Julia Lee was from Kansas City, a blues singer in the famous club scene there. In the 1940s she had great success with what was then called “dirty blues”, but which to modern ears are just a bit risqué. They were, she said, “the songs my mother taught me not to sing”, with lots of lots of double entendre references to sex, like “I Didn’t Like It The First Time (The Spinach Song)”, released in 1949. You get the idea. Kinda brave for the time, but Blowfly she ain’t.
What matters, though, is that her songs are funny, well-crafted, and she sings them strong, and sassy, and plays a thumping boogie woogie piano.
I had never heard of he, until I picked up a four-track EP, Party Time, released in Australia in 1954. This was a time when my country was prudish, to put it mildly. We had a list of banned books longer than any country outside the Eastern bloc, with the exception of Ireland. I can only assume that the censors did not catch what is meant when Julia hollers:
Grab it on the left, grab it on the right,
Grab it in the middle and hold it tight; you better
Snatch and grab it,
Baby ‘fore it gets away
(Snatch and Grab It, 1947)
The song I have chosen to share was first released in 1948. “King Sized Papa” was a huge hit for Lee, topping the R&B charts in America for nine weeks.
It is a fun, jumpin’ R&B number. Subtle … not so much.
- Artist: Julia Lee and Her Boy Friends
- Title: Party Time
- Side 1, Track 1: “King Size Papa” (original release 1948)
- Format: 7” EP 45rpm
- Label: Capitol CEP-015
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1954