[Dixielandjazz] Thats Why The Call Me Shine

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 2 21:21:05 PST 2004

I think Dave Richoux wrote

>I was on a remote computer when I sent my last message - I was going
>to go a bit further on the "actual lyric" question but I did not have
> access to all of the messages and I had to get to a meeting.
>When someone shouted, "Fellas, hey! Come on and pipe the shine!"
>But I don't care a bit. Here's how I figure it:
>does not seem like the protagonist is scared that someone is going to
>beat him with a pipe - the rest of the song seems to me as  more
>about accepting conditions of being called "Sambo,"  "Rastus," or
>"Chocolate Drop" - that was the nature of the times, a bit like
>"Mick," "Wop," or "Yid" but not like an extreme life threatening
>Do we know who Dabney/Mack/Brown were? In some ways it seems like an
>early "Black Pride" song! Call me names but I will still be here!
>anyway, I am sure that doctoral papers in Afro-American Studies have
>been written about this song - we just can't find them.


A simple google search for Cecil Mack will reveal the following snip:

"In 1910, Gotham-Attucks published a song used by Ada Walker in another
famous African-American road show called His Honor the Barber. The name of
the song with words by Mack and music by Ford Dabney was That's Why They
Call Me Shine, and it became famous. . . According to Perry Bradford,
himself a songster and publisher, the song was written about an actual man
named Shine who was with George Walker when they were badly beaten during
the New York City race riot of 1900." END OF SNIP

The play had a very short run on Broadway in 1911, about 2 weeks. No doubt
it did not appeal to the theater going audience. :-) VBG.

Perry Bradford the songwriter in the snip above, was black and he gave his
information about the beating in an interview before his death. The George
Walker referred to was Ada Walker's Husband. Cecil Mack should be known to
us all. HE WROTE THE WORDS TO "THE CHARLESTON". I am a sideman in Tex
Wyndham's Red Lions and he sings it, though I guess many OKOM bands which
play it, neither know the words, nor their author.

Gotham-Attucks who published it was probably the first black owned music
publishing house in the USA. (Crispus Attucks for whom it was named was the
first American killed in the American Revolution and Black)

We can speculate all we want about "pipe" meaning "look at" but that doesn't
make any sense at all given the actual wording of the Verse in the context
of the play and the oral testimony of Perry Bradford. And certainly in those
days, blacks were not writing protest plays about being "looked at". They
were worried about being beaten (best case) or killed (worst case) if they
dared to claim equality. "Hey fellas, come on and pipe the shine". Think
about it. Read some Black History written by Blacks, like W.E.B. DuBois.

We seem to get hung up on looking at slang words in a very limited context.
E.G. Nigger Knocker as another black man, or something else. The term can be
found in various slang dictionaries and usually the definition given is:
"Axe Handle or other such device". Dave published a web site where it is
described as such. It was also commonly used in New York City at least, when
I was learning to drive, for a "jack handle" or a piece of "pipe" which
fearful folks kept under their car seats in case of attack. (circa 1949) But
no doubt, that's more than you wanted to know.

Search Google for the Play, or Cecil Mack etc., for the story, not the
dictionaries. And talk with the people who were on the jazz scene, alongside
blacks in integrated bands, playing in black clubs as well as white clubs,
50 years ago or more, for what these tunes mean and what it was like for

Steve Barbone

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