Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I'm My Own Grandparent - A Tragic Story of Misdirected Mountain Romance

In case you need further confusion, here's the family tree chart!

I love this song for it's fascinating take on Appalachian dating customs.  You have to listen to this song very carefully on you'll get lost. The thing is, it could actually happen legally. In fact, as I've examined the places where my own family tree branches up into the European aristocracy, I find that some of the branches at the top do tend to grow together. In fact I have one multiple great grandmother whose maternal and paternal grandmothers were the same woman, but that's another story altogether and no longer legal in the United States. The unique thing about this song is that no one violates any U.S. laws in this song.

A lot of old-time bluegrass and country singers have picked up this song, originally written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe.  Their group, the Jesters, did it in 1947 after it was first performed by country humor duo, Lonzo and Oscar. Lonzo and Oscar were a kind of 40s version of the 50s duo Homer and Jethro. A lot of famous people took a run at the song. Guy Lombardo and his trio did it in 1948, followed by Phil Harris (who later was the voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney's Jungle Book), Jo Stafford who reversed the sexes and made her her own grandmaw, Kimball Coburn (whoever that is),  Jon Mark and Alun Davies in the 60s as well as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones and the inimitable Ray Stevens. The Muppets even took a swing at the song.  Others, too numerous to enumerate, also took a whack at the song and there was even a Robert Heinlein science fiction short story, All You Zombies in which the deed was done with considerably greater genetic and legal ambiguity by a hermaphrodite time traveler. Tom Arnold even did a version of the story in his movie The Stupids.

Here is the Lonzo and Oscar version from a 50s country TV show my grandmother likely watched religiously.

And wouldn't you know it? The whole thing got started thanks to an anecdote told by American humorist extraordinaire, Mark Twain. Click the links above if you want to hear the other versions of this classic bit of American humor. It's not so popular among the Europe nobility, for some reason. Apparently, the royals don't see what's so danged funny about it.

2017 by Tom King

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