Monday, April 09, 2018

Well, Who Knows what "Diddy Wah Diddy" means? Peg Leg Sam?

Now that's the face of the blues, huh? Scarred up "Peg Leg Sam" also had one leg, which made him quite an authentic and colorful sight for the white musicologists who haunted small Southern towns trying to document the origins of rhythm and blues. 

Not quite as unlikely as Andrew McCrew, hobo Arthur Jackson (December 18, 1911 – October 27, 1977) survived his hobo railroad accident, and hobbled along, with humor and style, singing all kinds of tunes. Below is his take on "MR. DITTY WA DITTY." 

If you want to spend your time studying word origins, you'll find that "Diddy" in most slang dictionaries, is a variation on "Titty." You'll also find a cousin in "Diddly," which generally means nothing. Literally. "You don't mean diddly" is a popular term in the South where most people not only don't mean diddly, they don't mean diddly squat. Unless they're singing a ditty. 

If you feel like it, you can go way past Bo Diddley and his "Diddy Wa Diddy" (which he recorded in 1956 and credited to himself (as Elias Daniel) and co-writer Willie Dixon) to the old days of Fats Waller and his pal Andy Razaf. It was Razaf who wrote "That's What I Like About the South," which mentions a certain town:

“Did I tell you about the place called Doo Wah Ditty? It ain’t no town and it ain’t no city. It’s awful small, but awful pretty, that Doo Wah Ditty.”  Among those mystified by the lyrics was Jack Benny. When Phil Harris had a hit with “That’s What I Like About the South,” Jack got into a comic argument with Phil: “What is a Doo Wah Ditty? That’s all I ask!” Replied Phil: “Doo Wah Ditty is a town located in the southern part of the state at the foot of the Wah Doo Ditty Mountains and on the bank of the Ditty Wah Doo River…famous because it runs backwards.” 

Oh. But you can go backward even further. Arthur Blake (aka Blind Blake) recorded "Diddie Wah Diddie" in 1929: 

"There's a great big mystery
, and it sure is worrying me: 
this diddie wah diddie,
 this diddie wah diddie. 
I wish somebody would tell me what "diddie wah diddie" means.

Some little girl about four feet four:
"Go in, papa, and get me some more
...of your diddie wah diddie,
 your diddie wah diddie." 
I wish somebody would tell me what "diddie wah diddie" means...." 

It's likely most white people, especially the clueless Dutch and the Swedes, first heard the question sung by Leon Redbone. Leon is Dickran Gobalian, born in Cypress back on August 26, 1949.  Critics loved his cool way of wearing all white, quietly sitting with his legs crossed, and using a black singing voice. Especially if the alternative was listening to "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" (written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and turned into a white hot hit by Manfred Mann, after it was first recorded by The Exciters.) 

Whatever you think a Diddy might be (and Sean Combs switched to Puff Daddy and then to P. Diddy because he thought it was cool to P with his Diddy), you'll enjoy Peg Leg's authentic take. So take it: 

Mr. Ditty Wa Ditty listen online or download - no egocentric passwords, tip jar requests or jerky "Enjoy!" exhortations 

1 comment:

Timmy said...

Very interesting. I still stand by my opinion, although, that the best version is by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, from 1966.