If you’re like me, you sing in the car. If you’re also like me, you suck at knowing the actual lyrics to most of the songs you croon along with. Take for example the song I’ve linked by Professor Longhair. For the most part, the lyrics are entirely decipherable – once you get past the first thirty seconds. From zero to thirty is another story. I’ve listened to that first half minute over and over to try to figure out what exactly the Professor is saying.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the great Professor Longhair, you can thank me later. His album “House Party New Orleans Style” will remain in my shuffle at all times. I’ve formally requested that his version of “Tipitina” be played at my funeral, and people damn well better dance when it does – Don’t yall make me get up outta dis here pine box!
Anyway, back to the thirty seconds of mystery lyrics. My personal interpretation is that the Professor is riding in a car when he spies a lovely young lady to whom he wishes to speak. Before addressing the woman directly, he has a bit of a preamble wherein he is either talking to himself or some other guys in the car. He is clearly impressed by the woman, and her beauty may have caused him to ramble incoherently for just a moment. By my reckoning, he says:
Hey! – Don’t you think you make a soda along a nasty cool gray Chevrolet?
Ahh – Jiminy crack-uh yo Daddy’s Degas,
Ohh La La!
Lemme call this little girl one time…
While these lyrics may seem nonsensical at first, allow me to attempt to interpret the true meaning.
“Hey!” – This was a common means of getting the attention of others during the dark years before the invention of emoji’s.
“Don’t you think you make a soda along a nasty cool gray Chevrolet?” – Back in the day, soda was often prepared at a fountain using syrup and seltzer. Though buying a bottle of pop was also an option, true epicures preferred the hand-made variety. While the counter at the local Rexall was a more traditional location for getting a craft soda, there is a chance that the roomy backseat of any number of Chevrolet models could accommodate a mobile fountain. Having a soda fountain in the backseat of ones Bel Air would no doubt classify the car as being “nasty cool“.
“Ahh” – Music historians have long made the incorrect assumption that this word was used to further compliment the beauty of the young lady in question. Professor is actually reacting to the refreshing slurp of hand-crafted soda he’d just enjoyed. My guess is that it was a vanilla Coke, but it could well have been an orange cream or sarsaparilla.
“Jiminy crack-uh yo Daddy’s Degas” – Jiminy crack-uh has no actual meaning, it’s just fun to say. Jiminy Cricket, the sophisticated, well-dressed insect, was named so as an homage by Walt Disney to reflect his fondness for the slang terms frequently used by young men in Chevrolets, Fords and DeSotos. The phrase “yo Daddy’s Degas” has long been accepted to imply that the young lady was of such regal bearing that her father undoubtedly owned original oils by French impressionist Edgar Degas and others. Monet and Manet were likely left out of the song due to everyone’s tendency to mix them up.
“Ooh La La!” – New Orleans has well established ties to French culture which are evident in this line. It is also quite possible that the use of this phrase was later adopted by everyone’s favorite lothario, Monsieur Pepe le Pew.
“Lemme call this little girl one time” – The Professor was not referring to using his iphone for this call, rather he was about to roll down the window and speak to her directly from the soda fountain-equipped backseat of his nasty cool gray sedan.
It’s worth noting that as the song progresses after the initial thirty seconds, the Professor proceeds to ask the girl in question for a dance, promises not to have her out too late, asks for a kiss and eventually tells her he’s leaving – and her crying aint gonna make him stay. This entire exchange quite possibly took place while waiting for a light to turn green at an intersection. The lyrics echo that well worn recipe of boy-sees girl-tries-to-woo-her-fails-miserably-gets-bitter-about-it-speeds-off-in-Chevy.
If you’re like me, you hate hitting links in blog posts which take you away from the actual post before you can like it or comment on it or anything. If so, once you’re done liking and commenting, go up to the link and give the song a listen. After the first half a minute, you might have a different opinion of that rusting Impala up on blocks in your neighbor’s yard.