Tag Archives: WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY EVERY WAY

O KATHARINA!

After reading Hal Smith’s insightful piece on just how Sid Catlett plays on the 1943 record of O KATHARINA, I found myself wondering about this song that Eddie Condon had remembered as a special favorite of Bix Beiderbecke’s.

Or, to put it another way, who was KATHARINA and why did she make someone go OH?  Or “O”?

Online I found the song’s lyrics (courtesy of the Duke University Libraries).  Music by Richard Fall, lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert.  Gilbert is known for WAITING FOR THE ROBERT E. LEE and RAMONA. 

Readers of tender sensibilities will find that the cheerful anti-feminist and “weightist” stereotypes of the time offensive, but right now I am trying to sing along . . . with only limited success.  I believe, incidentally, that the song has three parts — a “patter” section before the verse and chorus.  

 

O KATHARINA

Again we have the Chauve Souris

They come to us from ‘cross the sea

With something new they always do

For me and you

A new contagious melody

The rage of London and Paree

They brought along

And now this song is going strong

For Balieff instructs them all

He makes you sing it with him

Before you go you’re bound to know

The melody and rhythm

And then next day while on your way

You hum and sing and long to play

 

Oh Heinie sailed from Rotterdam

He stopped off first at Amsterdam

To meet his bride then side by side

They took the ride across the sea

To Yankee land

He furnished up a flat so grand

And there she sat

So big and fat

Down at their flat

One night he took his wiffie out

They went to see the Follies

He thought that she was such a queen

Until he saw those Dollies

When they got home

He shook his head

Then to his wife he turned and said

 

Chorus:

 

O Katharina, O Katharina

O Katharina, O Katharina, to keep my love you must be leaner

There’s so much of you and 

Two could love you

Learn to swim, join a gym, eat farina

O Katharina, unless you’re leaner I’ll have to build a big arena

You’re such a crowd, my Katharine

I got a lot when I got you.

(In the second chorus, a summary tells me, Katharina loses weight and gets so appealing that all Heinie can say, admiringly, is “O KATHARINA!”  In the spirit of fairness, we never find out how much he weighs.  The patriarchy set to music and all that, of course.)

Delving deeper into these matters, I asked Lorna Sass — jazz photographer by night, Grain Goddess and Queen of Pressure Cooking by day — for her opinion of farina.  She told me that perhaps Gilbert needed an easy rhyme for the heroine’s name.  “Farina isn’t a diet food,” she said, “but maybe it was healthier than what Katharina usually ate.  But farina isn’t a whole grain — too much is removed in the processing to make it shelf-stable forever.”  (That’s Lorna’s award-winning WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY, EVERY WAY.)

I’m surprised and amused that “join a gym” was a common phrase as far back as 1924. 

The sheet music advertises O KATHARINA as an all-purpose song: “Walk-Around One-Step Song or Shimmy Fox-Trot,” which covers all the possibilities.  And since it was part of the CHAUVE-SOURIS (“The Bat”) touring revue supervised by Balieff, this song is an early example of a piece of art referring to itself, very modernistic for the time.     

I can hear Bix and the Wolverines taking this one on, and perhaps Joe Oliver had his own version — Jess Stacy remembered Papa Joe playing UKULELE LADY, so he was not averse to pop songs of the day.  Hal Smith thinks of Doc Cook and Freddie Keppard: the bands must have had a good time with this one.  (There’s a Sam Wooding recording of the tune made in Berlin in 1925, available on the Red Hot Jazz website.)

P.S.  Hooray for “finding-out-new-things,” a gratifying activity that doesn’t stop when you graduate . . . !

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REQUIRED READING!

Readers of this blog know Lorna Sass as a fine jazz photographer.  She captures the essence of her subjects and conveys it in a single frame.  Her jazz pedigree is impeccable: she admires the living (Wycliffe Gordon, Jon-Erik Kellso, Kevin Dorn, and others) and the departed (Louis, the Brothers Mills, and the Sisters Boswell).

But Lorna is a woman of many talents.  She’s an established journalist, travel writer, essayist, culinary historian, medieval scholar, and the author of fifteen award-winning cookbooks.  Her specialties are whole grains, quick healthy meals, pressure cooking, and vegan cuisine.  In the picture below, she’s on the left (with red eyeglasses) next to Mollie Katzen.  The night this picture was taken, both of them had won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for their new books.  Lorna’s was WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY, EVERY WAY.

lornasassmolliekatzen

Lorna has just started her own blog — LORNA SASS AT LARGE. You can get to it by way of my blogroll.  The web address is http://lornasassatlarge.wordpress.com

Because I admire insightful prose, I’ve been enjoying her essays on Sicily, popcorn, Chinese takeout, and other delicious subjects.  And her wonderful photographs.  She improvises nimbly over the chords and never turns a predictable phrase.

You might work up an appetite while reading her blog, but you’ll leave it feeling satisfied.

And I promise I won’t be jealous if you visit her blog first.