Melodious Mirth 10

Image result for yellow kitten

I know what you’re thinking. Desperate for people to read his posts, he’s finally flipped his lid and started to post pictures of appealing baby animals. Admit it, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to read this corny caption: ‘Aw, just look at that cute liddle puddy-tat!

Well, frankly, I’m hurt. Do you really believe a respectable site like this one would court easy popularity by providing gratuitous eye-candy for people to gawk at? Rest assured, A Nomad in Cyberspace is a kitsch-free zone with a zero-tolerance policy on anything too soft and/or fluffy.

(NB  This policy may be changed without notice if the cat pic produces a sudden stratospheric viewing spike in my WordPress Stats.)

Joking aside – what do you mean, you didn’t know I was? – the above picture wasn’t there for entirely gratuitous reasons. It shows a yellow cat like the one that features in a funny song I recorded from the radio – Children’s Favourites, as I recall, introduced by Uncle Mac – on our brand-new Grundig-made reel-to-reel tape-recorder all those years ago.

It wasn’t the best song on there, by any means. So why is it here, I hear you ask, in the final post of my Melodious Mirth mini-series?

Well, that’s down to the National Film Board of Canada who in 1988 made a great little film out of it. The film took over 15 awards, including a Genie Award for Best Animated Short as well as an Academy Award nomination. It appeared in animation historian Jerry Beck’s 50 Greatest Cartoons, placing at #32, and was included in the Animation Show of Shows.

Anyway, cat-critics, I’m not the only one to sell his soul to the highest bidder. Mr Johnson and the cat were later used in two adverts for Hula Hoops …


Kitten Image: Pinterest

11 thoughts on “Melodious Mirth 10

    1. Yes, this version seems to have lost most of the words. For the sake of obsessional completion, we demand the rest:

      Now old Mr. Johnson had troubles of his own,
      He had a yellow cat that wouldn’t leave his home,
      He tried and he tried to get that cat away,
      Gave it to a man going far away.

      But the cat came back, the very next day,
      The cat came back, they thought he was a goner,
      But the cat came back, just wouldn’t stay away.

      Now the man around the corner swore he’d kill the cat on sight,
      He loaded up his shotgun with nails and dynamites,
      He waited and he waited for the cat to come around,
      Ninety-seven pieces of the man is all they found.

      But the cat came back, etc.

      Gave it to a little boy with a dollar note,
      Told him for to take it up the river in a boat,
      They tied a rope around its neck it must’ve weighed a pound,
      Now they drag the river for the little boy it’s drowned.

      But the cat came back, etc.

      Gave it to man going up in a balloon,
      Told him for to take it to the man on the Moon,
      The balloon came down about 90 miles away,
      Where he is now, I dare not say.

      But the cat came back, etc..

      They gave it to a man going way out west,
      Told him for to take it to the one he loved the best,
      First, the train hit the curve, then it jumped the rail,
      Not a soul was left behind to tell the gruesome tale.

      But the cat came back, etc.

      Away across the ocean he did send the cat at last,
      Vessel out alone today taking water fast,
      People all began to pray the boat began to toss,
      A great big gust of wind came by and every soul was lost.

      But the cat came back, etc..

      On a telegraph wire, sparrows sitting in a bunch,
      The cat was feeling hungry, thought she’d like them for a lunch,
      Climb softly up the pole, when she reached the top,
      Put her foot in the electric wire, which tied her in a knot.

      But the cat came back, etc..

      Now the cat was a possessor of a family of a own,
      With seven little kittens and along came a cyclone,
      Blew the houses all apart and tossed the cat around,
      The air was full of kittens and not a one was found.

      But the cat came back, etc.

      1. Worryingly obsessional, Dave! You tube seems to have a number of versions of this, but not the original lyrics as far as I can tell. But, on the other hand, I did begin to lose the will to live going through them.

        1. ‘Worrying’ is right, Mick! I have been unable to tear myself away from mind-numbing investigations into the various versions. For what it’s worth, the link below has far and away the best guitar picking but my close comparison with the above version reveals that Doc Watson’s down-home vocals omit all reference to dead children, mass drowning, accidental electrocution and kittens. Whether this tells us anything at all about the pusillanimous censorship of folk lyrics at the behest of those prudish busybodies from Tin Pan Alley is a question for another researcher. This one’s just put his foot through the screen …

          1. Yes, good picking but not the lyrics I remember. Perhaps the original has been lost, now. Unbelievable as it may seem, there is music you cannot track down on the internet.

          2. According to Wikipeeks, it was written by one Harry S. Miller in 1893 and has since entered the folk tradition hence, I suppose, all the variations. He specialized in quatrains and often wrote using a Georgian Black dialect. His contemporaries credited him with the popularization of the terms of endearment “honey” and “baby” in African-American English and the spread of ‘coon’ songs. The original sheet music described the song as “A Comic Negro Absurdity” and a 1900 London edition of the sheet music described it as “A Nigger Absurdity”. It tells a silly tale about “ole Mister Johnson” who had an “ole yaller cat” that he did not want, and which kept coming back when he tried to get rid of it:

            But the cat came back, he couldn’t stay no long-er,
            Yes the cat came back de very next day,
            The cat came back—thought she were a goner,
            But the cat came back for it wouldn’t stay away.

            In Miller’s original, the cat finally died when an organ grinder came around one day and:

            De cat look’d around awhile an’ kinder raised her head
            When he played Ta-rah-dah-boom-da-rah, an’ de cat dropped dead.

            After that little lot, don’t feel too clever myself! And I don’t suppose these were the lost lyrics, Mick …

          3. No, they weren’t those, but fascinating to read! I obviously had no idea of the origin of the song or the development of the lyrics. I would imagine that it featured in the music halls of England, especially if there was a London edition of the music. It sounds the sort of thing that would probably have gone down well!

            That’s a lot of information and several very full answers. Thanks, Dave!

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