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George Washington Johnson Medley

Title: Medley: "The Whistling Coon," "The Laughing Song," "The Laughing Coon," and "The Whistling Girl"

Artist: George Washington Johnson

Catalogue Numbers: see below

Dates: Released between 1896 and 1902

"The Laughing Song" courtesy of Hiroaki Onishi; "The Whistling Girl" and "The Laughing Coon" courtesy of Arthur Tate.

LISTEN


Here's a special treat for Black History month: a medley consisting of four of the titles recorded by GeorgeWashington Johnson in his lifetime. Though he reportedly recorded only a handful of songs (perhaps as few as six), he cut them for all the major record companies and several minors, and the selections were among the most popular of the day. This medley features two of his recordings ("The Whistling Coon" and "The Laughing Song") as recorded for Emile Berliner's Gramophone in 1896, one from a 1901 Victor disc ("The Whistling Girl"), and one from a 1902 Edison cylinder moulded (flat-top, etched) cylinder. As is apparent from the titles, these songs promote the stereotype of the happy, laughing, whistling darky. Though Johnson was a major artist for the labels in the 1890s through early 1910s—even composing one of his most popular hits, "The Laughing Song"— his career was largely defined by contemporary ideas about the sort of character an African-American could portray.

Listen to the medley to sample his most famous works and visit our slideshow to learn more about this influential artist. Then read below for the lyrics, as they were published in 1894. (Thanks to Tim Gracyk for the sheet music copies.)


Laughing Song (published by Ko-La'r of NYC)
Arranged by Frank Banta
Words and Music by Geo. W. Johnson
Copyright 1894 by Geo. W. Johnson

As I was coming ‘round the corner, I heard some people say,
Here comes a dandy darky; here he comes this way.
His heel is like a snowplow,
And his mouth is like a trap,
And when he open it gently you will see a fearful gap.

They said his mother was a Princess, his father was a Prince,
And he'd been the apple of their eye if he hadn't been quince.
He be the King of Africa,
In the sweet by and bye,
And when I heard them say it why I laughed until I cried.

An actor came to see me, about a week ago,
He said to me come sing a song, down at our little show.
And when he told me about the scenes,
So nice and so complete,
I couldn't stop from laughing from my head down to my feet.

So now kind friends just listen, to what I'm going to say,
I've tried my best to please you, with my simple little lay.
Now whether you think it's funny
Or a quite bit of chaff,
Why all I'm going to do is just to give this little laugh.


Refrain:

Then I laugh ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha,
I couldn't stop my laughing ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha,
Ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha,
I couldn't stop my laughing ha ha ha ha ha ha ha..


Discographical Information (in the order the songs appear in the medley):

  • The Whistling Coon—Berliner 196 (Recorded 1896)

  • The Laughing Song—Berliner 404 (Recorded 1896)

  • The Laughing Coon—Edison Gold Moulded 4005 (Recorded 1902)

  • The Whistling Girl—Victor A-581 (Recorded 1901)

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