Friday, April 30, 2010

Mae West: Hula High

It was April 1924 and MAE WEST was back in vaudeville shakin' it and taking her twitches and bewitchment on the road. Hawaiian themed music was once again trendy and the sassy Brooklynite knocked on many doors along Tin Pan Alley looking for just the right material that would suit her. She found a funky new composition at Ager, Yellen & Bornstein, music publishers who had established their firm at 1595 Broadway in Manhattan in 1922. Since these hit-makers were riding high during the jazz age, it was quite a big deal to be featured on their song sheets — — and Mae grabbed the chance whenever she could.
• • During her marriage to handsome Guido Deiro — — a popular accordionist also in demand as a recording artist — — Mae became aware of the financial rainbows that brightened the lives of the top singers and musicians. But as her own career prospects continued to sink during 1923 and 1924, and since no record companies pursued her, Mae gamely trouped on and continued to entertain the southwestern wheel of the vaudeville circuit — — trying to sell sheet music with her picture on the front cover. Which swings the conversation around to "Hula Lou."
• • The song sheet was designed by Frank E. Phares with a clever inset that made each individual personalization quite simple.
• • Holy Honolulu! Not for Mae the gooey romantic yearning numbers such as "My Hawaiian Melody" nor "Honolulu Eyes." Nor would she have ever chosen a lightweight love ballad such as "Honolulu Honey" nor a harmless hula tempo such as "Hawaiian Sandman." The girl had gumption and looked for lyrics suitable for a flirt
— — a self-confident seductress who could put across a sultry kootch onstage. Could any chart-topper be as suitable for the singing comedienne as this come-hither bragging and posing? Here's an excerpt.
• • • • • "HULA LOU" • • • • •
• • Lyrics: Jack Yellen; Music: Milton Charles & Wayne King
• • Copyright 1924 by Ager, Yellen, & Bornstein, Inc., 1595 Broadway, New York City
• • • You can talk all you want about women
• • • Said a sailor known as Dan McCann
• • • And if you really want to know about women
• • • You've got to talk to a sailor man.
• • • Now I don't know how many women the sailor met
• • • And I hope there isn't that any he'll regret
• • • For if he'd only met me I'd a given him some trimmin'
• • • I'm one gal he'd never forget.
• • • (Band): Well, who are you?
• • • Who am I? I'm Hula Lou.
• • • I'm the gal that can't be true.
• • • I do my nestin' in the evenin' breeze
• • • 'Neath the trees
• • • You oughta see me shake my BVDs.
• • • I never knew
• • • A man who wouldn't hula dance or woo
• • • And sail across the briny blue to who
• • • The lady known as Hula Lou. That's me.
• • • (Rap):

• • • Now you ask any sailor and he'll tell you
• • • That this lady is the greatest dancer he ever knew.
• • • There isn't a ship in the Navy
• • • That I haven't got a friend in the crew.
• • • There's not a cruiser on the waves
• • • Without someone who is my devoted slave
• • • And I don't care how nasty I may be
• • • I'm the one gal the sailors all crave. ...
• • Sophie's choice . . .
• • In January 1924 Sophie Tucker discovered this gem and recorded it with Miff Mole on Okeh Records. All by herself, however, Sophie was featured on the sheet music version.
• • On 13 February 1924 The Varsity Eight recorded their version of "Hula Lou."
• • While many vocalists posed on this song sheet, the lyrics are so well-suited to Mae West that it's a shame she didn't sing it in a motion picture so we'd have a record of it in her voice.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1924 • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.


  1. Do you know how I can obtain a copy of the sheet music to Hula Lou?

  2. I bought my "Hula Lou" sheet music from a bookseller (years ago). But try EBAY. Persistence pays off. Good luck.

  3. Thank you. I've been looking... and will keep it up. I'm a performer and looking for a copy - if you are interested in selling me a pdf/photocopy, please let me know.