Monday, September 20, 2010
thegrowlingwolf Reminiscing on "A Mother Cow to Her Young One Said"
Foto by tgw, New York City, 2010
Star Brand Shoes
"A mother cow to her young one said/It's come your time, you'll soon be dead/But cheer up, Chile, and don't be blue/'Cause they'll use your hide on a Star Brand shoe." Yes, I believe it was a real advertisement at one time...in my father's time. That's where I heard it as a kid. From my father. I got to where I could even tell at what point in an evening's fun it was coming. Like when he was happy or say relatives dropped in from out of town late at night and we all stayed up talking and quipping and questioning and gossiping and blaming and becoming disgusted...and if the conversation turned too morbid, up would pop my father with, "As the mother cow to her young one said...." In my lifetime, however, I've never seen a Star Brand shoe.
Image courtesy www.bargainjohn.com
This is one of the only Star Brand Shoes ad signs I found via Googling the name. This is a metal sign that was sold on Bargain John's Website. And yes a lot of old White folks advertising played on the Black stereotype--in the above sign there's the "shine" telling the White man that, "Yes sah! Star Brand Shoes are better!" The White ad writer that wrote that tag at least didn't have the "shine" use the wrong tense of the verb "to be." And is that "shine" shooting that White man the bird? It's bad enough if he's just pointing his finger at the White man. Was that allowed in those days? Could a Black man (or boy) make a point by pointing his finger at a White man? I'm sure he damn sure didn't with intelligence shoot the bird to a White man in those days. Anyway, hell yes, if a White man wanted to know what the better shoe was he'd trust the shoe-shine boy--and they were boys. Even the White shines were boys in my time. I had several friends who shined shoes in barber shops during their summer vacations--some even working during the school year after school and all day Saturdays, the busiest days. One of the funnest things I loved to do when I was a little jive rascal of a runabout-town kid was to go down to the Texas & Pacific Railroad station platform and watch Jimmy Shine shine shoes. He made music with his shoe shine rag as he shined the White man's shoes--if a woman dared to want him to shine her shoes, he'd have her take her shoes off and hand them to him--you can figure out why. Jimmy when he had that rag a singing, kept a nice fast 8/8 tempo goin', poppin' fresh and hittin' the ones and the threes right with hard quarter note pops, stringing some soft wap pops in between. Jimmy Shine being a rag master--could that be where rag came from?--could wap pop 32nd notes with his special rag he called "Mama"--"Listen to Mama call that train...." And Jimmy would let go a soft low moaning train whistle, a far off whistle, shown coming by the extending wap pops and quarter-note pops from a low clippity clop to evolve as the train got closer into whip outs of rag slides that sounded like steam, then he'd let go another moaning train whistle..."Whooooooooooooo...get ready...it's a comin'...you'll git on board with yore shoes in travelin' shape." Then the customer got up off Jimmy's shine box and flipped him a nickel...or a dime if it were a rich Mr. Charley...just in time as the train came wailing in from the East or the West. "When the ladies ast you'all where you got dem shoes shined, you tell 'em Jimmy Shine from up and down the line." But don't get me wrong. Though Jimmy drew large crowds and I assume made pretty good money for a Black man in those days, still he was having to jive ass to soothe the White man's fears of Blacks. Plus, Jimmy attracted a lot of White women, some of whom loved to shake the shim-sham-shimmy to Jimmy's shining--and Jimmy was always full of smiles and encouragements, "Yes, ladies, step off to Jimmy's rag while he's makin' your man's shoes shine like yore favorite mirror."
And, yes, I grew up in Texas at a time right after World War II. I grew up at a time where young White boys and girls were becoming aware of Black music, especially country blues and what we called Rock 'n Roll, which we got from the old blues that were about how to fornicate--to do it right the man has to know how to ride like a jockey, which is a rockin' and rollin' process. This music was to lead us out of the deepest blues, the blues of being oppressed and depressed by circumstances--the only freedom coming like on Friday nights after work...on Saturday nights, the really truly free night for the oppressed when they can take those paychecks, cash 'em in, and head for the joints, head for dance halls, the drinkin' establishments, the places where the music offers up a chance to get up on a dance floor and let it all out--go wild--shake that thing--flipping out those fancy shoes in footsteps trying to chase away the blues--and the women dressed all loose and nice and workin' up those love sweats--and soon the rockin' is heavy and the hips are rollin' and it's all in the hips. IT'S ALL IN THE HIPS. The hip know how to use the hips--like when you walk, or how to cock them when you talk, or how to moon with them when you're takin' a woof ticket out on somebody's jivin' ass. But it was still not easy for Blacks...but, dammit, it was freein' up. My generation were nonconformists, which meant we rebelled against everything the old folks had shoved down our asses. Like segregation. I mean we saw through the ignorance, the unfairness, the hypocrisy of segregation. Besides the Blacks were the coolest people on our stolen earth--their music, their styles, their dances, their jive, the skills, plus their wit was of the sharpest. I listen still to Chuck Berry's songs for the lyrics. Chuck could handle lyrics with such subtle wit. And I could stand up and holler, White rock 'n roll was heavily influenced by Chuck Berry and his songs and his style and his wild, wide-open, free lifestyle, but oh what music, ancient music, Chuck had in him...growing up in Saint Louis...and you talk about tough...but you talk about fun if you dared to defy the segregationists and mix.... Mixing was so important to my generation of Whites. We followed the Beats--and we knew Ted Joans and Beauford Delaney and Leroi Jones and Romare Bearden and James Earl Jones and Harry Bellafonte (Harry was a winner of the Birdland contest for new entertainers to work at Birdland--and Harry worked with Bird, Diz, one night) and our jazz gurus and mentors and reverends and priests and kings and counts and dukes and earls were all Blacks...for me at least...I got so into Black music and culture, I wouldn't listen to White guys--and that included some good ones, too, like Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Kai Winding...though later I was forced to include them when I found out they were into Black music and culture same as me and in fact were closer to it than I was, so I started diggin' the White dudes...though some of them pissed me off 'cause they wouldn't use Blacks in their bands, like Woody Herman...like Brubeck at first, until he did finally hire Joe Benjamin...though in return, the good Black bands didn't have White guys in them. The first White guy I remember seeing playing with Duke was Jeff Castleman, a young White bass player.
A Painting by Beauford Delaney
Have we come very far since those days? I'm sure in terms of shoe fashion and comfort perhaps but in terms of race relations? That I wonder about.
for The Daily Growler