March 25, 2021

"You Never Did That Before."

Here's Buster Keaton with Cliff Edwards playing one ukulele (in the 1930 movie "Doughboys"): 

And you might think this goes to show that you can't predict what will be the next Althouse post, but there is a flow here, and if you understood it well enough, you did have a chance at predicting that this charming duet would be the next thing. 

Yesterday, there was a post about a musical tribute to Joe Biden's accomplishments. It was comical — including the way it made some conservative men cringe — but I told you it gave me chills, and I ascertained that the chills were caused by the amazingly effective music from "The Little Mermaid," "Part of Your World."

That led me to play what I think is clearly the most beautiful song from a Disney animation, "When You Wish Upon a Star." But who is the singer? It's Cliff Edwards, AKA Ukelele Ike. I read about him at Wikipedia:

Edwards was born in Hannibal, Missouri [in 1895]. He left school at age 14 and soon moved to St. Louis, Missouri and Saint Charles, Missouri, where he entertained as a singer in saloons. As many places had pianos in bad shape or none at all, Edwards taught himself to play  Ľukulele to serve as his own accompanist (choosing it because it was the cheapest instrument in the music shop). He was nicknamed "Ukulele Ike" by a club owner who could never remember his name.

He got his first break in 1918 at the Arsonia Cafe in Chicago, Illinois, where he performed a song called "Ja-Da", written by the club's pianist, Bob Carleton. Edwards and Carleton made it a hit on the vaudeville circuit. Vaudeville headliner Joe Frisco hired Edwards as part of his act, which was featured at the Palace in New York City—the most prestigious vaudeville theater—and later in the Ziegfeld Follies.

He recorded many of the pop and novelty hits of the day, including "California, Here I Come", "Hard Hearted Hannah", "Yes Sir, That's My Baby", and "I'll See You in My Dreams"... "Paddlin’ Madeleine Home" (1925), "I Can't Give You Anything but Love" (1928), and the classic "Singin' in the Rain" (1929), which he introduced....

He also recorded a few "off-color" novelty songs for under-the-counter sales, including "I'm a Bear in a Lady's Boudoir," "Take Out That Thing," and "Give It to Mary with Love"...

I couldn't find "Take Out That Thing." I tried! Wait — there's a different title: "Mr. Insurance Man" ("She said: Mr. Insurance Man, take out that thing for me... I crave some indemnity.... Oh, Mr. Insurance Man, let me take out that thing. Let me look at your policy.... Oh, Mr. Insurance Man, take out that thing for me. Let me see the numbers on that policy, just how much I'm gon' get").

In 1929, Cliff Edwards was playing at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles where he caught the attention of movie producer-director Irving Thalberg.... Edwards had a friendly working relationship with MGM's comedy star Buster Keaton, who featured Edwards in three of his films. Keaton, himself a former vaudevillian, enjoyed singing and harmonized with Edwards between takes. One of these casual jam sessions was captured on film, in Doughboys (1930), in which Buster and Cliff scat-sing their way through "You Never Did That Before"....

And that's when I found the clip I'm featuring in this post. 

Anyway, Edwards went on to play Jiminy Cricket in Disney's "Pinocchio" and the lead crow in "Dumbo." In the 40s, popular taste turned away from his style, toward "crooners" like Bing Crosby. But then there was TV, and he had his own show in the really early days of television — 1949. And he used to appear on "The Mickey Mouse Club," which I remember watching (in the 1950s), but I do not remember ever being this good:

Fantastic! There's some sad stuff in the Wikipedia article — alcoholism, late-life destitution. Read that if you like. But I highly recommend searching his name on Spotify (or wherever) and listening. Such a distinctive voice, many peppy, jazzy songs. If you ever — like me — went through a phase where you loved the Jim Kweskin Jug Band or Leon Redbone — not to mention Tiny Tim — you'll love it, I bet.

37 comments:

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Back when SNL was fresh their musical guests were interesting and I’m forever grateful for the introduction to Leon Redbone via SNL.

Rick.T. said...

Ukulele or guitalele?

LYNNDH said...

Oh yes Leon Redbone. I had the pleasure of seeing him live at Chautauqua in Boulder. What a performance it was.
Actually I did kind of like Tinny Tim too.

Wince said...

Althouse said...
And you might think this goes to show that you can't predict what will be the next Althouse post, but there is a flow here...

I couldn't find "Take Out That Thing."


Speaking of LBJ, Biden and Clinton.

Joe Smith said...

Buster Keaton's life story is fascinating...

khematite said...

The guy on the left is Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck in the 1940s Disney cartoons. Personally, I was hoping that this video would give us a glimpse of Annette, who helped usher a generation of young American boys into prepubescence.

wildswan said...

What IS the difference between propaganda music and popular music?

rhhardin said...

Biden reality czar "When you wish upon a tsar"

rhhardin said...

Onassis was buying a house in Hollywood, in particular looking at Buster Keaton's home. Newspaper caption: Aristotle contemplates the home of Buster.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

He also recorded a few "off-color" novelty songs for under-the-counter sales, including "I'm a Bear in a Lady's Boudoir," "Take Out That Thing," and "Give It to Mary with Love"...

But he didn't make a career out of it like Bullmoose Jackson or Bo Carter.

Lars Porsena said...

The guy playing air-bass with the bayonet was making me nervous.

rhhardin said...

I've played guitar with gf's, I finger and they strum. Can only be all-string chords though, which limits the classical guitar repertoire.

All-string chords are that ukulele necessity but I don't know that there's a tradition of lesser chords on the uke.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Since Pinocchio was long gone from the theaters when I was growin up, we learned about Jiminy Cricket from Walt Disney Records 45s. I didn't even know he appeared in cartoons.

Who could forget

I'm No Fool!

and

You Are A Human Animal

?

wildswan said...

I guess there is drive to harness that great common emotion we're all feeling as we step free from covid and a drive to pretend that we'll also step out into a freer, better world brought on by the Recovery Act. But there's a crisis on the border and part of it is that the border-crossers are spreaders. Unmasked, unwashed travelers, they are just what the gov has being telling us not to be. And these border-crossing-spreaders are being sent through the country by the gov. We might have to lockdown again due to the gov. We'll be locked up again because of No Border Biden and the South American spreaders who are bringing in the variant covids and being released all over the US. Harris is supposed to to handle this and then become President and then not having handled it, tell us to lock down. I don't see propaganda overcoming the emotions that will be generated.

Kai Akker said...

Love the implausible logic of that scene. Reminded me of the Fleischer Bros. cartoons, in whose universe most physical laws are suspended to wonderful or amazing effect. Betty Boop, Bimbo. The '30s had a sense of humor going for them, at least.

Hard to listen to Buster's croaks, though, as that was part of the end for his fantastic talents.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Brian Wilson has said "Surfer Girl" is based on "When You Wish Upon A Star".

PM said...

Keaton's body of work is phenomenal.

Kai Akker said...


Betty Boop and a ukelele, when the USA was a freer place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFK037QL-_M

Fernandinande said...

"Do you want to learn to play the banjo?"

Fernandinande said...

Betty Boop and a ukelele, when the USA was a freer place.

Smoking! I like to watch people smoke, but not so much in cartoons.

And it had "racist stereotypes" too, a misleading term for effective caricatures.

Sebastian said...

"I told you it gave me chills, and I ascertained that the chills were caused by the amazingly effective music from "The Little Mermaid,""

Are you sure it wasn't the lady's hair that gave you the chills?

Anyway, gentlemen, behold exhibit #3998 showing that we are well and truly -- you know.

Fernandinande said...

Buster Keaton with Cliff Edwards playing one ukelele[sic]

I'd be surprised if the ukulele sound on that clip was produced in the manner shown because you can hear the strumming (quick arpeggio) that tapping with drumsticks wouldn't produce.

Ozymandias said...

Cliff Edwards appears in the terrific Cary Grant-Rosalind Russell comedy, (1930), directed by Howard Hawks. He is one of a quartet of cynical newspaper reporters hanging around a city hall press room that also included Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, and Regis Toomey. No singing, but some of the greatest “rat-a-tat” dialogue in any film.

BUMBLE BEE said...

Betty was instrumental in bringing censorship to movies. Her cleavage and garter leg and her bootie were quite outrageous for the times.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Cliff Edwards appears in the terrific Cary Grant-Rosalind Russell comedy, (1930), directed by Howard Hawks.

That would be His Girl Friday

Ozymandias said...

For some reason, Blogger erased the name of the movie in my previous comment: "His Girl Friday."

Ozymandias said...

H/T to Churchy.

BUMBLE BEE said...

A censored Betty, but still killin it... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSxzenLlr68

Howard said...

Playing the ukulele badly is the required talent to be accepted into Tiki Bar culture.

Narr said...

Thankee, Prof. Primo finds, and Redbone reminders are always in order.

A lot of that whistling sounded pretty wolfish to me . . . all those little fannies shaking . . .

Narr
Dare call it twerking

Openidname said...

Love Keaton. Love Edwards. Love Doughboys, and have it on DVD. Thanks for reminding me of this lovely moment.

P.S. "The guy playing air-bass with the bayonet" was the director, Eddie Sedgwick.

Openidname said...

"PM said...

"Keaton's body of work is phenomenal."

Keaton's body was phenomenal, too, IYKWIMAITYD. There's a shower scene in Doughboys where he shows much of it off.

Krumhorn said...

I think the Buster Keaton clip is an example of farting and burping at the same time. And all in one take!

- Krumhorn

First Tenor said...

Great music! Did you ever notice just how much Gary Gensler, Biden's pick to run the SEC, looks like Jiminy Cricket?

rcocean said...

When you wish upon a star has to be the greatest Disney Music song. OTher good ones:

I Wanna Be Like You
The Bare Necessities
Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat
A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart
MakesSupercalifragilisticexpialidocious
The Siamese Cat song.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I was suspicious, but you sold me. "When You Wish Upon a Star" is the best of Disney, and that whole album "Ukulele Ike Sings Again" was wonderful.

Robert Cook said...

"Betty Boop and a ukelele, when the USA was a freer place."

I guess that depends on how you define "freer," and for whom.