|Published||1943 by Miller Music Publishing Co.|
|Composer(s)||Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston|
“Mairzy Doats” is a novelty song written and composed in 1943 by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. It contains lyrics that make no sense as written, but are near homophones of meaningful phrases. The song's title, for example, is a homophone of "Mares eat oats".
The song was first played on radio station WOR, New York, by Al Trace and his Silly Symphonists. It made the pop charts several times, with a version by the Merry Macs reaching No. 1 in March 1944. The song was also a number-one sheet music seller, with sales of over 450,000 within the first three weeks of release. The Merry Macs recording was Decca Records' best-selling release in 1944. Twenty-three other performers followed up with their own recordings in a span of only two weeks that year.
The song's refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless:
- Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
- A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
However, the lyrics of the bridge provide a clue:
- If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
- Sing "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy."
This hint allows the ear to translate the final line as "a kid'll eat ivy, too; wouldn't you?"
Milton Drake, one of the writers, said the song had been based on an English nursery rhyme. According to this story, Drake's four-year-old daughter came home singing, "Cowzy tweet and sowzy tweet and liddle sharksy doisters." (Cows eat wheat and sows eat wheat and little sharks eat oysters.)
Drake joined Hoffman and Livingston to come up with a tune for the new version of the rhyme, but for a year no one was willing to publish a "silly song". Finally, Hoffman pitched it to his friend Al Trace, bandleader of the Silly Symphonists. Trace liked the song and recorded it. It became a huge hit, most notably with the Merry Macs' 1944 recording.
In fir tar is,
In oak none is,
In mud eels are,
In clay none are,
Goat eat ivy,
Mare eat oats.
They trace the origin of the joke to a manuscript of about 1450 which has "Is gote eate yvy? Mare eate ootys".
Other recordings and performances
- The song was performed by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby at WWII USO performances.
- In 1958, New Orleans R&B singer Tommy Ridgley released a rock and roll version on the Herald Records label.
- In 1959, Dodie Stevens released the song as her first recording under Dot Records.
- Also in 1959, The Mark IV released their version as a 7" single on Mercury Records.
- Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his 1959 album Join Bing and Sing Along.
- Spike Jones was among several other artists who covered it, substituting sound effects for the "food" words.
- In 1963, a version of "Mairzy Doats" was recorded by Carlo Mastrangelo of the Belmonts and released by Laurie Records.
- Also in 1963, Bobby Darin performed the song on his daily five-minute radio show. This version was released in 2014 on the CD The Milk Shows.
- In 1964, Burl Ives recorded the song for Walt Disney Records on the album Chim Chim Cheree.
- The song received a minor revival in 1967, when it was recorded by The Innocence, who took it to Number 75 on the Pop Top 100 on Kama Sutra Records.
- Canadian children's singer Fred Penner recorded it as part of his 1990 album, "Fred Penner's Place".
- Experimental band Xiu Xiu used lyrics from the song on their 2015 album Plays the Music of Twin Peaks.
- Smith, Kathleen E. R. (28 March 2003). God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 137. ISBN 0-8131-2256-2.
- Popular Music, 1920–1979: A Revised Cumulation, Volume 2, , Nat Shapiro & Bruce Pollock;, Gale Research Company, 1985, ISBN 0810308479; page 190
- Simon, 1981, page 190, referenced in JStore Randall, Dale B. J. preview
- Drake, Milton; Hoffman, Al; Livingston, Jerry (1943). Mairzy doats. New York: Miller Music Corporation. OCLC 876125772. Archived from the original on 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2018-01-04.
- Randall, Dale B. J. (1995). "American "Mairzy" Dottiness, Sir John Fastolf's Secretary, and the "Law French" of a Caroline Cavalier". American Speech. Duke University Press. 70 (4): 361–370. doi:10.2307/455617. JSTOR 455617.
- "The Merry Macs". Discogs.
- Opie, Iona; Opie, Peter (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0198600886.
- Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Troops of Santa Ana Base Entertained By Hope And Crosby 220475-50 | Footage Farm". YouTube.
- Jones, Spike. "Mairzy Doats – Spike Jones". YouTube. p. 1960 Capitol Records. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
- "Limited Re-release of a Walt Disney Records album from 1964". Amazon.
- Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955–2012. Record Research. p. 855.