Sunday, July 09, 2017

SWEET VIOLETS - anticipation comedy from HOMER & JETHRO

    “Anticipation comedy” is a very simple way of getting a laugh. In fact in our 21st Century, it’s considered too simple. But for quite a while, the formula worked. 

    I remember “us kids” singing the “Lulu” song. We thought it was so clever: 

    “Lulu had a steamboat. The steamboat had a bell. Lulu went to heaven, the steamboat went to —
    Hello Operator, give me Mr. Glass. If you can not find him. I’ll paddle your —
    Behind the fridgerator…” 

    And on and on. 

    (Parenthetically, another form of “Anticipation comedy” was perfected by Mantan Moreland, using a variety of vaudeville partners. Instead of relying on actual jokes and complicated mis-hearings, like “Who’s on First,” the routine simply involved cutting off the sentences like a know-it-all. “Mantan, what’s your brother doin’ now?” “He’s working down here for a man. They payin’ him a salary—“ “He can live that cheap??” “You got him wrong. He gonna get married.” “To whom?” “He’s gonna marry the daughter of —“ “She’s a nice girl. Well…” “You got some dirt?” “One time I —“ “That was her sister.”) 

    Along with “Shaving Cream,” the notorious version of “Sweet Violets” got the laughs by NOT rhyming the expected word: SHIT. You anticipated it, and got the laugh-producing surprise of a silly chorus instead.   

    Could the radio play that kind of thing in the 40’s? Definitely not. But “Sweet Violets” DID get played in a different version. 

    And so it was that later, as the dj spun his disc, that his face, it just stayed ghostly, ‘cause the disc was not a risk. Cy Coben (who worked quite a bit with Homer and Jethro) created the acceptable version, partnered with Charles Grean. Homer and Jethro’s version starts out with the familiar, if not downright annoying “Sweet Violets” chorus: 

    “Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses,  Covered all over from head to toe. Covered all over with sweet violets,” a bit of crummy schmaltz that goes back to 1882 and the forotten Joseph Emmet. From there, it’s time for anticipation and denial: 

    “There one was a guy who invited his pals out to a burlesque show to
    LOOK at the scenery for it would be well worth the trip, when a gal came on stage and she started to
    CRY, ‘cause a clown with big putty nose walked out on the stage and said “Peel off your
    GLASSES but…” 

Now, the rude version of “Sweet Violets” was well known, and the Cy Coben version, less so. So you can imagine, in 1951, how surprised disc jockeys were when they received copies of the new Dinah Shore single from RCA, and it was, yep, “Sweet Violets.” 

Her version, which made it to #3 on the charts, is pretty similar to the Homer and Jethro version. But let’s give it to our boys Homer and Jethro, since they are STILL under-appreciated and STILL haven’t gotten that Bear Family boxed set of all their RCA Victor sides, which they deserve.

Homer and Jethro 
Sweet Violets   Instant download or listen on line. 

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