4-F Papa/The Cowboy Song – Ruth Wallis

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Once upon a time, there was an early recording medium called 78 rpms. They were shaped as flat disks, most commonly made of shellac, that could be tossed clear across the room with relatively no damage. They were magical things.

These 78 rpms were so called because, in order to play the recording correctly, it took the machine that played them (non-electronically, in the early days!) 78 revolutions per minute to play the recordings that were pressed upon them. Sometimes they were love songs and sometimes they were vaudeville routines. Sometimes they were speeches, and sometimes they were silly novelty songs!

Here are two of those silly novelty songs, sung by Ruth Wallis. Ruth Wallis was famous for singing novelty songs that often had double meaning, some pretty racy! You can imagine that these were most likely not played on the radio in their release year of 1953.

The particular songs we will focus on for this post are Side A: 4-F Papa and Side B: The Cowboy Song. They were published on the Wallis Original Record Corp. label. She wrote her own songs, and performed them herself.

4-F Papa is about an old man who thinks he’s a lady’s man, but he’s really not a very good lover. For a little background, 4-F is the military classification that indicates that one is unfit for service. 1-A means that one is available for unrestricted military service.

All my boyfriends have gone away/But there’s one fella who is here to stay/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/He’s a 4-F papa and he’s been that way for years/He’s too old for the army/Too cold for the navy/Staying home trying to sop up all the gravy/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/Every single day he’s out on the hunt/He’d like to do some fighting on any old front/The girls say no no he’s got no vim/It’s better to do without than to do with him/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/Night after night he’s becoming a bore/Sixty two missions and still no score/He finally got a gal up in the hills/but he took her right home he forgot to take pills/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/He took me down the beach to show me a thing or two/But he bit off a little more than he could chew/He established a beach head but he blew a fuse/And all he got that night was sand in my shoes/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/The air corps refused him/Here are the facts/He even tried to get into the WAC/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/He ain’t in condition to present arms/All he comes up with are false alarms/He fights for my lovin’ but the vict’ry is lost/At the crucial moment ‘thbbb’ battle exhaust/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/He goes through maneuvers but when all is done/He’s never seen action or had a practice run/Once he sighted the target but he got so riled/That when he pulled the trigger the shot went wild/He’s a 4-F papa but he’s got 1-A ideas/Till all the boyfriends come home from afar/I’m keepin’ things in mothballs just like they are/Because it’s very plain to see/This 4-F guy will never 1-A me/He’s a 4-F papa/He’s a 4-F papa/4-F papa get wise/I’m saving that 1-A stuff for those 1-A guys!

The Cowboy Song is about a woman’s husband who is a cowboy in films, but she feels neglected because all his time is spent in the studio.

Ten gallon hat two barrel gun and spurs that jingle jangle/Shouldn’t happen to a doggy but it happened to me/Oh my feller is an actor in the movies/He’s that singing cowboy that you always see/Smilin’ Tex is what they named him but before Hollywood claimed him/He was just plain Long John to me/Yippee Ki Yo/Yippee Ki Yay/He keeps a-singin’ and a-shootin’ blanks all day/Oh he’s fearless and he’s handsome and he’s strong/Way out yonder where the buffalo roam/He’s a wild man when he’s fightin and my life should be excitin’/But that dude is just a dud when he’s at home/Yippee Ki Yo/Yippee Ki Yay/He keeps a-singing and a-shootin blanks all day/Oh the injuns on the movie reservation/Are so scared of him they always wind up dead/He’s a he-man in the pictures/Cause they add on all the fixtures/Gee I wish he’d wear those ridin’ boots to bed/A-Yippee Ki Yo/Yippee Ki Yay/He keeps a-singin’ and a-shootin’ blanks all day/Oh he used to make love to me on the range/He was eatin’ better than his brother Joe/But the way his contract binds him/Now his love life lies behind him/Cause everything belongs to RKO/Yippee Ki Yo/Yippee Ki Yay/He keeps a-singin’ and a-shootin’ blanks all day/Oh he used to come a courtin’ round the back door/And he’d serenade me with a perdy song/Oh he used to serenade me/With a roundelay he made me/Git along little doggy git along/Yippee Ki Yo/Yippee Ki Yay/He keeps a-singin’ and a-shootin’ blanks all day/Someday when his paycheck runs dry/Cool Water/Goin’ out and get me a divorce/And to the judge I’ll swear/That he’s hardly ever there/He says he gets more action on his horse/Yippee Ki Yo/Yippee Ki Yay/He keeps a-singin’ and a-shootin’/A-ridin’ and a tootin’/RKO take him away

While I like both songs, my favorite of the two is The Cowboy Song. I like it because it’s hokey and reminds me of the early western TV shows and films.

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