Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oh Mama : Mama Don't Allow It

Julia Lee and her Boyfriends: Mama Don't Allow It


"Mama Don't Allow It" is a very old dance number found in every genre: jazz, country music (I was told about a fantastic version by Western swing singer Milton Brown but I've never heard it so far), Tin Pan Alley, and the blues. John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" is a variant, and the subject is common in folk music.
Two French songs for children are very close to it : one about papa who doesn't want me to dance the polka (but I'll dance anyway), and another one, that my mother stills sings to my daughter, about a mother who doesn't let her daughter go to a dance that takes place on a bridge, but she goes anyway, and the bridge collapses.

The Julia Lee version is my favourite, for its great swinging qualities. A pianist and band leader from Kansas City in the thirties and fourties, she was famous for her double-entendre songs, like "King Size Papa" or "Snatch and Grab It". "The ones my mother told me not to sing", as she used to say.

But in spite of her repertoire, Julia Lee was a very good Mama : she never wanted to leave KC for too long and turned down propositions for extended tours that might have kept her away from her family for too long.

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