What about that song?

 

Click the images to enlarge them, click the audio players to listen…and if you make it to the bottom, there’s a video!

“Hinky Dinky Parley Voo” is considered by members of the founding family of Hinky Dinky supermarkets as source of the stores’ name. And it was…more or less.

Excerpt from piano roll.
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Armentieres, France
Armentieres, France

The original song was a WWI drinking/marching song that was evidently quite well-known in its time.  While popular among American soldiers, it was well known long before American G.I.s entered the French trenches, having its roots in an earlier song, “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” which itself had earlier origins.

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Mademoiselle From Armentieres – Jack Charman

Almost all surviving artifacts relating to the song come in the form of a song about the song. These recordings of “Hinky Dinky Parley Voo” and “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” do not date date from the wartime period.

Going back to 1915, three years before the Yanks entered the Great War, Armentieres was where British troops coming off the line went for R&R. Members of the British Army of India transformed “Skiboo,” (also known as “Snapoo”), a song dating back to the 1880s and the Boer Wars, into “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” alternately known as “Two German Officers.” Another song known as  “The Little Red Train” also is reputed to be a source for verses.

Here are some sample verses from “Skiboo,” in its WWI form:

Two German officers crossed the Rhine, Skiboo, skiboo
Two German officers crossed the Rhine, Skiboo, skiboo
These German officers crossed the Rhine
To *
love the women and taste the wine
Skiboo, skiboo, skiboodley boo, skidam, dam, dam

They came to an Inn on top of a rise, skiboo, skiboo
A famous French Inn of stupendous size, skiboo, skiboo
They saw a maiden all dimples and sighs
The two together said, “Damn her eyes”
Skiboo, skiboo, skiboodley boo, skidam, dam, dam

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That’s singer Line Renaud waiving, (a popularizer of a French translation of the English song, sometime in the last century) not the late Mdm. Lecoq. The statue depicts Marie held aloft on a tavern tray by four soldiers, none of whom are American.
That’s singer Line Renaud waiving, (a popularizer of a French translation of the English song, sometime in the last century) not the late Mdm. Lecoq. The statue depicts Marie held aloft on a tavern tray by four soldiers, none of whom are American.

The repurposing of “Skiboo” as “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” may have occurred, owing to its namesake mademoiselle actually existing. However, according to a 1965 article in Time magazine, she wasn’t a mademoiselle at all, but rather “a tall, slim widow named Marie Lecoq who worked as a waitress at the Café de la Paix.”

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,834273,00.html

The article describes efforts to erect a statue in her honor. That statue was eventually realized and was unveiled with great ceremony on November 9, 2008.

Further research into the connection between  Marie Lecoq and the origins of the song unearthed the following article, reproduced here for ease of access:

Pittsburgh Post-gazette: Monday, December 4, 1939

That Gal From Armentiers

At 49, Is Ready to Go Campaigning Again

A Grandmother, and Ill, She’s Ready to Go To Colors.

By Richard D. McMillan

British United Press Writer

SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE, Dec. 3.– I talked today with “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” now a grandmother who looks older than her 49 years.

Time has not dealt kindly with the sprightly brunette I knew as Marie Lecoq more than 20 years ago, when as a cafe waitress, she inspired the greatest of all the soldier songs of the World war.

Marie is old now and her slight body is wracked by violent coughs — the result of the German gas in the great war–as we talked.

But the spirit that burned so brightly in petite Marie Lecoq, the spirit which enabled her to slap a British general and get away with it, the spirit which made her a toast of thousands of British and American soldiers, still burns brightly.

The Germans still have an enemy in “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” and she is going back to the front, somehow, to be near the soldiers she loves.

“Mademoiselle” today is Madame Marie Marceau and her face is lined with care, but she is going back to Armentieres to be near her grandson and her granddaughter and to those “So dear Tommees, for I love them all.”

We chatted at a cafe in a village well behind the lines where she now lives and Marie told me again how she inspired the famouse war song.

When the world conflict started in 1914 Marie’s sweetheart went to the front and Marie obtained work in the Cafe De La Paix, in the Rue De La gare, at Armentieres.

It was a quiet job, she recalled, until the Tommies came.

And then, in October 1814, the Germans broke through and advanced to within a few miles of Armentieres.

They began shelling the village and on October 13 the Cafe De La Paix was hit.

“But we took our chances with the soldiers and we lived through it,” Grandmother Marie said today as she traced little patterns on the top of the cafe table.

Mornings, before the cafe opened, Marie sold newspapers to the British troops, and once got into an argument over money which caused her to be taken before a general.

The general made “some remarks” which Marie didn’t like and she slapped his face.

“I told him I was a soldier, too,” she said, smiling as she recalled the incident.

She denied the tale which spread through the British army at the time that she slapped the general because he tried to kiss her.

“No, it was not the kiss,” she said, “it was about a bill–some money.”

Sergeant “Red” Owlands, said now to be the manager of a cinema in London, was in Armentieres at the time, and like everybody else, heard of the slapping incident. He was organizing concerts for British troops and wanted a “topical” song.

The original verses of “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” were written within an hour.

Perhaps She’ll Launch A Song for New World War.

“And it was a very nice song as it was first written,” Grandmother Marie explained. “But I’ve heard,” she added modestly, “that some unauthorized versions came along later.”

Marie married Private Marceau of the French army when he got leave, and her daughter Pauline, now a mother, was born during the war.

“I was gassed the night of July 22, 1917,” Marie said, “and since then I cough. But it is not too bad. I’ll go back to Armentieres now and perhaps, who knows–there will be another song about ‘mademoiselles from Armentieres.’”

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=CTwOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4n0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=3871%2C5828305

It’s important to understand that the song “Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo” was vernacular, undocumented, underground and very, very filthy. Its primary subjects were drinking, lousy officers and the pursuit of sexual hijinks.  It passes to us today, when it does at all, in a sanitized form. Mostly, it only passes to us as anecdotes.

One surviving, post-war version of “Hinky Dinky Parley Voo,” by the Sweet Violet Boys, only hints at the profanity of the soldiers’ song. The songwriting credit here belongs to “Trebor Rellim”…Robert Miller, spelled backwards. In fact, Miller was the piano player for legendary country pioneers, the Prairie Ramblers. The Sweet Violet Boys were indeed the Ramblers, operating under a pseudonym, possibly due to the risque nature of the recording. This was not the only time they recorded under this bit of camouflage. Needless to say, Miller didn’t write any part of the song, unless one means simply that he wrote it down. But publishing is valuable and the music business has a shady history in this regard.

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Hinky Dinky parlay Voo Part 1 – Sweet Violet Boys
Hinky Dinky parlay Voo Part 2 – Sweet Violet Boys
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Billy Glason
Billy Glason
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Frances Arms
Frances Arms
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Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan
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Elsie Janis
Elsie Janis

There is a treasure trove of releases,  as sheet music as well as 78 RPM shellacs of a 1924 song called “What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parley Voo?” Though most of the record labels and sheet music covers simply identify it as “Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo,” the lyrics for these releases are consistent with the pages within the sheet music which clearly identifies the song by its complete title, “What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo?”. The song is credited to a small army of authors, consisting of Al Dubin, Irving Mills (who never wrote a note or a lyric in his life), Jimmy McHugh and Irwin Dash.

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Rare and valuable paperback book, late 1920s. For the song to be the subject of parody indicates great cultural currency
Rare and valuable paperback book, late 1920s. For the song to be the subject of parody indicates great cultural currency
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Piano roll
Piano roll

According to an article on the Archeophone website, “The essence of this stage-routine song is the loss of the camaraderie and companionship developed in the trenches. The bon vivant feeling of standing shoulder to shoulder with your mates and fighting the evil Boche is built into the memory of the song that was sung while the battle raged.”  In other words, it’s a look back at “Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo” and its time from a post-war perspective.

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Another roll
Another roll
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Pretty inside, eh?
Pretty inside, eh?
What Has Become of Iinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Broadway Quartet

The Broadway Quartet recording features this verse:

What has become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo?
What has become of all the Jewish Soldiers too?
Many a son of Abraham
Ate his ham for Uncle Sam
Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo

What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Bernard & Robinson
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What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Harmony Four
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What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Billy Jones & Ernest Hare
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What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Maureen Englin
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What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Shannon Four
What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? – Billy Murray, Ed Smalle
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What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo? (instr.) – Jan Garber & his Orchestra

http://www.archeophone.com/features/march_to_war/songs/cd2/25.php

“What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parley Voo?” was very popular.  There are numerous recordings of this song by various singers as well as sheet music versions endorsed by a variety of other singers currently archived in the Hinky Dinky News repository. The fact that it was recorded numerous times indicates that it was successful and a ‘hit’ of its day.

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Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo (Greek) – Tetos Demetriades

It’s probable that it was the popularity of this post-war song, which continued to be released in various guises for several years after 1924, which provided the inspiration for the naming of the stores, rather than a strong impetus to name it specifically for a filthy drinking song the brothers recalled from a decade earlier. No doubt, the connection to that filthy ditty appealed to their sense of humor.

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Coincidence?
Coincidence?

Though possibly nothing more than coincidence, refer to the orange and blue covers of the sheet music examples above and consider that for many years, this color scheme may have constituted the brand’s quasi-official colors. This may further implicate the ’20s hit as the source of the stores’ name.

Much of what’s known about the war-era original can be credited to the research contained in The Robert W. Gordon “Inferno” Collection in the Archive of Folk Song, Library of Congress:

http://www.folklore.ms/html/books_and_MSS/1910s/1917-1933_gordon_inferno_collection_%28MSS%29/index.htm#2561-johnson-s-boarders

From this research we learn that “Hinky Dinky” was also commonly known as “Inky Dinky” or “Hinky Pinky,” that the location of the song could be Armentieres or transplanted to such places as “gay Paree” or “gay Dijon.”  We further learn that the ersatz French is reported with variants including “Parlez Vous,” “Parlay Voo” and “Parley Voo.”

The structure of the verses is consistent, though there are couplet and triplet variants. There is a setup line and a punch line. In the triplet variant, the setup comes in two parts rather than one, repeated  part.

In the following example, the setup line is “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” and the punch line is “She hasn’t been kissed in 40 years.”

Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlay voo?
Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlay voo?
Mademoiselle from Armentieres…
She hasn’t been *
kissed in 40 years
Hinky Dinky parlay voo

As noted, a document containing actual verses from the WWI period will be of an explicit nature and as such, is viewed at the reader’s discretion. The link above contains many explicit verses contained in the Canfield research. Visit that page and search it for the string “hinky” for examples. The text was produced via optical character recognition from Canfield’s original correspondence and documents and can be a challenge to sift through but tends to be worth it.

A more concise compendium of collected verses can be found here.

*sanitized

One final treat; this rendition of “Hinky Pinky Parlay Voo” is from the 1931, Austrailian WWI film “Diggers.” For more information about “Diggers,” visit http://australianscreen.com.au/titles/diggers/.






Try this, if the clip isn’t playing here for you: http://australianscreen.com.au/titles/diggers/clip3/

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