The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8432   Message #2786108
Posted By: GUEST,tony the song scholar
11-Dec-09 - 10:25 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Deep Elem Blues / Deep Ellum / Deep Elm
Subject: offcolor notes
nice website here--finally found the lyrics to "deep ellum blues," which i had mistakenly thought was "deep vellum blues" (seemingly pronounced that way on a smithsonsian recording i have).

what i learned in folklore grad school (there actually are a couple left around the country, although the one i went to at UCLA is pretty much defunct) is that there was a whole offcolor vocabulary from the early 20th century, originating in the black communities, where there was a lot more honesty about such things, and then picked up by the whites, to titillate (don't you love that word?) themselves, then becoming completely "innocentized". here are some interesting ones:

daddy and mamma--these appear commonly in white pop music in the 30s, 40s and 50s. it refers to a casual sexual relationship--no children involved at all. "deep ellum blues" uses it quite obviously. "sugar daddy" derives from it.

seafood--fasten your seatbelts, here comes the explicit. "seafood" refers to cunnilingus. (hey, i used the latin/medical term, okay?) i love listening to the andrews sisters singing to the white folks, "hold tight! i want some seafood, mamma ..." as if we're all heading for the oyster bar.

salty dog--this is related. it refers to the male member after withdrawal, implying full consummation. "if i can't be your salty dog, then i won't be your man at all ..."

my source? the late professor d.k. wilgus, perhaps the foremost authority on anglo-american ballad traditions. i wish he had lived longer and i could have studied with him more. he seemed to know everyone--we had the likes of willie dixon and lou gottlieb as guest speakers in his classes.