Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

He can knock eleven ladies for a loop-a

I'm finally getting around to checking out the historical novelty musical madness that is YouTube and boy oh boy is this addictive. It's a treasure chest of songs and clips and performances I have literally been searching out for decades. I used to sort through hundreds of boxes of 78s and sheet music at flea markets to find the occasional jewel, but the yield is hundreds of times greater on YouTube. For example, I've been looking for a song about Princess Papule (who has plenty papaya) since I first heard tell of the song nearly 40 years ago -- and there it is on YouTube, several versions of it. Unfortunately it turns out that most of the performances on YouTube are from modern groups that have unearthed the sheet music and who overdo the suggestiveness. I mean, come on, if you've got lyrics that say "The Princess Papule has plenty papaya and she loves to give it away" you absolutely do not need to emphasize the sexual nature of the lyrics. In fact, you wholly ruin both the joke and song if you do.

So forget about the Princess. Instead consider Yuba, who plays the rhumba on the Tuba. Who plays the rhumba on the Tuba down in Cuba (oompah-oompah-oompah). And who has led me to a clip I'm absolutely obsessed with.

I first heard this song many years ago (at least 30, probably more) when the NYC PBS station would sometimes show some odd sing-along films from the 1930s called "Screen Shorts" made by the Fleischer Studios. I remember Baby Rose Marie (who grew up to be Sally Rogers) belting out "Love Thy Neighbor" (which I remember for the painful rhyme of "Walk up and say how be ya'; Gee but I'm glad to see ya', pal"). I also remember the Mills Brothers in their early years singing (a cappella) "When Yuba plays the rhumba on the tuba". The musical phrase has stayed in my head all these years. So I thought that maybe YouTube would have the film clip. YouTube, unfortunately, does not have the film clip I'm looking for -- or any of the bouncing-ball clips I'm remembering, which makes me think they fall under copyright. I have found a listing of the clips on the web, but not the clips themselves.

Disappointing as this was, it did lead me to a gem of a clip I have become obsessed with, and it's not even a vintage clip. It turns out that "When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba" is not all that rare of a song. There are many old recordings of it, including a horrific one by Rudy Vallee (who I have read was an absolute asshole, and you just have to listen to his pretentious recording of this song to believe it -- he trills his Rs and pronounces "Rhumba" as "roombah"). It also has been arranged as a novelty piece for tuba and band, and it gets played a lot it seems.

What I've found that I love so very much is a recording of an unnamed community band in an unnamed location playing this piece, with a tuba player who sings -- and who is identified only as "Paco" but that may be a joke. Now tubas really don't lend themselves to melody like this -- if you've ever heard a tuba play the piccolo line for the Stars and Stripes Forever (as which of us bandies has not) you'll know what I mean. But this guy just has an absolute blast. He switches registers. He triple tongues. He riffs outrageously on the melody. He's also really cute.

That alone would be fun, particularly since absolutely everything about the clip is completely familiar, in an old-home comforting sort of way, to those of us who have spent countless hours standing in the back of the band at outdoor venues like this. But then halfway through the clip this guy puts down his tuba and starts to sing the song. My ears perked up and my jaw dropped because he sounds EXACTLY like a 1940s big band singer (except he does a little bit more rhythmic playing than a big band singer would have done). When the melody drops down low he plays with his tone.He wiggles his eyebrows at the suggestive lines (in pleasure at the words, it seems, not so much in lewdness). I love that at 1:52 he wiggles his hips on the one word "mean" ("He blows a meeean horn"). His intonation is astoundingly clean. Then he picks up his tuba again and goes into more tuba tour-de-force, playing more notes per measure than any arranger would dare give a tuba (at about 2:50).

There's also a clip on YouTube of Lawrence Welk's tuba player (Buddy Hayes) singing and playing this song. He may be a professional, but he can't hold a candle to Paco.

As I say, I'm just obsessed with this clip. Maybe you'll want to play it over and over as well:

There's still a song I've been looking for all these years that I haven't found yet. In the New York area back in the early seventies there was a radio show called something like "Danny Stiles Trivia Nostalgia", on which they played 78s. I could swear I once heard a recording of the Andrews Sisters singing a song about Hokokus New Jersey, and I seem to remember the line "The fracas will be raucous when Hohokus meets Secaucus". Perhaps that will appear on YouTube someday as well and then my life will be complete. But only if "Paco" sings it.

[FOLLOWUP: One of the recordings on YouTube is of a 78 of Harry Reser's orchestra playing this song, and the singer is a classic vaudevillean bright-voiced tenor who rings out on the top notes, but when the melody line at the end of each verse goes way down (the melody is meant to be an instrumental thing really, not a vocal line) he goes into rhythmic talking, while the tuba plays the melody he should be singing. So bravo Paco for being able to handle it.]
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.