Sweeter than all the roses

In 1882, Joseph Emmet wrote a musical play called Fritz Among the Gypsies, which contained a lovely little song in waltz time, titled “Sweet Violets.” While the chorus survives, the original verses have long since been replaced by, um, other things. Here’s a relatively tame 1936 recording by the Sons of the Pioneers:

If you’ve reached a certain age, you remember this high-school cheer:

Rah, rah, ree,
Kick ’em in the knee!
Rah, rah, rass,
Kick ’em in the other knee!

The technical term for this is “mind rhyme”: you’re pretty sure you know what’s coming, and then they throw something else at you instead. In 1946, songwriter Benny Bell put together a variation on the “Sweet Violets” theme, which he called “Shaving Cream”:

By the 1970s, nobody remembered Benny Bell, or vocalist Paul Wynn, except for a West Coast musicologist named Barret Eugene Hansen. Fortunately, Hansen had access to the nation’s airwaves, and “Shaving Cream” was very much appropriate for Hansen’s radio program, which aired until 2010 as the Dr. Demento Show. (An online version continues.) Vanguard Records, then not yet the property of Lawrence Welk, reissued “Shaving Cream” on a 45 in early 1975; it made #30 in Billboard.

This particular musical style is far from dead, if not far from Montreal, whence hail Bowser and Blue, who recorded the scurrilous “Polka Dot Undies” in 1986. A live version follows:

“Vague innuendo,” indeed.

(Suggested by Fillyjonk, and she’s so, so sorry.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    1 May 2013 · 5:36 pm

    “Sweet Violets” (at least the part about the roses) is vaguely familiar. Maybe my grandmother used to sing it?

    (Yes, my grandmother. But she was also the one who taught me the riddle about “what’s long and slim and slender…” and you think it’s something ELSE and it’s actually a hairpin…)

  2. Nicole »

    1 May 2013 · 7:15 pm

    Initially I thought the bloke with the polka dot undies on was John Cleese. Only looked vaguely like him once I got my glasses one, though. :)

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