Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" - "Chubby" Parker and His Old Time Banjo


Set One: Ballads; Disc One; Track Eight: "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" performed by "Chubby" Parker and His Old Time Banjo. "Vocal solo with 5-string banjo and whistling." Recorded in New York on August 13, 1928. Original issue Columbia 15296D (W146878).

Little biographical information exists on Chubby Parker. We don't even know his real first name. He is said to be from Kentucky. During the '20s, however, Parker was a popular figure thanks to his appearances on "the National Barn Dance" radio program, broadcast on WLS out of Chicago. If his other Columbia recordings are any indication, Parker specialized in good-natured rural hokum. His biggest hit was titled "Nickety Nackety Now Now Now."

"King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" is a variation of "Frog Went A-Courting" or "Froggie Went A-Courtin'." Folklorist Steve Roud of Maresfield, East Sussex includes 640 variations of this song in his index as Roud 16. The earliest recorded appearance of this song is in Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland (1548) under the name "The frog came to the myl dur." While many texts of this ballad exist (including a 1580 version cited by Smith in his liner notes), the earliest version with musical notation dates to 1611. According to some sources, the song was originally a satire of Fran├žois, the Duke of Anjou's wooing of Elizabeth I of England.

The song tells the story of a frog who courts a mouse, but first must overcome her other suitors.

Frog went a courtin' and he did ride.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
With a sword and a pistol by his side.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

He rode ’til he came to Miss Mouse’s door.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
And there he knelt upon the floor.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

He took Miss Mouse upon his knee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
And he said little mouse will you marry me.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Miss Mouse had suitors three or four.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
And there they came right in the door.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

They grabbed Mr. Frog and began to fight.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
In the hollow tree 'twas a terrible night.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Mr. Frog hurled the suitors to the floor.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
With the sword and the pistol he killed all four.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

They went to the parson the very next day.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
And left on their honeymoon right away.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.

Now they live far off in a hollow tree.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.
And they now have wealth and children three.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o

Ki-mo-ke-mo ki-mo-ke.
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.
An owl and a bat and a bumble bee.
King kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o.


In his liner notes for the "Ballads" section of the Anthology, Smith writes a short summary of each song. One of the most famous is the humorous summary Smith wrote for this song: "Zoologic miscegeny achieved in mouse frog nuptuals , relatives approve." While funny, the summary Smith writes does not refer specifically to this version of the song. No mention is ever made of their relatives approving of the marriage. In other versions of the song, however, the following line appears:

Their friends and relations gave their consent
And the weasel wrote the publishment.


Clearly, Smith decided that he would have his joke even if this line (or one like it) didn't appear in this version of the song.

This is the second song on the Anthology, after "Old Lady and the Devil," to feature a nonsense verse.

Parker sings the song in a high, almost plaintive voice. His banjo picking is good, but not spectacular. It's far from a virtuoso performance, yet it works because it's fun. When I first heard the Anthology, this was one of the first songs I committed to memory. I sang "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" to my then infant nephew and have since sung it to my daughter. It endures because it is a fun song to sing.

It is interesting that the song maintains its innocence and its childlike nature in spite of the violence of the fifth and sixth verses. That may be because of the "cartoonish" nature of that violence. As in a typical Road Runner or Bugs Bunny cartoon, there are no consequences for the killing of Miss Mouse's suitors. Of course, the battle between the frog and the suitors calls to mind the end of The Odyssey .

See the entries on "The House Carpenter" and "The Butcher's Boy" for more on the banjo.

Here's a performance of "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" by a ukulele player named Todd (he is accompanied by an off-screen banjo).




Download and listen to Chubby Parker - "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O"

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