WFMU Home  |  Reach Us  |  Our Program Schedule  |  Hear Our Signal  |  LCD  |  Support Us
















The first rock & roll record. That's a tough one. Some folks say it's Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88," from 1951. Others, Roy Brown's "Good Rockin' Tonight," from '47. Or maybe it's Big Joe Turner's "My Gal's a Jockey," from '44. But why stop there? If you define rock & roll as the kind of hard-driving, unruly and above all loud music that gives your parents a major rash, the milestone recedes faster than a high-school principal's hairline. It's the Harlem Hamfats' "Oh Red," from '36. It's the Rhythmakers' "Yes Suh!" from '32. It's Duke Ellington's "Diga Diga Do" from '28. It's by Charlie Poole, Gid Tanner, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Where does it end-or rather, begin? My money's on Edison 7317, from 1899.

The song goes like this:

"All Coons Look Alike To Me," sung by Arthur Collins with banjo accompaniment by Mr. Vess L. Ossman, Edison Records.

[Vess L. Ossman: brief display of banjo prestidigitation]

Talk about your coons having trouble,
I think I have enough of ma own;
It's all about my Lucy Janey Stubbles,
And she has caused my heart to mourn.
There's another coon, a barber from Virginia,
In society he's the leader of the day.
And now my honey gal's gwine to quit me,
Yes, she's gone and drove this coon away

[VLO: dramatic cut-time chords]

She'd no excuse
To turn me loose
I've been abused
I'm all confused

[VLO: wild chromatic ripple]

-Uhyeugh, Lawd! [spoken]-
Cause these words she then did sing:
[chorus, whomping on the boldface]
All coons look alike to me!
I've got another beau, you see,
And he's just as good to me
As you
ever tried to be,
He spends his money free.
I know we can't agree,
So I don't like you no how-
All coons look alike to me.

[VLO: a couple of lines of banjo chorus.]

There's another verse, but this should be enough to establish the kind of racist trash we're dealing with here. It's a classic example of the "coon song"-the turn-of-the-last-century genre wherein folks smeared burnt cork on their faces, relaxed their diction and rhapsodized in ragtime about the sweetness of stolen poultry, the keenness of their razors and so forth. Sort of like Eminem, plus visual effects.


WFMU Home  |  Reach Us  |  Our Program Schedule  |  Hear Our Signal  |  LCD  |  Support Us
Search this site

© 2000 WFMU. All rights reserved.