|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 was first played on radio station WOR, New York, by Al Trace and his Silly Symphonists. The song 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 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".
"Mairzy Doats" 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.
Spike Jones was among several other artists who covered it, characteristically substituting sound effects for the "food" words.
Liverpool comedian Arthur Askey sang a version based on local names: "Mersey Docks and Harbour Board/And ferries to New Brighton..."
In popular culture
The song is referenced in the television show M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode 11: "Dear Peggy".
- Smith, Kathleen E.R. God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 137. ISBN 0-8131-2256-2.
- Drake, Milton; Hoffman, Al; Livingston, Jerry (1943). Mairzy doats. New York: Miller Music Corporation. OCLC 876125772. 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.
- Opie, Iona; Opie, Peter (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0198600886.