Dec 122010
Performing as Mae DeLove

Performing burlesque as Mae DeLove

I’m taking the day off today. I’m watching the rain come down and listening to old dirty blues songs from the 1920’s and 30’s. Later I’ll sew some stockings and make some soup. It’s all good.

I adore hokum blues, especially the female performers. Like burlesque, hokum evolved with the vaudeville circuit and like burlesque, it features women who aren’t afraid to put their sexuality out there. I appreciate the sense of humor, the glamour, the honesty, and the lusty attitude about sex. It makes me happy to see that 100 years ago, women were singing about what they wanted in bed.

Of course, most of it is thinly veiled. Innuendo is delicious fun. It’s a talent to be able to suggest something sexual using vanilla language. The delivery is everything — if you say it right, anything can sound “dirty.”  Of course, when I’m in the right frame of mind, I can hear something sexual in everything – and that’s most of the time. I guess it’s that balance between implication, delivery, and perception that makes innuendo work.

One of my favorites is an old blues song called “My Handyman” performed by Ethel Waters. Here are a few of the lyrics so you can see how great the innuendo is. I don’t even know what she means by some of this stuff, but you just know it’s dirty…

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

“Why, he shakes my ashes, greases my griddle
Churns my butter and he strokes my fiddle
My man is such a handy man (oh yes he is)

He threads my needle, creams my wheat
Heats my heater and he chops my meat
My man is such a handy man

Yeah you know my ice don’t get a chance to melt away
Cause he sees that I get that fresh piece every day
My man, my man is such a handy man
And I ain’t kiddin’!”

And “Press my Button (Ring my Bell)” by Lil Johnson expresses a sentiment that I think many women today would agree with…

“My man’s out there in the rain and cold
He’s got the right key, but just can’t find the hole
He says, “Where’s that thing?
That thing-a-ling?
I been pressin’ your button, and your bell won’t ring!”

Bessie Smith’s “I Need a Little Sugar in my Bowl” is a classic that most people are familiar with. This is loaded with well-known inneundo…

“I need a little sugar in my bowl,
I need a little hot dog between my rolls
You been gettin’ different, I’ve been told,
move your finger, drop something in my bowl
I need a little steam-heat on my floor,
Maybe I can fix things up, so they’ll go”

And it’s more recent, but totally in keeping with hokum blues – Dinah Washington singing “Long John Blues” about her “dentist”…

“He took out his trusted drill and he told me to open wide
He said he wouldn’t hurt me but he’d fill that hole inside
Long John, Long John, you’ve got that golden touch
You thrill me when you drill me, and I need you very much”

I love it! What are some of your favorite euphemisms?