A ukulele player's look at jazz and popular songs of the early 20th Century



One of the joys of learning the ukulele is discovering the wonderful songs of long ago--the beautiful melodies and lyrics that deserve to be remembered and revived. Thankfully, vintage sheet music abounds on the internet, and so I've had a great time tracking down lots of the old songs, transcribing them to chord/lyric sheets--in a good key for my voice--and then learning them on the uke. If you would like to receive my chord/lyric sheet for any of the songs featured here, email me and I will be happy to share them.


Have a listen to Van and Schenk, a popular Vaudeville duo:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Crazy Words - Crazy Tune"

My inaugural post must be devoted to the novelty tune from which I took the name for this blog. It was written by Jack Yellen and Milton Ager, and published in 1927.
Throughout his career, Jack Yellen (1892-1991) wrote scores for many Broadway shows including What's in a Name, Rain or Shine, You Said It, George White's Scandals of 1935 and 1939, Boys and Girls Together, Sons o' Fun and Ziegfeld Follies of 1943. Yellen also worked as a screenwriter and lyricist for 20th Century Fox. His score credits include the films Road Show, King of Jazz, George White's Scandals (1934 and 1935), Happy Landing and Sing, Baby, Sing. Among Yellen's hit songs co-written with Milton Ager are "Ain't She Sweet", "Happy Days are Here Again" and "Hard-Hearted Hannah".
Milton Ager (1893-1979) had his first success in 1921 with "Nobody's Baby". By 1930 he had written songs such as "Who Cares?", "The Last of the Red Hot Mamas", and "I Wonder What's Become of Sally". In 1930, Ager moved to Hollywood and contributed to the film scores of Honky Tonk, King of Jazz, and Chasing Rainbows. Songs in these pictures include "Happy Feet", "A Bench in the Park" and "If I Didn't Care".

Ukulele Vaudevillian Johnny Marvin sings
"Crazy Words - Crazy Tune" in this recording on YouTube:
"There's a guy I'd like to kill;
If he doesn't stop I will.
Got a ukulele and a voice that's loud and shrill..."


  1. Uke-a-Riffic!!! Thanks for the chords and words!
    Miz Kitty

  2. Hi Tim,

    I'm delighted to find your website!

    I'm a beginning uke player -- got a uke for my birthday a week ago and can't put this fun little instrument down -- and my mother just gifted me with a BIG box of my grandfolks' sheet music from the 20s and 30s to go with it. The sheet music for Vo-Do-De-O was included in there.

    I decided to do some online research and see what a few of these sheet music tunes sounded like -- I can't read music -- and a search of Vo-Do-De-O brought up your site. Wow.... I'm over the moon! A website devoted to these old tunes!

    I am going to have a lot of fun exploring your site (it looks like you have some great stuff here), joining the Uke Social Club (thanks for the link), and exploring this great old music. My partner plays piano pretty well, so I think we have a lot of great playing ahead, too.

    Thanks for such a great resource!

  3. Hello, Ukedog and thanks so much for the comment! Loved hearing the details of your uke playing and that great gift of sheet music from your mother. I hope your partner can introduce you to the melodies because you might find some tunes there that you really like. If you want to let me know what the titles are, I will be glad to offer my opinions of them--if I know of them. Also, I'd love to know what kind of uke you have, just out of curiosity. And thanks for the kind words about this blog. I'm going to try to be more diligent about posting more frequently. I have a new Ultra Flip camcorder which will make it easier to make videos that are presentable. And do let me know if you want any of the chord sheets for music on this blog. You can email me if you wish, at tims.email@yahoo.com. Happy strumming!

  4. Hi Tim

    I did a lot of research and "test drove" several ukes, and I ended up choosing a Fluke, without a backwards glance. Great action, nice tone... and you just can't help but smile when you start plinking around on a purple uke.

    When I was researching what to buy, a wise friend reminded me that the most important thing about choosing an instrument is to pick one that you are excited about playing. For me, the Fluke was a perfect fit!

    I literally have dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of pieces of sheet music now, so giving you titles would be a big job. But here are a few I picked out and some of the titles sound familiar: Ain't She Sweet? (by Yellen and Ager, who wrote Vo-do-de-o); A Lane in Spain; Ramona; Blue Skies by Irving Berlin; Girl of My Dreams by Sunny Clapp; When The Moon Comes Over the Mountain (a very young Kate Smith is on the Cover of this one); That Night in Araby (Rudolph Valentino on the cover). I'd be happy to scan any of these and send them to you if you would like them.

    Thanks for your offer of the chords! I'm SURE I will be in touch.

  5. Many thanks for the song sheet. This song and "That's My Weakness Now" are my two favourite uke tunes.

    Do you know/can you play "High-High-High Up In The Hills". I have it by Frank Crumit on CD but can't find anyone who has posted a uke or guitar version of it.



  6. Thanks, Andy! I'm also a big fan of "That's My Weakness Now". I had not heard of "High-High-High Up in the Hills", but I just looked it up on YouTube and find it charming. Reminds me of another great tune I've learned on the uke, "The Clouds Will Soon Roll By". Thanks for the recommendation!


  7. A long time favorite of mine - thanks for posting and I'm glad to find you.

    You don't happen to know the chords for their follow-up hit, do you?: Vo Do De O Blues?

    (Ager / Yellen)
    Ed Kirkeby

    Stop playing that crazy thing
    Crazy words with a crazy swing
    I've got those
    Vo do do de o blues.

    Stop saying those crazy rhymes
    Gee, I've heard them a million times
    I've got a forty-four that I'll use
    If you refuse.

    All night long
    I hear that song upon my radio.
    In cabarets and in cafes
    They play that vo do do.

    Ah! That darn refrain
    Is driving me insane!
    Stop! Please! Help me loose
    Those Vo do do de o blues!

    I fake it, but it would be good to find the sheet music - coming up blank, though.

    Again, great to find you,

  8. Hello, John, and thanks so much for the comment. I hadn't even heard of that song, so I'll certainly have to find it. I appreciate you posting the lyrics here. So many great songs out there waiting to be re-discovered!

  9. I have the sheet music for "Vo-do-do-de-o Blues" complete with May Singhi Breen's ukulele chords, and will attempt to scan and post. Have you the rest of "Crazy Words" you could post here?