Shave and a Hair Cuts 225 Bits, plus tip

If you say “Who framed Roger Rabbit”, then you are definitely a part of my generation. And a fart-knocker. PSYCH!

This one is a little hard to pin down, as the history of idioms and life’s little pop-culture-what-nots tend to be.

So I’m going to suss this out for all of us. You’re probably thinking “who would waste their time on this?”, to which I would say: “don’t you have some spreadsheets to do before you leave today?”

1. The tune (minus words) was first used in an 1899 Charles Hale song called  “At a Darktown Cakewalk. I found a version of that song playing on a 17” Stella Console Grand Music Box (video below) –  so that means at around 1900s this song would be permeating public places in and homes in America through dinking twinky little sounds.

2. Further in 1914 ‘words in rhythm’ showed up in a jaunty little diddy in In 1914, Jimmy Monaco’s “Bum Diddle-De-Um Bum That’s It!” Fuck people were starved for entertainment, but this is getting us to the level of exposure needed to really stay with the general public.

3. Which leads me to 1928 and Steamboat Willy: that famous, ‘first mickey mouse (even though it was the third) cartoon’ we’ve all seen that featured him whistlin’ up a storm up in that tiny wheel house, just turning the shit out of that wheel. That is until a what-may-be-a-racist-looking-character-or-not-its-kinda-hard-to-tell-in-these-old-timey-cartoons, forces Steamboat Willy to work below deck with a bird that gives him lip. He job is to hoist a cow-that’s-too-skinny-for-the-harnesses-they-have-brought-for-him from the dock to the boat with the crane. Hijinx ensue, but this situation is ultimately resolved with a girth-adjusting bale of hay. At some point a goat ingests the sheet music for Turkey in the Straw, along with some sort of stringed instrument, turning himself into a music box. Steamboat, never hatin’on a chance to bust open his skilz, begins an epic musical interlude, switching from playing from drums to a cat, then to a duck, then to set of piglets nursing at a large sow. Never a man to stifle his creative freedom, Steamboat picks the sow up, flips her over so the piglets fall off, and kicks the little bastard who would like to continue to nurse, sending a shower of weird black stars everywhere. He then flips the sow over on her back, and through a combination of squeezing her  like an accordion and pressing her 6 highly engorged teets in different patterns, coaxes a nice toned snort from the terrified animal. Steamboat Willy is a musical bad ass, whose versatility as a multi-instrumentalist is unmatched. He finishes up with drum solo inside of a cow’s mouth. It is HERE, at the end of the song that Steamboat pauses then comically knocks out the notes on the cow’s teeth and tongue the Shave and a Haircut melody and rhythm. This would be of first of many occurrences in countless cartoons, turning the bit into a (in)famous comedy trope. That was 1928.

Now I know you’re thinking, “WTF? There was more to that cartoon than just that scene of him  whistlin’ up a storm up in that tiny wheel house just turning the shit out of that wheel?”. Yes and it’s in the rest of that  7m : 45s movie – of which you know 8 seconds – that we see a perfect example of the knock that would have been seen by the general public in move houses across the nation.

4.In 1939, Dan Shapiro, Lestor Lee and Milton Berle released “Shave and a Haircut – Shampoo” which featured the melody. This is probably where the ‘lyrics’ had come from nearly 40 years after the tune melody itself.

5. Shortly after, the Three Stooges begin to use it heavily as a knock, and might have originated the ‘two bits’ portion.  At that point it would start to show up everywhere.

From here there are stories of pow’s using it in WWII and after to identify each other in prisoner camps as it was solely an American pop culture reference that an impostor couldn’t complete.

Then that weird guy who got steamrollered tried to kill Roger Rabbit with it. Full fuckin’ circle.



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