I Used to Work in Chicago

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"I Used to Work in Chicago" is a drinking song. It was written by songwriter and entertainer Larry Vincent. The earliest printed date for the song is March 1945 in the underground mimeographed songbook Songs of the Century, however versions of the song circulated "on the street" as early as 1938 according to the Digital Tradition Folk Music Database.[1] Many of the lyrics are considered humorous because of the oblique sexual references. The song is often chanted by various British university sports teams, most notably from the University of Winchester Men's Hockey Team.

After World War II, there were various versions of this song commercially recorded (e.g. by Spike Jones).

A verse from Spike Jones's version:

I used to work in Wisconsin
Behind the smorgasbord
In the cafeteria.
A lady came in the door.
She said she wanted a boiled egg.
I said 'What part do you like?'
[Germanic accent] Yolk she vanted, a yoke I told.
I'll never work there anymore....

Recordings[edit]

  • The Three Bits Of Rhythm on Modern Records 118A from 1946
  • Oscar Brand on Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads 1951
  • Merle Travis on Guitar Rags & A Too Fast Past 1994
  • Benny Bell on Shaving Cream 1975, Track Title: Jack of All Trades

Popular culture[edit]

  • A variation of this song is also occasionally performed by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam during their live performances with the final lines, "Liquor she wanted / Lick her I did / I don't work there anymore."
  • The same (Liquor/Lick her) version is also sung by Dusty and Lefty, played by Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly, in the film A Prairie Home Companion.
  • One verse sung by Charles Durning in the movie Jerry and Tom. "A woman came in for a house dress. I asked her what kind she wore. 'Jumper,' she said. Jump her I did and I don't work there anymore."

References[edit]

  • Cray, Ed; The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs (University of Illinois, 1992).
  • Reuss, Richard A.; An Annotated Field Collection of Songs From the American College Student Oral Tradition (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Masters Thesis, 1965).