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Darrell Huckaby - 03/20/09

Whatever happened to silly songs? We used to hear them on the radio all the time. They weren't all by Ray Stevens, either.

A lot were - maybe even most - but not all.

You know the ones I'm talking about, and if you don't, they will come back to you if you keep reading. Remember that burning lyrical question, "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?"

We're going way back now - all the way back to 1958. I didn't know that off the top of my head. I had to look it up. It was recorded by a British group that you've never heard of and even if you swear on a stack of Bibles I won't believe that you remembered their names without benefit of an Internet search engine. I certainly didn't.

But even though I was only 6 years old in 1958, I remember every word of the song - or at least the chorus - probably because Skinny Bobby Harper played it so often on WPLO.

Here's another silly song. Remember the "one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater?" 1958, also - '58 was a heck of a year for silly songs. I think this particular song was inspired by the UFO craze that was sweeping the nation at the time, and I am sure that as a small child I probably drove my parents crazy running around the house singing that song - although I was never quite sure if the creature itself was actually purple or if the creature ate only purple people. I was hoping for the latter, because I wasn't purple - although my lips often turned that color after eating one of the grape Popsicles I would frequently purchase from Hunky John when he drove his ice cream truck up our street.

You don't know who sang that song either, but it was Sheb Wooley. (Don't feel bad. I looked it up.)

Then there was the one about the caveman from the funny papers - Alley Oop. A lot of thought went into writing the chorus of that song. "Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop oop, oop."

I worked with a man named James Darby in the Porterdale Mill, and James loved every silly song the aforementioned Ray Stevens ever wrote. I think his favorite was the one about Ahab the Arab. Remember him? He was "the Sheik of the burning sands." The Ahab song featured Clyde the Camel and at the end of the song Stevens gave us a little bit of "camel talk." You haven't heard anything until you've heard James Darby imitate Clyde the Camel in the Porterdale Mill men's room at quitting time.

Clyde made a cameo appearance in another Ray Stevens hit, "Santa Claus is Watching You."

"He's everywhere! He's everywhere!"

I really liked the song about "Little Egypt," (The Coasters) and can still sing every word. Well, I can't really sing, but I still know every word.

"I went and bought myself a ticket and I sat down on the very first row-ow-ow ... Little Egypt came out struttin' wearing nothing but a button and bow-ow-ow." I couldn't play that song when my mama was in the room, but Daddy didn't seem to mind. I think he must have seen Little Egypt at a hoochie coochie show somewhere. Maybe Phoenix, Ariz., in 1949. If you remember the song you'll know why I suggested that.

There were lots of others of course. "I'm a Nut." "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd." (If you are going to get any of these songs stuck in your head today I hope it's not that one.) The Ray Stevens classic, "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival." We really had that happen at Salem Camp Meeting one time.

And then there was the one where Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, fought the Red Baron. (I'm ignoring "The Streak" and "The Shiners Convention" on purpose.) But my favorite of favorite silly songs has to be ...

Drum roll, please. "One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore."

All together now!

"It ... was ... an ... itsy bitsy, teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini, that she wore for the first time today."

That song was released in 1960 and I think WAPE - The Big Ape - in Jacksonville, Fla., played it at least once an hour while we were at the beach that summer.

Those were the days. I realize there is not a real niche for novelty songs these days, but I hope I brought back a few memories - and put a few smiles on a few faces by reminiscing about when there was. And if you are too young to remember these little ditties, go online and listen to a few of them. We all need every excuse we can find to smile these days.

By the way, it was Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, and I still say you're lying if you claim to have known that. And for the record, chewing gum does lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight - and if it dries out and falls off the bedpost it makes an awful mess in your hair. Trust me. I speak from experience.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.