The song, a 12-bar blues, was written by Tulsa Western Swing bandleader Johnnie Lee Wills and steel guitarist Deacon Anderson and published in 1949. Considered a novelty song, the lyrics consisted mostly of spelling out the title of the song; because of the spelling used in the song, it is sometimes referred to as "Ragg Mopp."
While Johnnie Lee Wills and his band recorded it for Bullet Records in 1950, the most popular version of this song was recorded by The Ames Brothers, and released by Coral Records as catalog number 60140. The song was part of a double-sided hit; the flip side was "Sentimental Me." The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on January 6, 1950 and lasted 14 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1. The song was re-released in 1951 by Coral as catalog number 60397, with the flip side "Hoop-Dee-Doo". The group re-recorded the song several times. The 1950 recording is considered an example of proto-rock and roll as it contained elements that would later go into the defining of the genre.
In popular culture
On the Beany and Cecil cartoon show, Cecil the sea-sick sea serpent would frequently sing the song.
This song was played on M*A*S*H in Season 9, Episode 6 ("A War for All Seasons"), after Hawkeye and BJ ordered a radio from the Sears Catalog. The song irritates Major Winchester, as he is a strict classical music lover ("Those people can neither sing nor spell!"). In Season 11, episode 1 ("Hey, Look Me Over"), Nurse Kellye accuses Hawkeye of treating her like a rag mop; when he is taken aback by her comment, she elaborates "R-A-G-G M-O-P-P, rag mop!".
Lou Monte recorded an English/Italian version in 1960 on his album "Italiano USA".
Allan Sherman parodied this song in 1963 for his album My Son, the Nut; he renamed it "Rat Fink". Sherman's parody was covered in 1979 by American punk rock band The Misfits, which in turn has since been covered by other punk rock bands.
According to numerous biographies, "Rag Mop" was also one of the first songs Elvis Presley tried out at his first Sun Records recording session in 1954, although no actual recording of him performing the song has to date surfaced.
"Rag Mop" was performed by a group of dancing mops on The Muppet Show.
"Rag Mop" by the Ames Brothers was the last single release to hit #1 on the popular charts (Billboard) that was released only on 78 rpm speed at the time of its popularity. After this point in popular music history, every song to hit #1 was released on a 45 rpm record.
"I Can Dream, Can't I?" by The Andrews Sisters
|U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
February 11, 1950
"Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy" by Red Foley