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He had a left hand like God. He didn't know what key he was playing in, but he played them all. He could play the ragtime stride bass, but it bothered him because his stomach got in the way of his arm, so he used a walking bass instead. I can remember when I was thirteen - this was 1896 - how Turk would play one note with his right hand and at the same time four with his left. We called it 'sixteen' - they called it boogie-woogie - Eubie Blake remembering William Turk, from Giles Oakley's The Devil's Music, BBC

Author Topic: Mail it in the air  (Read 5196 times)

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Offline Richard

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Mail it in the air
« on: April 27, 2008, 11:58:29 AM »
I was listening to a song the other day (Viola Lee think) and the lyric

"The doctor wrote me a prescription and told me to mail it in the air "

appeared, now I have heard in a few songs with that in but wonder what the original meaning was..... any ideas and I suppose while we are at it, name the tunes that it occurs in.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

bighollowtwang

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2008, 12:11:38 PM »
I always thought it meant sent via air mail.

Offline Richard

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2008, 02:03:40 PM »
Air mail circa 1930, somehow I wouldn't have thought so....  ::)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2008, 03:25:21 PM »
According to Wikipedia, the first regular air mail service in the U.S. started in 1918. I'm sure it was a big deal in the '20s and '30s to send something that way, which is why it pops up in song lyrics.
Chris

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2008, 07:36:58 PM »
I can think of two, Cottonfield Blues (Akers/Callicott), and... another one. Dang, weeniepedia search button here I come.

[edit: no joy, must have been something I was listening to]
« Last Edit: April 28, 2008, 07:39:49 PM by Rivers »

Offline Richard

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2008, 11:58:38 PM »
But why would you want to send your prescription by air mail in the first place and who toooo? It almost seems more like a euphanisem for "go and get lost" or was it just a phrase that sounded good?

I think Casey Bill used it in something as well, I'll try to listen to both tunes later and see if the rest of the verse has any bearing on it.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

JugStruggler

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2008, 04:28:23 AM »
Quote
But why would you want to send your prescription by air mail in the first place and who toooo?

My guess would be you would have to mail an order for the drugs, and have the drugs mailed back.  I don't think they always had well stocked pharmacies back in the day.  Doctor usually carried all his meds with him, no?

Offline Richard

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2008, 08:09:56 AM »
Could be I suppose, I have no idea I what we need is an weenie authority on prescriptions for the period! The other problem is that I can only speak for the English system and don't knowwhat went on in the US, which could account for my sceptisssisssssm (how you spell that?) of the air mail thing!
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2008, 08:39:10 AM »
I think you're looking at this a little too literally, Richard, especially for a jug band tune. I mean, you don't really think somebody piled their money up and it touched the sky, do you? Nor do I think airmail was a real option for many of these singers and I doubt whether they had any real experience of it. I think it was just a way of saying that the letter or prescription or whatever was important.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Richard

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2008, 09:40:29 AM »
Quite. That was the point I made earlier, it was in fact just turn of phrase and not based on anything factual per se.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

dingwall

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2008, 02:28:51 PM »
Here's some examples of 'mail it in the air'.

BO WEAVIL JACKSON     POOR BOY BLUES
Gonna write a letter, mail it in the air.
Gonna write a letter, gonna mail it in the air.
Maybe my blues'll blow news everywhere.

BO WEAVIL JACKSON     YOU CAN'T KEEP NO BROWN
Now I'm gonna write a letter, mail it in the air.
I'm gonna write a letter, gonna mail it in the air.
So if the March wind blow, it blows news everywhere.

GARFIELD AKERS        COTTONFIELD BLUES - PART 2
I'm gonna write me a letter, I'm gonna mail it in the air.
I'm gonna write me a letter, I'm gonna mail it in the air.

Said I know you gonna catch it, babe, in this world somewhere.
Says I know you'll catch it, mama, in the world somewhere.

And I'm gonna write me a letter, I'm gonna mail it in the sky.
Mama, I know you gonna catch it, when the wind go blowin' it by.

BLIND BOY FULLER      TOO MANY WOMEN BLUES
Then, I'm goin' to write me one letter, I'm goin' to mail it in the air.
Yeah, god knows, I'm gonna mail it in the air.

Said, there's people in the world know I've got me a woman somewhere.
Lord knows, I got me a gal somewhere.

WEBSTER TAYLOR        SUNNY SOUTHERN BLUES
I'm gonna write her a letter.
I'm gonna write her a letter.

I'm gonna mail it in the air.
I'm gonna mail it in the air.

When this north wind blows,
When, when this north wind blows,

Swear it's gonna blow this news everywhere.
Lord, it's gonna blow this news everywhere.

OLLIE RUPERT          AIN'T GOIN' TO BE YOUR LOW DOWN DOG
Gonna write a letter, gonna mail it in the air.
I'm gonna write a letter, mail it in the air.
When the north wind blow, blow news everywhere.

LEWIS BLACK           ROCK ISLAND BLUES
I'm gonna write a letter, mail it in the air.
I'm gonna write a letter, mail it in the air.
I'm gonna find that gal, she's in the world somewhere.

CASEY BILL WELDON     DOCTOR'S BLUES                       
And he wrote me a prescription, told me to mail it in the air.
And he writ me a prescription, told me to mail it in the air.
And I asked Uncle Sam to find my good gal somewhere.

PEETIE WHEATSTRAW     C AND A BLUES                         
Hoo, gonna write me a letter, mama, gonna mail it in the air, lord, I'm cryin', knows I mailed it.
I'm gonna write me a letter, hoo-hoo, gonna mail it in the air.
Well, well, well, gonna send it up the country, mama, now, to see is my little girl there.

JOE WILLIAMS          MR. DEVIL BLUES                           
I'm gonna write a letter, now, gonna mail it in the air.
I'm gonna write a letter, gonna mail it in the air.
I'm gonna ask Doctor Jesus if the devil ever been there.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2008, 06:43:20 PM »
Good work Dingwall. There is another one I'm pretty sure though, since I heard it recently when the ipod was in shuffle mode and it's not one of the ones on your list.

Offline Richard

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2008, 12:44:03 AM »
Dingwall, please award yourself a gold star... that is really good! 

And, there is Viola Lee by Gus Caannon, I can't lay my hands on it right now but I am positive that has a reference as well.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2008, 01:04:12 AM »
I say Dingwall gets TWO gold stars.  How do they do that?

Another candidate (not checked, so dependent on my failing memory) is one by Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers featuring Noah Lewis.  I seem to remember Noah (one of my favourite harp players and singers) using those lines.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline waxwing

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Re: Mail it in the air
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2008, 01:32:10 AM »
Actually Noah sings it not in Viola Lee but in Pretty Mama Blues:

I wrote a letter I mailed it in the air
I mailed it in the air
You may know by that I got a friend somewhere

But it is often sung, as, I believe, by the Kweskin Band, as part of Viola Lee.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

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