October 27, 2009

Why isn't anyone famous for whistling anymore?

A question that floated into my head like a distant melody.

68 comments:

AllenS said...

For the life of me, I can't ever remember a woman whistling. Hell, they hardly ever spit.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm sure that could be fixed if we just offered a major in whistling studies...

reader_iam said...

Also, do people gather around a piano and sing for entertainment anymore?

I wonder if the rise of record players especially in individual rooms and, later, personal, portable music players like the Walkman contributed to the demise of such quaint activities, including whistling.

traditionalguy said...

The answer is that no one rests anymore. The act of waiting and enjoying your surroundings is an art lost in the digital age. That is what we go to the Smokey Mountains to do. In Atlanta it is all fast and furious busi-ness.

reader_iam said...

Whistling girls and cackling hens always come to some bad end!


Still, I love to whistle, and have ever since (true story) the prince in a production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" in which I was a chipmunk as a young child taught me how to whistle. He taught me, but I probably had a natural ability inherited from my maternal grandmother, who won a whistling contest (now almost 100 years ago), scandalizing her very conservative family, who no doubt then and there suspected she would eventually leave the faith and become a Methodist.

Which, indeed, she did.

(I miss whistling with my Gram-gram, God rest her soul.)

reader_iam said...

Then there's another possible answer to the question Althouse poses: Many people find whistling annoying, and many no doubt always did.

campy said...

Then there's another possible answer to the question Althouse poses: Many people find whistling annoying, and many no doubt always did.

All the more reason to do it!

WV: disharly — To steal a person's motorcycle

Wally said...

Muzzy rocks.

Sheepman said...

What's with the photo at :45? Seems out of place with the others.

Sheepman said...

For the life of me, I can't ever remember a woman whistling.

True, but Lauren Bacall knew how to.

MamaM said...

When I whistle the "what-cheer" song to the male cardinals staking out territory in our treetops, they promptly answer back. I don't know what it does for them, or how they rank my attempts, but it makes me feel good.

knox said...

Nothing makes me happier than the old guys you run across occasionally, who whistle intricately with all the trills and flourishes.

jaltcoh said...

Andrew Bird is famous for whistling anymore.

jimspice said...

I've always been jealous of people who can whistle with vibrato.

Pogo said...

I only whistle past graveyards.

John Burgess said...

My mother was a whistler, complete with all the trills, flourishes, and vibrato. She won contests as a young woman, but was just whistling around the house when I was growing up.

Operatic whistling, for the most part, actually. She'd always have a classical music station on and would accompany the soloist, no matter the instrument or voice.

chickenlittle said...

I stopped whistling since I started tweeting, so I blame it on Twitter.

traditionalguy said...

I bet that Rh whistles for his dog.

MadisonMan said...

Hey, Obama is coming to Madison!

reader_iam said...

What, to whistle?

Lem said...

I see no reason why it cant make a comeback.

Lem said...

I did get the impression it was used as a filler in many songs.

Call me a critic.

reader_iam said...

I know, or at least think, Althouse dislikes the term "worm" for a musical phrase that keeps looping through one's mind. But due to this post, I've got one, from "Club Whistle."

Cugel said...

MadisonMan said...

Hey, Obama is coming to Madison!
10/27/09 2:18 PM
Blogger reader_iam said...

What, to whistle?
10/27/09 2:22 PM

Dixie?

chickenlittle said...

Feminism squelched whistling.

p.t. fogger said...

When I was in grammar school (mid-late 70's), periodically we were treated to a special program that featured a virtuoso whistler. His shtick was about an hour long, and included audience participation and other hijinks.

No obvious educational content -- just something to entertain the kids.

chickenlittle said...

Also, do people gather around a piano and sing for entertainment anymore?

About 15 years ago or so there was a great piano bar in Denver called Charlie Brown's Bar and Grill. I don't know if it's still there or if the old man who played there, Paul, is still around. The atmosphere was a like a throw back to the 1960's.

Saint Russell said...

What was the last hit record by a whistler? "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" by Whistling Jack Smith (1967) reached #20 on the Billboard chart. Back when music was music, by gum.

AllenS said...

I had completely forgotten about Whistler's Mother. They don't make em, like they used to.

J said...

Probably because it's a grating, irritating noise that should only be used in an emergency, and we (mostly) know better than to use it in music now.

traditionalguy said...

Trains whistle past us in the night. Johnny Cash did good train whistling in Orange Blossum Express and Folsom Prison Blues.

blake said...

It's a lost art.

Like drumming.

traditionalguy said...

Correction: Orange Blossum Special, and Cash uses Bob Dylan's harmonica to whistle with.

Penny said...

"For the life of me, I can't ever remember a woman whistling."

I have a petite friend who can't be more than 5'2" and 100 pounds wet, who sticks her fingers in her mouth and somehow lets out a whistle that makes her sound like she is a 250 pound truck driver.

I prefer listening to Muzzy. That was quite beautiful.

MadisonMan said...

When the son is in the car, he will invariably tune into 93.1 here in Madison, and there is a current song with whistling in it.

Starstrukk.

I note that the video edits out some of the words. Push it baby Push it baby out of control, I got my Gun cocked tight and I'm ready to blow.

Penny said...

And there's always that sweet song from Snow White, "Whistle While You Work", where the birds and squirrels and chipmunks help Snow White clean up her cottage.

Anonymous said...

jaltcoh beat me too it. so instead of commenting on andrew bird's whistling, i'll just say that jaltcoh has excellent taste in music.

or is that an obvious statement that i'm not allowed to say?

traditionalguy said...

And there is the blue bird whistling on Uncle Remus' shoulder in My Oh My What a Wonderful Day from Song of the South. Needless to say, these were for pre-digital effects trained audiences.

chickenlittle said...

And there is the blue bird whistling on Uncle Remus' shoulder in My Oh My What a Wonderful Day from Song of the South.

I just hope we don't have to wait until the year 2039 to enjoy that movie again. I took my kids on Splash Mountain the other day and they had no clue who the characters were nor what the story was about.

John Stodder said...

Years ago, I rented a house where whistling was an ever-present reality.

First, there was my neighbor. An artist and a mom, married to a law prof. When she was doing her household chores, she would whistle. It was the most unbelievably musical whistling I'd ever heard. I looked forward to it.

But on the other hand, the owner of the house also had a gardener who would come by once a week to do the landscaping at our house. He also loved to whistle, but he was completely tone-deaf! His whistle patterns never made any musical sense at all, not melodically nor rhythmically. It was just this random assortment of whistles, but he kept at it for the entire hour or two he would spend in my yard. I dreaded him coming if I was home because I'd have to find someplace to hide from this horrible sound.

I whistle, but not very much. Every so often, though, I'll be whistling someplace and a stranger will stop me and say, "Oh, I love that song!" So I figure I'm doing it right.

John Stodder said...

A great whistle tune: Maria McKee, "If Love is a Red Dress." The whistler is incorporated into the song like another instrument. It's on the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack.

Jeremy said...

Good lord.

Ann wondering why there aren't more "famous" whistlers?

Ponder away...

Duh.

J Lee said...

Ever hear the original ending to "The Andy Griffith Show", used on only the first couple of episodes? Same theme, but whistled at pitch one octave higher than the theme everyone's familiar with, and then still goes up in pitch in the middle. That was some impressive whistling.

traditionalguy said...

Jeremy...The nurse is calling. It is time for your meds.

chickenlittle said...

Stop glumbing-down the happy threads here Jeremy.

Chip Ahoy said...

Charlie Brown Bar and Grille is still in Denver.

I hear tell, there used to be a place out by Centennial Airport that featured a baby grand fixed to a circular rig that was itself rigged to another larger circular rig, so that a pianist would strap himself in and the piano would rotate on two axis. It was called somebody and his flying piano, but I was too young to drink so never had a chance to see for myself.

My friends do stand around a piano and sing. Guitar, flute, bongos, whatever you've got. It hardly takes any alcohol at all to set us off.

chickenlittle said...

Charlie Brown Bar and Grille is still in Denver.

When we lived around there we called it "The Hatch." The nickname evolved from a sequence of nicknames over several months: Charlie Brown's -> Molly Brown's -> Molly Hatchet's -> The Hatch.

wv: "plowd" not lately, thanks.

Penny said...

"Guitar, flute, bongos, whatever you've got."

I keep a tambourine in the trunk of my car for just such occasions.

Penny said...

As an amusing aside, I also have a higher end tambourine that I keep at my house. Someone ordered me a tambourine from Pakistan made with real animal skin. The thing came with its own wrench for tuning! Unfortunately, the thing is way too heavy to be much fun to play, but it does make an interesting conversation starter.

Kirby Olson said...

Leon Redbone whistles remarkably well.

Is he famous? If so, I guess it isn't for whistling.

They should have a Whistling Stars program to revive the art.

My nose whistles sometimes when I'm asleep but no one seems to appreciate it.

Penny said...

Your ear canals provide the perfect accoustics for your nose, Kirby.

Ann Althouse said...

"Stop glumbing-down the happy threads here Jeremy."

He needs some Beech-Nut gum.

John Burgess said...

chickenlittle: It's my understanding that 'Song of the South' has been buried and will never again see the light of commercial day. It is far to racist today and would seriously damage the Disney image.

Much the same, apparently, with 'Heckle & Jeckle' cartoons.

chickenlittle said...

John Burgess wrote:
It's my understanding that 'Song of the South' has been buried and will never again see the light of commercial day. It is far to racist today and would seriously damage the Disney image.

Well, according to cracked.com, Song of the South is only the second most racist Disney image. Wanna know what's the most objectionable? Link

blake said...

Stupid list.

King Louis in Jungle Book was Louis Prima. A white guy.

They're making the connection--of all things, based on Rudyard Kipling's work.

Penny said...

John Burgess, it's too soon to tell what we might be able to talk about.

Obama promised us honest dialogue on racial issues, and he's still short of his first year in on what we all know will be an eight year run at our favorite Washington DC movie theater.

We have YEARS of "character development" to look forward to before we hit the first bit of white knuckle tension.

This "production" is quite exciting so far. Don't you think?

Mark Daniels said...

My daughter, as big a Beatles fan as I am, said to me recently that one of the things she most loved about the Beatles was their whistling. "Going Home" on "Let It Be" is an example. Lennon's whistling on "Jealous Guy" and McCartney's on "The End of the End" are both spot-on perfect for those songs from their solo careers.

[Word verification: gurume, as in "Come on, Maharashi, guru me."]

Mark Daniels said...

I remember either the Animals or the Rascals appearing on a Jack Benny TV special once. (Remember when there were TV "specials"?) Why I confused those two very different bands in my memory, I don't know.

Whoever it was, they played a rocker and Benny, apparently befuddled by what must have sounded like a jumble to him, said, "I'm sure everybody will be whistling that tune tomorrow." If the late Benny could today know how many times "Good Love" is whistled by aging baby boomers, he'd probably be shocked.

Mark Daniels said...

My wife is a whistler. I'm a whistler. But neither of our kids--male, 28, and female, 24--ever figured out now to whistle or had any interest in whistling. That makes me sad.

Mark Daniels said...

I wonder if she whistled?

Mark Daniels said...

She reminded Bogey how to whistle.

reader_iam said...

Mark Daniels!!!

***

Mark, seeing your comments unexpectedly--in these days--pop up out of the blue in my e-mailed, follow-up thread-tracking of this post, brought instant tears to my eyes, because I'll never forget you and your faithfulness. I miss you--and I'll always remember your encouragement and your sense of grace, especially a couple-so years ago, when it so mattered.

Warmest regards,

RIA

Tertium Quid said...

The World's Greatest Whistler is Andy Offutt Irwin of Covington, Georgia.

And he is in Wisconsin right now!

http://www.winnebagopresbytery.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/2009-camp-promo-21.pdf

http://andyirwin.wordpress.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Offutt_Irwin

c3 said...

I always liked "The Stranger" from Billy Joel

menley said...

Jason Castro (from American Idol) has a new song that begins with whistling.

I don't whistle because I don't want to develop unattractive lines above my upper lip.

Mark Daniels said...

RIA:
Thank you for your kind words, although I can't imagine what I ever wrote that would have made such a difference. But then, we don't always know that. Thanks again.

C3:
I don't know, I always found the whistling solo on "The Stranger" too canned, too perfect. Was it really someone whistling? Or did they sample whistling and run it through a synthesizer?

I'm not being sarcastic and I could be wrong. Does anyone know for sure?

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Daniels said...

I was wrong. It really is Billy Joel whistling, apparently. So this says, anyway.