UKULELE MUSING 2021, No. 4, 23 January 2021: Waiting, Waiting, Waiting . . .

I don’t know about the rest of you strummers out there but, to me, the past few months (year?) have been ones of WAITING.  Waiting for “this” to end, waiting for “that” to begin, waiting for things to “go away,” waiting for things to simply “get better.”  The year without ending–2020.

There is, of course, the so-called “light at the end of the tunnel” but the route through seems long and the number of tunnels ahead are unknown–politically or pandemically. 

But, while there is always “hope,” my musical muse this week is pushing me toward the more pensive words of “waiting,” “wait,” “waited.”   

Let’s start with one of the earliest so-called “wait songs.” This was “Wait for the Wagon,” first published in 1851, that became a popular dance tune during the Civil War and an advertising freebie for the earliest of automobile companies.

Tap or click on the next image to hear a re-interpretation of this oldie. No ukuleles in this one but there is some good finger picking on a fretless banjo. You don’t hear one of those played that often!

There’s a batch of similar songs out there from those good old musical days, so—no more waiting, gentle readers—here we go!

By far, most of the “waiting songs” deal with the absence and anticipation of finding romance or reuniting with it.

Here’s this song from the movie “The Harvey Girls” sung by Kenny Baker. They girl isn’t Judy Garland, the star of the film, rather it’s Cyd Charisse–a much better dancer! Click or tap on the next image or link to see them in action.

While much of this longing had to do with good old boy/girl romance, the separations of wartime brought on particularly poignant songs.

Still others could be construed as a bit of salacious longing for an amorous lover’s (or over-amorous lecher’s) tryst.

And it gets worse: turns out our lover boy is a phone stalker, way back in 1919:

“Willie Snow each night would go to see his sweetheart Flo.
Her folks would always sit around the room until he’d go.
Willie never had a chance to be with her alone,
But this is what he’d tell her when he’d call her on the phone:

Wait ’till I get you alone!
Wait ’till I get you alone!

When there’s no one around to see,
I’ll make you give me all the love you promised me.
Wait ’till I get you alone.

When there is nobody home,
Your mother surely ought to know I love you so.
But she don’t understand and I want her to know,
That I’m not made of ice because my name is Snow!

Oh, wait ’till I get you alone… “

And, of course, others were just about waiting for something good to happen—luck or romance.

This one was a wartime favorite. Tap or click on the next image or link for a ride on this one.

Here’s another “waiting song,” this one by Jimmie Rogers who, as the “Singing Brakeman,” has some serious railroad cred!

Click or tap on the next image or link for a ukulele–plastic, no less–version of this sad, sad song.

First trains then ships! Here’s a recording of this one by the old crooner himself. Click or tap on the next image or link for a soothing, but melancholy, listen.

Now, on to something a bit peppier! This one is a great ragtime tune from 1912 that has found it’s way onto the vaudeville stage and into several movies over the years.

Alas, too many of the YouTubes of this tune feature a bit too much minstrel or blackface imagery for this little musing, but here is one take that captures the lively tune without too much tarnish. Click or tap on the next image or link to check out a pair of our favorite performers, doing their version of a “shuffle”–one of them backwards and in heels!

So, as some of the things we have waited and waited for have come to pass, and others are on the horizon, we still play “the waiting game.”

This Irving Berlin song was recorded by many singers back in the early days of the Great Depression. Tap or click on the next image or link to hear an Ethel Waters version from 1929.

This one is probably one of the most performed of the “wait songs.”

Here’s an early recording of this oldie. Tap or click on the next iamge or link for a lively version.

And, of course, we have a ukulele version of this one with some pretty fancy finger picking! Click or tap on the next image or link for a listen.

So, wait, but stay safe; wait, but stay sequestered; wait, but stay masked . . .

and—above all—wait and STAY TUNED!

As long as we’re not naughty!

And, let’s NOT wait without a sense of humor!  How about adding ukuleles to waiting rooms?

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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