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December 4, 2006 | 5 Comments

Post to the Host:
I recently was able to purchase the Prairie Home Companion DVD which led to the purchase of the soundtrack (a little tougher find than normal being in South Korea). Have you ever considered doing an album of bawdry and risqué folk music — the kind of songs sung by miners and soldiers and cowboys over a round of beverages at a favorite watering hole after a hard day's work?

I understand the pressure you undoubtedly feel from your fine sponsors like Powdermilk Biscuits to keep a certain standard of morality, but unfortunately, there is probably an entire generation who heard "I used to work in Chicago" for the first time when Dusty and Lefty gave an impromptu verse at the start of the movie. There is a certain art to a song filled with double entendres and with fewer young Americans holding jobs where they get their hands filthy from hard work, I fear the art form is dying.

Surely the lyrics can't be worse than what is on popular radio today - and there is a certain dubious honor of releasing an album with a parental advisory warning. Or so I'm told.

John H.
Tongduchon, Korea

I'm glad you enjoyed "I used to work in Chicago," John. I once sang that for an audience at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago for an evening of bawdy humor and though the show was advertised as bawdy, the audience seemed uncomfortable. They laughed but it was uneasy laughter. I think they didn't want to hear that song sung by me: it just conflicted with how they saw me. The audience at the "Prairie Home Companion" movie, however, laughed themselves sick when Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly sang the same song. So I won't be making an album of bawdy songs.


5 Comments


I, too, appreciated hearing "I Used to Work in Chicago," and would love for it to be distributed further. In my lifetime, I'd only ever heard it sung by my mother or myself.
Keep up the good work with PHC and Writer's Almanac, and don't let anyone censor your humor, even yourself. (I'm ordering the Christmas CD today.)


I loved the 2006 New Years Eve show. I had no idea Auld Lang Syne had so many verses! Will you ever film your PHC shows like you used to so we can watch as well as listen? I remember seeing a few on my public television several years ago, and loved them.


The people who are offended at a little off color humor have convinced me. I would be afraid to do anything to salute Max Schulman, as I suggested earlier, for fear that many would be offended too. Let's just let this man who Bob Newhart called his inspiration, alone; as I am sure many a librarian in his adopted hometown of Minneapolis/Hennepin County have done. Out of print, out of mind. Remember this for postarity.


I Used to Work in Chicago, was written by my grandfather Larry Vincent in the late 40's. He played in night clubs, mostly mafia owned. Started in Tin Pan Alley. He played all over the country but settled down in Cincinnati Ohio as Powel Crosley started WLW radio and he had a show on it, just playing music and making up songs about sponsors. Rosemary Clooney often sang on those shows. He played at the Beverly Hills Supper Club around Cincinnati as the MC, when the Beverly Hills Supper club had gambling and was run by the Cleveland Mob. The gangsters were real fans of his songs, especially Al Capone.

He made several serious songs that became hits like, "If I had my life to live over" recorded by Frank Sinatra and Lou Rawls, and when "The sun say good night to the Mountain" of which a french version is very good. He also did "Hey Hey Farmer Gray, Take Another Load Away."

His friend was Haven Gillespsie who wrote "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Haven and Larry Vincent wrote several tunes together like "Hows my Baby Tonight". My nephew is named Haven after his friend.

He maded many nightclub songs full of double entrendres like," Get off the table Mable, those two bucks are for beer," My how my Peter has grown" "She had to go and lose it at the Astor" "She has freckles on her but, she is nice."
"Roll me over in the Clover, Rover."

Many people in their late 60's 70's remeber some of these. The song "I used to work in Chicago" seems to be a favorite ruggby song, but Pearl Jam did a very bluesy version of it.

His last hit was for the Cincinnati Reds called the "Whole Twons Batty about Cincinnati" for their 1961 World Series. He died in 1977 of Lou Gherigs Disease.

Dave Reininger
Cincinnati, Ohio


So does he have a song book with ukulele chords?

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