Monday, July 29, 2013





Nevermind. Let's cover WHO'S YEHUDI, having started in with it via the Jerry Colonna post back on the 9th. And no, Yehudi isn't the former leader of the Blowfish.

Yehudi was of course Yehudi Menuhin. The name Yehudi, along with Yehuda, is a variation on Judah, fourth son of Jacob and Leah in the Old Testament. But…

While the comic question from Colonna had to do with the violinist, the musical question doesn't.

"Who's Yehudi" was asked by songwriters Bill Seckler and Matt Dennis in 1940. The answer? Nobody's quite sure! Lots of clues were given when Martha Tilton sang the number in that year's film "Varsity Vanities." Perhaps to avoid offending Mr. Menuhin, the shellac version, also from 1940 via Cab Calloway, spelled the name "Yahoodi," which was more of a hoot.

There are two theories of how the catch-phrase began. The first one seems a bit of a myth. Supposedly Yehudi Menuhin was announced as a guest on Bob Hope's Pepsodent-sponsored radio show, and sidekick Colonna piped up with "Who's Yehudi?" And kept saying it as long as the audience laughed. Kinda unlikely, huh? Author David Goodman in his book "Radio's Civic Ambition," backs this theory by reporting there was "a guest appearance from celebrity violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1939." However no collector of OTR (Old Time Radio) has that episode of Bob Hope's show and I haven't found any radio listings on microfilm from any newspaper that list Menuhin as a guest. If he was a guest in 1939, it could only have been some time between October and December of 1939, as the acetates or masters from those broadcasts are the only ones that are still lost.

Author John Dunning, in his book "On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio," has a more plausible theory, and it has to do with Bob Hope's announcer Bill Goodwin: "the Yehudi gag grew out of a contest, begun on The Pepsodent Show, to help name Bill Goodwin's new baby. Colonna suggested Yehudi in response to the rise of the Russian-American concert violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The name got laughs from people who had never heard of Yehudi…and the gag was off and running." This version is repeated by Lawrence J. Quirk ("Bob Hope: The Road Well Traveled"). He writes: "When the wife of the show's announcer, Bill Goodwin, gave birth, a contest was held to name the baby. At that time Yehudi Menuhin, the classical violin prodigy, was attracting wide attention (among a completely different class of people from those who listened to Hope, of course) and Colonna suggested "Yehudi!" Before long, the name caught on and came up again and again in sketches and gags until Yehudi became a character _ a mythical person the cast kept searching for— in its own right. "Who's Yehudi?" became a national catch phrase….The Great Menuhin himself was apprised of its use as a gimmick on the Hope show and thought it "vulgar but harmless."

IT'S A HOOT: Who's Yahoodi - Cab Calloway

TILTON'S TOPS: Martha's film soundtrack version

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