Monday, November 16, 2015

"Deck Us All With Boston Charlie" -- by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

A holiday classic performed by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross

So I'm scrambling around printing out lead sheets/dulcimer tab for the Clayville-Prairieland Strings' annual Advent performance, and I blunder into the Walt Kelly classic, "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie." As everyone d'un certain age no doubt remembers, it was sung by Pogo the possum and his compères in the Okefenokee Swamp of Kelly's imagination in the comic strip Pogo, to the tune of "Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly."

I've tried several times in recent years to explain Pogo's appeal to people who didn't live through the 1960s reading it every morning, and I've come up short each time. (I guess you had to be there?) So I'll just link to Wikipedia at, which says it "combined both sophisticated wit and slapstick physical comedy in a heady mix of allegory, Irish poetry, literary whimsy, puns and wordplay, lushly detailed artwork and broad burlesque humor."

Like all good things, Pogo didn't last long enough. It went out of production with Kelly's death in 1973. I guess you could say it was the "Calvin and Hobbes" of its day.

So this afternoon I'm on the Internet looking for the lyrics to "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie." Last year John Wiseman brought in a set of lyrics -- hat tip to John, by the way -- but I've misplaced them, and I know I won't find them again till January or February, well after Christmas in any event.

And I found a recording on YouTube by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. They were a talented group of jazz singers in the early 60s that specialized in scat, a vocal technique of singing improvised vocables or nonsense syllables to a melody (details on the group at,_Hendricks_%26_Ross and the technique at The appeal of Walt Kelly's nonsensical Christmas song to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross is obvious -- and very, very lucky. Their arrangement is every bit as whimsical and well executed as the comic strip.

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross only sing one verse, and there are those of us who would argue there's really only the one verse. It goes:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley'garoo!
Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

But there are several others verses on the Lyrics Mania website. As I recall, they were suggested by other characters from time to time. But that first verse, with Nora freezing on the trolly in Walla Walla, Wash., is the one that appeared on the funny pages every year. The others are available on line at:,_hendricks_and_ross.html

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