Tag Archives: Tin Pan Alley

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. Continue reading