07 June 2009

Manic Monday - That's Why They Call Me Shine

My first thought with this word was Dooley Wilson as "Sam" singing "That's Why They Call Me Shine" in the uncut movie Casablanca. It is a fun uptempo song that also happens to be loaded with racial stereotypes. When cut for television, the editors cut many of Sam's musical numbers, but even when they keep some, this is the song that always goes away. When you watch Dooley Wilson, he seems to be having a ball singing it which has always struck me as a little odd, and I wanted to know the history of the song. There was a major surprise waiting for me. It turns out there is a whole introduction that is not included in the movie that is directly connected to the 1900 race riots in New York City.

The lyrics were written in 1910 by Cecil Mack who co-founded what was likely the first black owned musical publishing company in New York. The music was by Ford Dabney, a black band leader and long time associate of James Reese Europe. Among the most noted early performers of the song were George Walker and Bert Williams who were probably the most famous black vaudevillians of their day.

It seems there was a real Samuel Johson who was attacked in the riots. The intro lyric that refers to "Pipe The Shine" is a reference to beatings during the riots. Without the intro as originally written, the song appears to be an insult to African Americans when it was actually written to lessen the pain of the name calling and claiming a dignity not afforded to them at the time. The "recorded by" list of the song is virtually every great black performer from 1910 to today as well as some of the best of the white blues performers who took it on as a jazz anthem.

So let's all sing along with a lesson learned. When things are very, very bad, we can all find a reason to


When I was born they christened me plain Samuel Johnson Brown
But I hadn't grown so very big, 'fore some folks in this town
Had changed it 'round to "Sambo"; I was "Rastus" to a few
Then "Chocolate Drop" was added by some others that I knew
And then to cap the climax, I was strolling down the line
When someone shouted, "Fellas, hey! Come on and pipe the shine!"
But I don't care a bit. Here's how I figure it:

(Lew Brown / Ford Dabney / Cecil Mack)

Recorded by: Harry Allen; Dave Apollon; Louis Armstrong; Sidney Bechet; Acker Bilk; Ruby Braff; Jim Buchmann; Albert Burbank; Chazz Cats; Rosemary Clooney; Al Cohn Quintet; Ken Collyer; Roy Cooder; Billy Cotton & his Band; Bing Crosby; Putney Dandridge; Chris Daniels; Eddie Daniels; Wild Bill Davidson; Dolly Dawn; Barrett Deems; Vic Dickenson; Diz Disley; Roy Eldridge; Les Elgart; Herb Ellis; Lars Erstrand; Eureka Brass Band; Ella Fitzgerald; Chris Florey; Pete Fountain; Four Bales of Cotton; Stan Getz; Nat Gonella; Benny Goodman; Stephane Grappelli; Scott Hamilton; Pat Hawes; Milt Hinton; Art Hodes; Hot Club USA; Hot Strings; Dick Hyman Group; Harry James; Bunk Johnson; Freddy Johnson; Louis Jordan; Mikole E. Kaar; Janet Klein; Frankie Laine; Tim Laughlin; Harry Levine & his Strictly from Dixie Jazz Band; Wingy Manone; Gary Miller; The Mills Brothers; Moreno; Moss & Jacobs; Jimmy Noone; Kid Ory; Poker Dots; Louis Prima; Quintet of the Hot Club of France; Django Reinhardt; Kermit Ruffins; Eric Schneider; Boyd Senter; Frank Sinatra; Willie "The Lion" Smith;Southern Jazz; Jesse Stafford; Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orch.;Ralph Sutton; Swedish Jazz Kings; Jack Teagarden; Rene Thomas; Bill Trujillo; Joe Venuti; Chick Webb & his Orch.; White Lightnin' Washboard Band.
 Cause my hair is curly
Just because my teeth are pearly
Just because I always wear a smile
Like to dress up in the latest style
Cause I'm glad I'm livin'
I take these troubles all with a smile
Just because my color's shady,
That's the difference, maybe, why they call me

Shine, sway your blues'ies.
Why don't you shine?
Start with your shoes'ies.
Shine each place up, make it look like new.
Shine your face up,
I want to see you wear a smile or two.
Why don't you shine your these and thoseies?
You'll find everything gonna turn out right fine
Folks will shine up to ya'
Everybody's gonna howdy doody do-ya'
You'll make the whole world shine

Oh chocolate drop, that's me...
Cause my hair is curly, (man's got curly hair)
Now just because my teeth are pearly, (also got pearly teeth)
Just because I always wear a smile, (oh keep on smiling)
Like to dress us, babe, in the latest style.
Cause I'm glad I'm livin'
I take these troubles all with a smile
Now just because my color's shady (you's a shady baby)
That's the difference, maybe, why they call me...

Shine away your blues'ies
Shine, start with your shoes'ies
You'll make the whole world shine

So here are two versions of a great song performed by two of the greatest: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong


maryt/theteach said...

Listened to both, Jamie! :)

anthonynorth said...

A great song. A kind of reverse psychology to empower.

Villager said...

Happy MM! That is a remarkable story that you've researched. I appreciate very much you taking time to share it with you. I didn't know that history until your post.

I invite your blog readers to shine the light on Caribbean American HIV/AIDS awareness day!

peace, Villager

Jamie said...

There was another "story behind the story" that I will have to do later since this one was so intricate.

Mo said...

What a great 'shine' post, Jamie!
You sure know your songs from Shinola, that's for sure! :)
Thanks for participating in Manic Mondays!

Travis said...

That was fascinating.

laurie said...

was the song "Shine" featured by one of the artistes in the movie "Cabin in the Sky" ?

laurie said...

Was the song "Shine" used in the movie "Cabin in the Sky" in the 40s ?

Jamie said...

No Cabin in the Sky was originally on Broadway written by Lynn Root (lyrics and libretto) and composed by Vernon Duke and John La Touche. It was a great musical. Shine was written much earlier and principally performed in Vaudeville and by band singers.