I’ve always been fascinated by novelty songs, and I especially like those that have hidden meanings, although in some cases they’re barely concealed. That type of song is one that the songwriter is aiming at a certain audience — the kind that will “get it” — while hiding it from straight listeners.
A good example would be a little ditty written by Slim Gaillard, who was part of a popular novelty duo known as Slim & Slam. The song was called “Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)“, and Slim and his partner Slam Stewart managed to turn it into a big hit in the late 1930s — even though most of those listening to it didn’t really understand the title’s true meaning.
Depending on the source, Slim (Bulee) Gaillard was born in Cuba, or maybe Florida, or possibly even Detroit, but what is known for sure is that he grew up in urban Detroit and was well-acquainted with African-American street argot. When he wrote the song and teamed up with his partner, Slam (Leroy) Stewart, to perform it, he knew exactly what the title meant, but he counted on sliding it by the straight-laced establishment of the times.
It seems that a “Flat Foot Floogie” (or floozie) was common urban slang for a streetwalker; and “Floy Floy” was another name for gonorrhea. So even though that seems pretty tame now, in those days it would have scandalized most listeners to discover that they were enjoying a song about a hooker with the clap.
Slim and Slam had some success for a few years after that and even appeared as a novelty musical act in movies, but eventually split. Both went on to have pretty good individual careers, although Slim was probably the better-known of the two. His talent on both piano and guitar, along with his ability to jive-talk with the best of them, helped him find decades of success before his death in 1991. Slam was a solid bassist who mostly concentrated on traditional jazz, working with many of the greats until he died in 1987.
2 thoughts on “Slim & Slam’s Sly Song”
Hey Steve, this is Ben, Kylie’s husband. I just started reading your blog and I like it. I just started back at Indiana Wesleyan Univ and I’m taking my first writing class. The process has inspired me to start reading some local writers and I thought you’d be a great place to start. Keep up the interesting writing; I love learning about musicians like this. Ben
Thanks, Ben — good to hear from you! Appreciate the kind words about my scribblings, but I’d guess that your writing teacher would cringe at some of the rules I break…or at least fold, spindle and mutilate.
Say hi to everybody for me.:-)