Witty Songs

ŠTed Schaar 2011

3.  "Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?"

Number 3 was written and recorded in 1947 by Harry "The Hipster" Gibson, a wild pianist-vocalist who probably blazed the trail for Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

It came out about the time Jack Kerouac and other Beat Generation artists began using the drug5--then an over-the-counter amphetamine--to fuel their creative engines.  Ovaltine isn't as well known now, but in mid-century America it was a heavily advertised breakfast drink, aimed mainly at children.

The second verse includes, "She says that everything is solid all reet," and you might be wondering as I did if "reet" is just a mispronunciation of "right" that rhymes with sleep or a real word.  It actually is a jazz slang term, according to dictionary.com, that means "good, proper, excellent."6  

Another word used in a way not encountered much today is "clout," also in the second verse.  Most of us relate it to organizational power or influence.  Its primary meaning, however, is a blow,7 as in striking something. 

The Benzedrine makes Mrs. Murphy want "to swing, the Highland Fling," which is a Scottish dance8 if, like me, you didn't know. Not content to rest on his laurels with one, multiple-syllable drug rhyme, Gibson conjures an impressive second with "Who put the Nembutals in Mr. Murphy's overalls?"  Nembutal was a trade name for a powerful barbiturate also known by the generic name phenobarbital.9  (Click YouTube [Gibson] for the song.)

Lyrics

Mrs. Murphy couldn't sleep
Her nerves were slightly off the beat
Until she solved her problem
With a can of Ovaltine
She drank a cupful most every night
And oooo how she would dream
Until something rough got in the stuff
And made her neighbors scream. OW!

Who put the Benzedrine, in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?
Sure was a shame, don't know who's to blame
Cause the old lady didn't even get his name
Where did she get that stuff?
Now she just can't get enough
It might have been the man who wasn't there
Now Jack, that guy's a square
She never ever wants to go to sleep
She says that everything is solid all reet
Now Mr. Murphy don't know what it's all about
Cause she went and threw the old man out.  Clout!
Who put the Benzedrine, in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?
Now she wants to swing, the Highland Fling
She says that Benzedrine's the thing that makes her spring.

Ah, spring it now Gibson.
This is the second chorus you know
The name of this chorus is called, "Who put the Nembutals in Mr. Murphy's overalls?
I don't know

She bought a can of Ovaltine, most every week or so
And she always kept an extra can on hand
Just in case that she'd run low
She never, never been so happy, since she left old Ireland
'Till someone prowled her pantry, and tampered with her can. Wham!

Who put the Benzedrine, in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?
Sure was a shame, don't know who's to blame
Cause the old lady didn't even get his name

Where did she get that stuff
Now she just can't get enough
It might have been the man who wasn't there
Now Jack, that guy's a square

She stays up nights making all the rounds
They say she lost about 69 pounds
Now Mr. Murphy claims she's getting awful thin
And all she says is, "Give me some skin." Mop!

Who put the Benzedrine, in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?
Now she wants to swing the Highland Fling
She says that Benzedrine's the thing that makes her spring

Ah, spring it now, Gibby.  



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