Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jacob B Lyr Req: Miserlou (63* d) RE: Lyr Req: Miserlou 09 Jan 04

Here's what seems to me like a definitive history of the tune - especially about how the dance got attached to it.


    Misirlou, Never on Sunday, etc. [VERY long]

    From EEFC list

    Excerpted from the 1994 Folk Dance Problem Solver, (c) Ron Houston and
    the Society of Folk Dance Historians. Sorry it's so long, even without
    the instructions and lyrics, but some stories should not be abbreviated.
    Please note that the block quote and footnotes formatting do not appear
    here and that others provided many significant words.
    MISIRLOU (me-zir-loo) = my unhappy one [according to the author, who
    probably knew better but didn't want to confuse the listening public]


    Cuando alegre tu sonries mujer - Spanish lyrics for Misirlou
    Desert shadows creep across purple sands - English lyrics for Misirlou
    Miserlou, Misery Lou - prevalent misspellings
    Misirlou Variations, Never On Sunday, Hasamisu
    Snake Dance - the name among some Girl Scouts

    "Is Misirlou Greek?"
    "Well, a Greek-American re-choreographed the Cretan prototype, making it
    Greek by parantage and early development. Another Greek-American
    selected music which was written by a Greek, making it Greek by design
    and by marriage. And Greeks around the world and especially in Buffalo,
    New York have taken it as their own, making it Greek by adoption."
    "Okay, it's Greek!"
    "But it wasn't created in Greece! And those students weren't creating a
    product of Greek culture! And the music has absolutely nothing to do
    with Greece. Just read the words! It isn't a Greek Syrto, it's a Latin
    Beguine with an Arabian theme!"
    "Okay, it's not Greek!"
    Seriously though, the question of whether Misirlou is Greek or
    recreational, folk or popular, or meritous or not depends on the use to
    which you put it and on your definitions of "Greek" and "folk." So I
    suggest we call Misirlou a Greek dance for purposes of classification,
    but not for purposes of description. That way, you can locate this dance
    description through a search for Greek dances, read the background, and
    decide for yourself.

    Quoting Brunhilde Dorsh (no, she's not Greek):
    In the year 1945, the Duquesne University Folk Dancers, a group of
    girls who shared my enthusiasm for dancing, were asked to participate in
    a music-and-dance program to honor America's allies of World War II. The
    program was titled: "Music and Dance of Poland, Greece, Chechoslovakia
    and Jugoslavia" and was arranged by the Tuesday Musical Club of
    Pittsburgh. I knew no Greek dances, but the girls in their quick and
    enterprising way discovered two girls on the campus who were of Greek
    background: Patricia Mandros and Mercine Nesotas. Both knew something
    about Greek folk dances and Pat could play the piano. (We had no records
    at that time.) Before long we had learned the Hasapikos and Kritikos.
    However, Pat had no piano music for the Kritikos, apparently it was not
    as popular in Pittsburgh as other Greek dances. In desperation one day,
    she brought with her and gave to me a copy of "Misirlou" - an Arabian
    Serenade by Roubanis. She suggested that this music would come as close
    to the right kind of music as anything she could find, and so we adapted
    the dance to this tune.
    When we first performed this dance as "Kritikos" on the above
    mentioned program at Stephen Foster Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh on March
    6, 1945, I carefully explained to the audience that the dance had been
    adapted. After the program the girls, who had learned to like the dance
    very much, suggested using it as a "theme dance" on other programs and
    demonstrations, and thus it began to move off-campus and into the larger
    folk dance world. Monty Mayo, leader of the Community Folk Dance Group
    of Pittsburgh at that time, introduced it in New York. Michael Herman
    first listed it in his catalogue, Standard F-9044, a "Pittsburgh Greek,"
    and eventually suggested calling it "Misirlou" to avoid confusion with
    the genuine Kritikos. The dance was first notated by Mimi Kirkell and
    Irma Schaffnit in their book: Partners All, Places All, E.P. Dutton and
    Company, 1949. I introduced this dance at Oglebay Park camp during the
    Labor Day weekend of 1948. I was delighted to find this dance enjoyed by
    the Oglebayites and by the folk dancers elsewhere.
    As the dance has gone its way, interesting "folk lore" has attached
    itself. For example, the Girl Scouts in this area call it the "Snake
    Dance." A student at Duquesne, who had never seen the title of this
    dance in print, once wrote me for information concerning the availability
    of this record and referred to this dance as "Misery Lou." We still get
    a good laugh out of that and at times refer to it that way ourselves.
    Here endeth then, the story of Misirlou.


    Anne Pittman learned Misirlou at Oglebay and introduced it to Southern
    California in the early 1950s, and this Beguine lilted along, changing
    but little. In the late 1950s, the Armenian community of Southern
    California either adopted or inspired the linked-little-fingers handhold,
    set the dance to Armenian renditions of that Latin Misirlou, and inspired
    a new family of dances, the Armenian Miserlou (see page 1 of this book).

    Art Schrader observed "A circle dance from Greece as done by the Youth
    Group in the Greek Orthodox Church in Buffalo," and presented the
    resultant Syrto at Oglebay Institute, 1955 and at an unspecified
    Pittsburgh Camp. Although he used Liberty Record 17-B, Panagiositsa, a
    Syrto with Helen Yianakakis singing, the dance is identical to Misirlou
    and Misirlou Variations.

    In 1960, Never On Sunday became the first foreign song to win an
    Academy Award and spent 14 weeks on the Top Ten list, inspiring in 1967
    the musical Illya Darling with new lyrics by Joe Darion, and yet more
    lyrics by Billy Towne in 1968. And what does this have to do with
    Misirlou? Well, Bob Wischnick (or Wiechnick), formerly of Wheeling, West
    Virginia, learned Misirlou from Buffalo-area Greeks (sound familiar?),
    allegedly added two Hasapiko-like variations to the Misirlou step, called
    it Hasa Misu, and set it to Never On Sunday. The name, perhaps derived
    from Hasapiko and Misirlou, later became Hasamisu and was said to
    represent the "real" Greek dance from which Misirlou was derived.
    Whether Art Schrader or Bob Wischnick/Wiechnick "discovered" Misirlou
    Variations really doesn't matter now, since they both learned from the
    same source, that Greek Orthodox community in Buffalo.
    By the way, our Greek Orthodox friends here in Austin translated
    hasamisu as a rude phrase meaning "Go engage in sexual intercourse with
    yourself." When you stop laughing, consider this: unless Buffalo Greeks
    or Bob W. perpetrated the name as a jest, it illustrates one problem of
    creating or accepting "fakelore," the problem of translating significance
    from one culture to another. At least one recreational group in America
    is named "Always on Sunday." Good thing they didn't name themselves

    AND NOW:
    The subsequent and continuing decline of international folk dancing has
    not diminished the popularity of Misirlou as Greeks around the world
    embrace it as their own, providing an example of the phenomenon that folk
    dancers legitimize with the label "reverse osmosis." Lest you fret
    further for the future fortunes of faux Kritiokos, know that also
    Eurythmics teachers and Surfers preserve it:

    I taught some folk dances at a summer program for eurythmics teachers
    [...] Of course we had to do Miserlou and they told me how the dance had
    come to be. [...] the Beach Boys recorded a version of Miserlou
    (instrumental only). It's on their Surfin' USA album. It's a bit faster
    than the Miserlou I'm used to - obviously I need to go back and dance the
    original Kritikos/Syrtos Haniotikos to it.

    What's Eurythmics? Well, it's obviously no kin to Eugenics else we might
    not have Misirlou/Never On Sunday/Hasamisu to dance. Quoting Jere
    Paulmeno: "I encourage folk dancers to dance haniotiko syrto to its
    native music. The traditional music of Crete is beautiful in its own
    right, thrilling to dance to, and requires no foreign substitution."

    We had danced Misirlou and Never On Sunday/Hasamisu for some years when
    George Lowrey presented a rather different dance (resembling the Greek
    Slow Hasapiko) to Never On Sunday at the 1967 Texas Camp. Quoting
    George's directions: "This particular version probably originated in
    And Brunhilde? Art Hurst cites the Carnegie-Mellon Alumni News of June,
    1980: "Mrs. [Brunhilde E.] Dorsch retired in May after 42 years with
    Duquesne University's School of Music."

    [Extensive instructions omitted for brevity. They wouldn't format well,

    I was curious about composer Nicholas Roubanis. A little research
    uncovered some of his writings: approximately 8 works on Greek liturgical
    music, a Rumba medley arrangement of Quie'reme mucho, Be'same mucho, and
    Misirlou, and music and Greek lyrics for Misirlou as a Beguine, the
    lyrics of which follow.

    [Extensive lyrics omitted for brevity. They wouldn't format well,

    Also known as Syrtos Haniotikos or Kritikos Syrtos (see page 17 of
    this Folk Dance Problem Solver).
    N. Roubanis. Misirlou. New York: Colonial Music Publishing Company,
    1927, 1934, 1941. Note that this is a Beguine, not a Tango as some folk
    call it.
    Brunhilde Dorsh. "How Misirlou Came Into Being" in Viltis 17:5
    (October-November 1958), p. 21-2.
    "Misirlou" in Let's Dance (April 1962), p. 15.
    "SYRTO Taught by Art. Schrader." in Oglebay Institute 1955 (syllabus).
    Oglebay Park, West Virginia: 1955; and Texas Folk Dance Camp 1967
    (syllabus). Austin, Texas: Texas International Folk Dancers, 1967, as
    reprinted from "Hasamisu" Folk Dance House dance instruction sheet.
    Words and music by Manos Hadjidakis.
    Julius Mattfeld. Variety Music Cavalcade 1620-1961. Englewood
    Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1962.
    Elston Brooks. I've Heard Those Songs Before. New York: Morrow Quill
    Paperbacks, 1981.
    Richard Lewine and Alfred Simon. Songs of the American Theater. New
    York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1973.
    William Gargan and Sue Sharma, eds. Find That Tune. New York:
    Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1984.
    Constance V. Mynatt and Bernard D. Kaiman. Folk Dancing for Students
    and Teachers. Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown, 1968, p 74.
    Stan Isaacs. Internet rec.folk-dancing newsgroup message 4823, August
    12, 1994.
    Warren Kubitschek. internet rec.folk-dancing newsgroup message 4852,
    August 15, 1994.
    "Comments & Letters" in Viltis 44:4 (December 1985), p. 34.
    Texas Camp 1967 (Syllabus).
    Art Hurst. internet rec.folk-dancing newsgroup message 4733, August 9,
    James J. Fuld. The Book of World-Famous Music, rev. & enl. ed. New
    York: Crown, 1971, p. 388.

Copy-pasted from the link cited above.
-Joe Offer-

Post to this Thread -

Back to the Main Forum Page

By clicking on the User Name, you will requery the forum for that user. You will see everything that he or she has posted with that Mudcat name.

By clicking on the Thread Name, you will be sent to the Forum on that thread as if you selected it from the main Mudcat Forum page.
   * Click on the linked number with * to view the thread split into pages (click "d" for chronologically descending).

By clicking on the Subject, you will also go to the thread as if you selected it from the original Forum page, but also go directly to that particular message.

By clicking on the Date (Posted), you will dig out every message posted that day.

Try it all, you will see.