UKULELE MUSINGS 2020, No. 34, 8 August 2020: “Cats Are Back!”

Well, it’s been a busy week on the homefront.  Despite sequestration and social distancing, however, we have managed to expand our family here in Northampton!  Yes, after about five years of being deprived, we are once again “catted.”  Thanks to our friends at the Dakin Humane Society we now have not one new kitty but two!  These young “sisters” are getting used to their new home and Alison (our resident “cat whisperer”) and I are making friends and testing new names.  “Uke” and “Lele” . . .

. . . were immediately dismissed by the whisperer—as were “Noho” and “Hamp” . . .

as a tad too partisan or whatever the feline equivalent might be. On the other hand, perhaps “Banny” and “Joey.” Hmmm . . . Probably “No” again says the whisperer in charge.

Meanwhile, I thought I would move on from musing on names to focus this week on the musical “cat world.” Believe it or not, it’s a vast one out there! A feline adventure awaiting . . . 

. . . plus, with due apologies, a couple of cat videos that managed to sneak in via YouTube. Sorry, sort of.

There must be something about cats that sheet music cover artists in the sweet old days were, shall we say, drawn to as there seem to be many, many delightful examples out there—particularly in the early days of ragtime and Tin Pan Alley. 

I am, however, studiously avoiding the likes of the decidedly non-G-rated Kit Kat Klub of the musical “Cabaret,” . . .

or the over-the-top musical “Cats.”  

Digressions in that direction would be, in my humble opinion, a bit too contemporary for one of my simple musings. I must suppose, however, that some of you gentle readers might opine otherwise! Still, to me, there’s nothing wrong with taking a good long look into the musical rear-view mirror. So, let’s put it into reverse and GO!

While most of these are instrumentals that composers believed evoke the proclivities, movements, or attitudes of a variety of cats, the songs seemed to be of little interest to lyricists except for the next tune–sort of. Go figure.

Tap or click on the next image for an original recording of this one-step tune from 1918–with “Me-Ow” lyrics.

Here’s one of the great cat-themed ragtime tunes with a piano score you can follow! Tap or click on the next image to tag along.

Moving on, we would be remiss if we didn’t take a look at a few of the cat-themed ukuleles out there.

For some weird (macabre?) reason black cats seem to be the most musically prevalent.  One can only guess at their popularity.

Aside from Halloween, it’s probably just because of the two- or three-color printing options in the good old days. Or, the Devil made black cats the musical critters of choice! Go figure. (As a disclaimer, our new kitties are grey–one solid, the other tabby striped. No bad luck here, hopefully!)

It’s not a ukulele version but a great blues guitar take on this ragtime tune. Tap or click on the next image for a listen.

While there seem to be a lot of vnerable and, sometimes, singable songs out there about brave and loyal dogs and their devoted owners, this doesn’t seem to be the case with cats or kittens.

Cats are, some say, too aloof to fall into the trap of drooly devotion. 

Hence, cats seem to populate the novelty song genre. Perhaps it’s in their open-mike stage presence. Worth a discussion here.

No one seems to have written anything like “How Much is That Kittie in the Window” or something like that.  But, let’s see what we can find!

Here’s an original scratchy old recording of this one. Tap or click on the next image to check it out.

This one’s a tad more recent–the 1950’s–but it does have a nice animated video to go with it. Enjoy by clicking or tapping on the next image.

Here’s a nicely strummed, updated ukulele cover of this Gay-Nineties tune. The original lyrics, alas, are decidedly non-PC for this day and age, but they are out there for you dedicated musical scholars and historians to pursue on your own. I’ll stick with this sprightly version which you can give a listen to by clicking or tapping on the next image.

And, of course, the perennial instrumental favorite!

Tap or click on the next image to be reminded of this old ragtime chestnut!

So keep socially distanced, . . .

. . . keep sequestered, keep caring for your pets and other loved ones, and STAY TUNED!

Oh, yes.  Stay properly masked!

Not a mask per se–the beard doesn’t cover both nose and mouth– but too good a photo to not include!

And for you owners of technologically savvy cats out there . . .

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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