Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay

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Contemporary Bromo-Seltzer advertisement. Lottie Collins dances and sings Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-de-ay! after being treated by the medicine.

"Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" is a vaudeville and music hall song. The song's first known public performance was in Henry J. Sayers' 1891 revue Tuxedo, which was performed in Boston, Massachusetts. The song became widely known in the version sung by Lottie Collins in London music halls in 1892. The melody was later used in various contexts, including as the theme song to the television show Howdy Doody.


The song's authorship was disputed for some years.[1] It was originally credited to Henry J. Sayers, who was the manager of Rich and Harris, a producer of the George Thatcher Minstrels. Sayers used the song in the troupe's 1891 production Tuxedo, a minstrel farce variety show in which "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" was sung by Mamie Gilroy.[2][3] However, Sayers later said that he had not written the song, but had heard it performed in the 1880s by a black singer, Mama Lou, in a well-known St. Louis brothel run by "Babe" Connors.[4] Another American singer, Flora Moore, said that she had sung the song in the early 1880s.[3]

Stephen Cooney, Lottie Collins' husband, heard the song in Tuxedo and purchased from Sayers rights for Collins to perform the song in England.[1] Collins worked up a dance routine around it, and, with new words by Richard Morton and a new arrangement by Angelo A. Asher, she first sang the song at the Tivoli Music Hall on The Strand in London in December 1891 to an enthusiastic reception; it became her signature tune.[5] Within weeks, she included it in a pantomime production of Dick Whittington[3] and performed it to great acclaim in the 1892 adaptation of Edmond Audran's opérette, Miss Helyett. According to reviews at the time, Collins delivered the suggestive verses with deceptive demureness, before launching into the lusty refrain and her celebrated "kick dance", a kind of cancan in which, according to one reviewer, "she turns, twists, contorts, revolutionizes, and disports her lithe and muscular figure into a hundred different poses, all bizarre".[6]

The song was performed in France under the title 'Tha-ma-ra-boum-di-hé', first by Mlle. Duclerc at Aux Ambassadeurs in 1891, but the following year as a major hit for Polaire at the Folies Bergère.[7][8] In 1892 The New York Times reported that a French version of the song had appeared under the title 'Boom-allez'.[1]

Later editions of the music credited its authorship to various persons, including Alfred Moor-King, Paul Stanley,[9] and Angelo A. Asher.[10] Some claimed that the song was originally used at American revival meetings, while Richard Morton, who wrote the version of the lyric used in Lottie Collins' performances, said that its origin was "Eastern".[1][10] Around 1914 Joe Hill wrote a version which tells the tale of how poor working conditions can lead workers into "accidentally" causing their machinery to have mishaps.[11] A 1930s lawsuit determined that the tune and the refrain were in the public domain.[6]

Gene Krupa's version, Ta-ra-ra-Boom-der-e, released as a shellac record

The character Tarara, in the 1893 Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera Utopia, Limited, is the "public exploder".[12] A 1945 British film of the same name describes the history of music hall theatre.[13] From 1974 to 1988 the Disneyland park in Anaheim, California USA presented a portion of the song as part of a musical revue show entitled America Sings. Containing four acts in a revolving carousel theater, the song was part of the finale in Act 3: The Gay 90s.[citation needed]

Other lyrics[edit]

The widely recognizable melody has been re-used for numerous other songs, children's camp songs, parodies, and military ballads from the early 20th century. It was used for the theme song to the show Howdy Doody (as "It's Howdy Doody Time").[14] A popular folk parody among elementary school children was "We had no school today" (with several variants).[citation needed]


As sung by Lottie Collins[edit]

A sweet Tuxedo girl you see
A queen of swell society
Fond of fun as fond can be
When it's on the strict Q.T.
I'm not too young, I'm not too old
Not too timid, not too bold
Just the kind you'd like to hold
Just the kind for sport I'm told
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-re! (sung eight times)
I'm a blushing bud of innocence
Papa says at big expense
Old maids say I have no sense
Boys declare, I'm just immense
Before my song I do conclude
I want it strictly understood
Though fond of fun, I'm never rude
Though not too bad I'm not too good
A sweet tuxedo girl you see
A queen of swell society
Fond of fun as fond can be
When it's on the strict Q.T.
I'm not too young, I'm not too old
Not too timid, not too bold
Just the kind you'd like to hold
Just the kind for sport I'm told

As laundered and published by Henry J. Sayers as sheet music[edit]

A smart and stylish girl you see,
Belle of good society
Not too strict but rather free
Yet as right as right can be!
Never forward, never bold
Not too hot, and not too cold
But the very thing, I'm told,
That in your arms you'd like to hold.
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay! (sung eight times)
I'm not extravagantly shy
And when a nice young man is nigh
For his heart I have a try
And faint away with tearful cry!
When the good young man in haste
Will support me round the waist
I don't come to while thus embraced
Till of my lips he steals a taste!
I'm a timid flow'r of innocence
Pa says that that I have no sense,
I'm one eternal big expense
But men say that I'm just "immense!"
Ere my verses I conclude
I'd like it known and understood
Though free as air, I'm never rude
I'm not too bad and not too good!
You should see me out with Pa,
Prim, and most particular;
The young men say, "Ah, there you are!"
And Pa says, "That's peculiar!"
"It's like their cheek!" I say, and so
Off again with Pa I go –
He's quite satisfied – although,
When his back's turned – well, you know –

Joe Hill version[edit]

I had a job once threshing wheat
Worked sixteen hours with hands and feet.
And when the moon was shining bright,
They kept me working all the night.
One moonlight night, I hate to tell,
I "accidentally" slipped and fell.
My pitchfork went right in between
Some cog wheels of that thresh-machine.
It made a noise that way.
And wheels and bolts and hay,
Went flying every way.
That stingy rube said, "Well!
A thousand gone to hell.
But I did sleep that night,
I needed it all right.
Next day that stingy rube did say,
"I'll bring my eggs to town today;
You grease my wagon up, you mutt,
And don't forget to screw the nut.
I greased his wagon all right,
But I plumb forgot to screw the nut,
And when he started on that trip,
The wheel slipped off and broke his hip.
It made a noise that way,
That rube was sure a sight,
And mad enough to fight;
His whiskers and his legs
Were full of scrambled eggs;
I told him, "That's too bad –
I'm feeling very sad"
And then that farmer said, "You turk!
I bet you are an "I Won't Work".
He paid me off right there, By Gum!
So I went home and told my chum.
Next day when threshing did commence,
My chum was Johnny on the fence;
And 'pon my word, that awkward kid,
He dropped his pitchfork, like I did.
It made a noise that way,
And part of that machine
Hit Reuben on the bean.
He cried, "Oh me, oh my;
I nearly lost my eye"
My partner said, "You're right –
It's bedtime now, good night"
But still that rube was pretty wise,
These things did open up his eyes.
He said, "There must be something wrong;
I think I work my men too long"
He cut the hours and raised the pay,
Gave ham and eggs for every day,
Now gets his men from union hall,
And has no "accidents" at all.
That rube is feeling gay;
He learned his lesson quick,
Just through a simple trick.
For fixing rotten jobs
And fixing greedy slobs,
This is the only way,


  1. ^ a b c d "Live Musical Topics", The New York Times, April 3, 1892, p. 12
  2. ^ Tompkins, Eugene and Quincy Kilby. The History of the Boston Theatre, 1854–1901 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908), p. 387. An advertisement for a performance of Tuxedo in Washington, D.C. in September 1891 mentions the song: "Don't fail to see the fatal cabinet, nor hear the Boom-der-e (sic) chorus." The Sunday Herald and Weekly National Intelligencer, 27 September 1891, p. 2
  3. ^ a b c Gänzl, Kurt. "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de ... oy? ", Kurt Gänzl's blog, 20 August 2018
  4. ^ Bellanta, Melissa. "The black origins of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay'", The Vapour Trail, accessed 25 May 2012
  5. ^ Lloyd, Matthew. "Lottie Collins", The Music Hall and Theatre History Website, accessed 19 December 2012
  6. ^ a b ""Progress and Protest"" (PDF). Newworldrecords.org. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Texte de : Tha Ma Ra Boum Dié". Dutempsdescerisesauxfeuillesmortes.net. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Mlle. Polaire, la chanteuse excentrique qui, cet été, a obtenu un si grand succès dans Ta-Ra-Ra-Boum", Le Matin, 5 October 1892, p. 3
  9. ^ Short, Ernest Henry and Arthur Compton-Rickett. Ring Up the Curtain, London: Herbert Jenkins, 1938, p. 200
  10. ^ a b Cazden, Norman, Herbert Haufrecht and Norman Studer (eds). Folk Songs of the Catskills, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982, p. 539 ISBN 0873955803
  11. ^ "Ta-Ra-Ra Boom De-Ay", Day Poems, accessed 3 September 2012
  12. ^ Benford, Harry (1999). The Gilbert & Sullivan Lexicon, 3rd Revised Edition. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Queensbury Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-9667916-1-4.
  13. ^ "Ta-ra-ra Boom De-ay (1945)", BFI.org, accessed 30 May 2020
  14. ^ Kittrels, Alonzo. "It's Howdy Doody reminiscing time", The Philadelphia Tribune, January 28, 2017, accessed October 11, 2018