n word".


"Free schools" were the schools that were established for African Americans immediately after the end of the United States civil war. "Whar" ="Where".

"Boogie" = "dance". There are many African American dance songs that include the word "boogie". Among those songs is Boogie Chillun - John Lee Hooker (1948).

UPDATE August 4, 2013
A song entitled "Jennie Jones" (also given as "Jenia Jones") is a tantalizing possibility for the primary source of the African American children's rhyme "Ladies & Gentleman, Children Too". In a 1927 version of "Jennie Jones", Jennie (Jennia)'s suitor eventually learns that she is dead. That song even has a refrain of "Very well, ladies; Ladies and Gentlemen, too." The first point connects that song to the African American children's rhyme "Aunt Jenny Died" and the second point (also) connects that song to the Afriacn American children's rhyme "Ladies & Gentlemen, Children Too".

*I found the song "Jenny Jones" in this 1927 collection of American children's rhymes: Book of Games for Home, School, And Playground (William Byron Forbush, Harry A. Allen; Chicago, The John C. Winston Co}

"Jenny Jones" is NOT the same as the song "Jenny Jenkins", although both of those songs include lyrics about the woman wearing different colors.

Here's an excerpt from a post about the history of the "Jenny Jones song" from
"This [Jenny Jones] This game has a well-developed dramatic structure and has as its prevailing theme the nature of death. It appears in Gomme, in Newell, and in the Opies (1985:254-60) as well as in other collections. Gomme (1:260-83) has seventeen variants, with slightly different instructions, and apparently received so many submissions that she didn't print them all. The game has been the subject of poetry, and was the source of a popular American song, "Jennie Jenkins." [Italics added to highlight this sentence.]

Also, a discussion thread about the history of the United Kingdom Morris Dance "Sweet Jenny Jones" adds more information about the origin of the Jenny Jones songs. In particular, read this comment by Margaret from that discussion thread: about the popularity of 19th century "Jenny Jones" figurines and a 19th century song about Jenny Jones and her lover.

[UPDATE June 5, 2014] - Phrases: "sans boots", "sam BOOM", and "alla bostia"
"Sans boots" is included in an example of the playground rhyme "Hey Baby How About A Date" that I collected from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

"Sam boots" - with the word "boots" being emphasized- is chanted by The Pointer Sisters in their introduction to their performance of the song "Wang Dang Doodle" [1974]. In both cases it appears that those phrases may not have any meaning other than their exclamatory sound. However, I believe that it's likely that each of those phrases are folk etymology forms of the word "boom" that is found in the title and refrain of the 19th century vaudeville song "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay". According to this theory, "boots" as an exclamatory word developed after the exclamatory word "boom".

"Alla bostia" is another exclamatory phrase that I found in a sexualized version of the rhyme I refer to as "We Wear Out Hair In Curls" in "Do kids still do clapping rhymes?" Guest ,Tianna; December 30, 2005.

There's no information given about how "alla bostia" is pronounced, but I think it sounds like "ah lah boost tee ay", particularly because I believe that that entire phrase is a folk etymology form of the song title "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Aye".* And I believe that the word "boom" in that title/refrain just represents a bass sound and not the sound of a gun firing or dynamite exploding.

*The rhyme "She Wears Her Hair In Curls" uses the same tune as "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Aye". Another song that uses that tune which is probably familiar with many Americans "It's Howdy Dowdy Time", the theme song to "Howdy Dowdy", an American children's television series.

By the way, in 2009 I wrote a comment about those phrases in a Mudcat discussion thread that I started about the "We Wear Our Hair In Curls rhyme that I wish I could edit today (but there's no editing feature on that site and for various reasons, I'm not going to post a new comment to that thread.) While I still believe that those phrases under discussion developed from the title/refrain "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Aye", if I were writing the comment that today I would be far less certain “alla bostia” means “begin” when it is found near the beginning of a rhyme and "san boots" or "sam boots" mean "the end" when they are found at the end of a rhyme.

For a brief time recently I considered whether the phrases "san boots" and "sam boots" might [also?] be American folk etymology forms of the phrase "om pom push", "am bam bush", "bing bang boosh" and other similar ending lines that are found in the British counting out rhyme "eenie meenie miney mo"/"eena meena mackeracka" and other similar phrases)*. However, I'm inclined to doubt that conclusion since I think that it's somewhat unlikely that African Americans who used "sans boots, "sam boots" and [probable also "alla bostia"] in those playground rhymes I've mentioned had any knowledge about those British rhyme endings.

*Click for a number of examples of those rhymes.

Also, very recently [when I learned about that word], I wondered if the phrases "sans boots" and "sam boom" have anything whatsoever to do with the drag slang word "boots", but I think that possibility is doubtful. I think it's more likely that that drag term which emphasizes what had just been said comes from the idiom "to boot" (meaning "in addition to"), and I still think that "sans boots", sam boom" came from the word "boom" in the "Ta Rah Rah Boom De Aye" song. Of course, both of these conclusions could be true. Click for a post on that word.

This video is posted at the top of this page.

Here's information about the song "Wang Dang Doodle" from
"Willie Dixon's Blues stomper "Wang Dang Doodle" became the second hit for the Pointers Sister in 1974. On the original 1973 recording they are backed by the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils."

RELATED LINKS "Front Back, Side To Side In Children's Rhymes"

** "Choo Choo Ch Boogie & A Few Other Boogie Songs"

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