Did That Song Just Make Fun of Stuttering?

Speech Impediments Were Fair Game For Early Songwriters

Forget The Who with “My Generation” or David Bowie with “Changes.” Stuttering lyrics were once blatant and over the top. Unlike today where some songs contain stuttering verses,  100 years ago, the stuttering was in the title or subtitle.

In 1907 an imaginative songwriter said to himself, “Hey. I’ve got an idea, I’ll write a song about stuttering, it will be a smash!” But he thought it over, “Hmmm,  that’s been done already. What if I added something about having a lisp?”Maybe that is the way the smash hit, The Boy Who Stuttered and The Girl Who Lisped by Louis Weslyn came to fruition.  Two speech impediments are better than one.

Today it seems politically incorrect (and in bad taste.) If songs like this were being produced today, protesters would be lining up to have the songs banned.

Back then, nothing was thought of it; a stutter or lisp would make perfectly acceptable lyrical content. The more outrageous the lyric, the better. Click here to listen to the song performed in 1908 by Billy Murray and Ada Jones.

The unusual thing is that Billy Murray seemed to be very good at fake stuttering and recorded one of the most popular stuttering songs of all-time, K-K-K-Katy “the sensational stammering song success” written by Geoffrey O’Hara in 1917. When you hear Murray’s rendition of K-K-K-Katy in the vocal break towards the end, you will be reminded of Mel Blanc, the famous Warner Brother’s cartoon voice of Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck etc. etc.) . You can be sure Blanc took a page from Murray to create Porky’s stammer as Blanc later recorded his own version of K-K-K-Katy.  Click here to listen to Murray’s K-K-K-Katy.

And while Murray was an accomplished early recording star and performer, and could sing in other styles, he recorded another stuttering song in 1922, You Tell Her I S-T-U-T-T-T-E-R which was written by Billy Rose and Cliff Friend. Click here to listen to the incredibly insulting,  You Tell Her I Stutter. Believe it or not, this song made it as high as number 8 on the popular songs list for 1922.

I can only imagine the songs ahead of it on the chart:

  1. “Let’s Push the Retard Down The Stairs”
  2. “I Love Her, Even Though She’s Fat”

    (Okay… I altered the title!)

  3. “The Hunchback Fox Trot”
  4. “My Wife Won’t Do The Dishes, So A Beating Might Be In Order”
  5. “Stay Away From The Bowery Bums (Or The Bedbugs Will Come Home With You)”
  6. “The Girl Who Threw Up On Me, I Don’t Kiss Her Anymore”
  7. “Oh Gosh Me, Gosh You, I Saw You With A Jew”

For a stuttering song filled with double entendres there is always “Oh Helen” A Comedy Stuttering Song, written by Charles McCarron and Carey Morgan in 1918. The song features this racy (for 1918) refrain:

“Oh H-H-Hel
Oh H-H-Hel
Oh Helen please be mine
Your f-f-feat
Your f-f-feat
Your features are divine
I s-s-swear
I s-s-swear
I swear I will be true
Oh D-D-Dam
Oh D-D-Dam
Oh Damsel I love you ”  Click here to listen to Arthur Fields rendition of Oh Helen.

The lisping, stammering, stuttering, tongue-tied lyrics found their way into public acceptance as these sort of songs were written over a forty year period. Take a look at the sheet music covers for the following titles:

Sammy Stammers J.F. McArdles Great Stuttering Song circa 1874 by J.F. McArdle and Vincent Davies

The Stuttering Song 1894 by Walter Jones and Charles Tatters.

Stuttering Jasper 1899 by Robert Cohn

Possum Pie or (The Stuttering Coon) 1904 by Joseph C. Farrell and Hughie Cannon (also performed by Billy Murray!)

M-M-Mazie 1904 by William R. MacAulay and Thomas S. Allen

Gussie  (Guthie) A Stuttering and Lisping Song 1918 by Royal Byron

Sipping Cider Thru’ A Straw (Thipping Thider Thru’ A Thtraw) A Comedy Lisping Song Ties The Tongue But Loosens The Laugh 1918 by Lee David and Carey Morgan

I’m Always Stuttering 1921 by Sidney D Mitchell and Maceo Pinkard

Lil-Lil-Lillian 1923 by Jack C . Smith

3 thoughts on “Did That Song Just Make Fun of Stuttering?

  1. Eileen Kruper

    I love “The Boy Who Stuttered and the Girl Who Lisped”. I’m 77 now and in my college days a wonderful, 80+ year old woman played and sang it at a tea we students held for a group of senior citizens we had befriended. A few years later, I looked her up asking if she might help me learn that song. She graciously complied and that alone is a wonderful memory. I’ve amused myself and others with that song ever since.
    It’s innocent and charming, and it means no harm to people with speech impediments.

  2. Nolan

    I actually have no quarrel with these songs. I listen to music from 1900-1930 preferably (I love Gladys Rice, Vaughn De Leath, Josephine Baker and Ada Jones especially) and of course you are going to find different social norms. I mean, we have songs about F**cking, and nobody really cares. And “The Boy who Stuttered and the Girl who lisped” is a very cute song for those that haven’t heard it.


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