Remembering a song about “roc” that’s definitely rolled

I first
heard a scratchy 78-rpm recording of Slim Gaillard singing Yep-Roc Heresay when
I was a kid. I hadn’t heard it again until it popped into my head the other day
when I was thinking about dinner.

Slim Gaillard

One of
the delights of living in these digital times is that almost every distant
memory is within Google’s reach. I not only found the song on iTunes, I found
various versions on Web sites, where I also discovered that lots of people
remembered the song for the same reasons I did:

catchy, and it makes you hungry.
also quite startling–and great fun—to hear an American jazz musician
singing about stuffed grape leaves and bulgur.
How it
came to be is a bit mysterious, as is just about everything regarding Gaillard
except his playful personality and his talent as a composer, guitarist, pianist and comedian.
sources (and Slim himself at various times) claimed he was born in Cuba, or
Detroit and that his father was Cuban, or Greek. What seems certain is that he eventually settled in Detroit and developed a stage act playing piano with
his hands upside down.
He became
well-known in the 1930s and ’40s for writing and performing fun songs with
lyrics that were either inventive or nonsensical, or both. Among the most
familiar is A Flat Foot Floozy with a Floy Floy.

There are variations on the story behind Yep-Roc Heresay but the one we like is this: Before he became successful, Gaillard was living in the basement of a beauty parlor in Detroit. His landlady was an Armenian woman who provided dinner along with lodging. Gaillard liked the food so much he decided to sing about it.

There’s also speculation that he was simply reading from the menu of a Syrian or other Middle Eastern restaurant, but the Armenian connection is bolstered by pronunciations that would be voiced by an Armenian from Turkey or Aleppo.
See what you think when you listen to this version posted on Qifa Nabki, a Web site that usually deals with Lebanese
politics—and be sure to check out the comments.

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