Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits


|  7   6 -5# 6  -6B 6  | R -7  567 R |                         Midi 1    Midi 2       For Diatonic harmonica
 Shave an nd a haircut,   two bits!                                                              

You've knocked it, you've hummed it, you've beeped it on your car horn.

We're talking, of course, about the old refrain: "Shave and a haircut, two bits!" Where did this musical couplet come from, and is there more to it?

The first recorded occurrence of the tune (with no lyrics) is in an 1899 song by Charles Hale, called "At a Darktown Cakewalk." In 1914, Jimmie Monaco and Joe McCarthy released a song called "Bum-Diddle-De-Um-Bum, That's It!" in which that line was featured in the last two bars of the song. In 1939, the same musical phrase was used in a tune called "Shave and a Haircut - Shampoo" by Dan Shapiro, Lester Lee, and Milton Berle. Somewhere along the line the phrase permutated into "shave and a haircut, bay rum."

The eight notes have remained the same, but over the years the phrase has become known as "shave and a haircut, two bits" (which would amount to 25 cents). Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim incorporated the tune into their "Gee, Officer Kropke, F*** You" number from the musical West Side Story, and the refrain became a key plot element in the motion picture Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

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From June 30, 2006



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