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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Swingin' the Alphabet: The Three Stooges

"And no, I didn't wanna to play it, but I get requests for 'Swinging the Alphabet,' every show. Must be a lot of Larry, Moe, and Cheese fans out there." ~ Eddie Gorodetsky, Saturday Night Hi-Fi Party, 1978

Cheesy, yes, but catchy, too.  If you're one of the multitude who grew up watching the terrible trio on TV, "Swinging the Alphabet" is likely to be one of your clearest memories from a Three Stooges short. The novelty number was sung by the boys in their 19 and 38 film, Violent is the Word for Curly, a parody of the title of a popular film from a few years earlier, Valiant is the Word for Carrie. The version that Eddie G. played on his WERS radio show was probably taken from a 19 and 59 LP on the Coral label,  "The Nonsense Songbook," where it was retitled as "The Alphabet Song."

Although everyone from director Charley Chase to one or all of the Three Stooges was credited with composing "Swinging the Alphabet," it was actually adapted from a song written some 60-odd years earlier by one Septimus Winner under the title, "The Spelling Bee," a discovery not made until 2005 by film historian and Stooges buff, Richard Finegan.

Now let me see what you can do,
And spell for me, Bicki-bi-bo-bu.

CHORUS 1: B, A, Ba, B, E, Be,
B, I, Bicki-bi, B, O, Bo,
Bicki-bi-bo, B, U, Bu,
Bicki-bi-bo-bu. ~ "THE SPELLING BEE" (1875) Humorous Song and Chorus.

Interestingly Winner, a popular 19th century songwriter, also composed "Listen to the Mockingbird," which was used as the theme music for the early Three Stooges shorts, until eventually replaced by "Three Blind Mice." According to Finegan's article, director Charley Chase's maid was fond of singing "The Spelling Bee"'s chorus to his children, and he brought the tune into the studio for the Stooges when they needed a melody to break up the action in Violent is the Word for Curly.

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