Aba Daba Honeymoon

This week’s Song of the Week (Number 287, if you’re counting) arose because of the way I concluded my appreciation of the late Debbie Reynolds:

On the radio last week, I mentioned one of my favorite Debbie Reynolds moments – from Two Weeks With Love, when she was eighteen and playing the younger sister of Jane Powell. Miss Powell got romanced by Ricardo Montalban; Debbie had lanky, boyish Carleton Carpenter, who was extremely tall while she was petite, and so they looked cute rather than sexy like the leads. Carleton Carpenter, from Bennington, Vermont, is a jack of all trades: actor, songwriter, mystery novelist, and better at most everything he’s tried than many exclusive practitioners. For Two Weeks With Love, he and Debbie did “Aba Daba Honeymoon”, an old novelty song by Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan from 1914, right at the end of the Tin Pan Alley craze for jungle numbers:

Aba daba daba daba daba daba dab
Said the chimpy to the monk
Baba daba daba daba daba daba dab
Said the monkey to the chimp…

The gymnast had yet to learn how to dance, but she does her steps with brio and the gymnastics serve her in good stead when she’s tossing peanuts to her duettist up a tree or swinging simian-like from the garden gate. “Aba Daba Honeymoon” became the first soundtrack to sell enough singles to earn a gold record, and suddenly everyone was doing a 40-year-old song – Hoagy Carmichael, Kitty Kallen, Merv Griffin… Its author, Arthur Fields, had retired to Florida and the fillip in royalties made his last two years very comfortable, until he died in a fire at his nursing home in 1953. Thomas Pynchon called “Aba Daba Honeymoon” “the nadir of all American expression”, but I love that firecracker performance from young Debbie and her gangly swain. Years later, my little girl and I watched it together and took to singing it in the car on long journeys. This week my now teenage daughter said to me, “I was singing that all last term, and my friends said, ‘What the hell is that?'”

Well, of course, the minute I wrote that, I promptly spent the rest of the day wandering around the house going:

Aba daba daba daba daba daba dab…

And about three hours later I passed my daughter slumped in a chair trying hard to focus on her homework but instead singing:

Then the big baboon
One night in June
He married them and very soon
They went upon their Aba Daba Honeymoon…

There are thousands of songs that rhyme “moon” and “June”, but this is the only pop hit to rhyme “moon” and “June” with “baboon”. Which makes it more than qualified to be this week’s Song of the Week. To perform the song on The Mark Steyn Show I asked the great Maria Muldaur – and, as you’ll hear, we found a couple of connections between Maria’s blockbuster hit “Midnight At The Oasis” and this century-old piece of Tin Pan Alley exotica:

Also on this weekend’s Mark Steyn Show, Paul Sorvino and a look at La La Land.