Sunday, September 9, 2012


An older friend asked if I'd ever heard the term "scalawag". I said, "Sure, my mother used to sing a song with the lyrics is zat you, Myrtle, is zat you, Myrtle, I guess you better send that scalawag home. My friend said he'd never heard that song. I called my brothers and none of them recalled the song, although all knew the term scalawag. One asked, "Don't you remember on all those old westerns they used to call them scalawags?"; another asked, "They used to call pirates that, didn't they?" Another, the history expert, said, "Sure, that's what Southerners called the white southerners who supported the Union during Reconstruction." When I asked my husband, he started singing the song. Surprised, I asked, "How do you know that when my brothers don't?" He said, "Living with you for 41 years!"

Since my brothers didn't know the song, I thought that maybe it was one of those songs which my mother sang that I was never able to verify as being actual songs. With a number of my mother's "riffs", I had checked Alan Lomax's history of folk music to try to verify some of her unusual renderings. (Read about Alan Lomax in the attached article) Is Zat You, Myrtle? had the same kind of sing-songy sound as "Chattumentoogy" (one of Mother's riffs) and we had an aunt named Myrtle; I thought it might have been one of Mother's made-up songs. I didn't recall anything except the two lines and the tune.

However, it didn't require much research; all I had to do was to go to YouTube. Is Zat You, Myrtle? is a comic, corny, country and western song. Hear the YouTube rendition by The Carlisles and read about the songwriter Bill Carlisle.

CLICK HERE to read the article about Alan Lomax.

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