Kent Burns Presents Booty Music: The Story of Songs About Butts
Part I—Early Ass-Music for Days
By Kent Burns
For ass lovers, there is no better time to be alive than right now. Ample butts are everywhere—popular cinema, television, musical theater, Vine compilations, pornographic websites, and even mainstream music. Really, in today’s world, one needs nothing more than ears and a FM radio to access a nonstop, veritable faceful of bouncing ass. One might even say that no facet of modern life is more stuffed with booty than the realm of audio entertainment. Songs about butts are more plentiful than ever, even across lines of genre and style.
Yes, when it comes to music, times are good for ass enthusiasts. Some critics even argue that the entire tradition of booty music recently reached its historical apex in 2011 with the release of Big Sean’s epic butt-worship romp, “Dance A$$”—a song that was praised by the Village Voice, and also ranked as high as number-ten on the US Billboard Hot 100 list for 2011-2012. However, some are quick to note that the years following the release of “Dance A$$” have proven to be nearly as fruitful in terms of odes to asses. “Red Nose”. “Clappers”. “Bubble Butt”. The list goes on.
Today’s body of musical content about the derrière is plenty wide and well-rounded, but where did it all begin? Who were the ass-acclaiming artists of yesteryear? How long have people been writing songs about butts? You may be surprised to learn that the roots of this phenomenon run deep. Very deep. Deeper than Sir Mix-a-Lot. Deeper than ZZ Top. Deeper than even Queen.
Join me on a journey through time to explore one of humanity’s greatest cultural traditions—booty music.
“Black Bottom” by Ma Rainey (1927)
In 1927, early blues vocalist Gertrude Pridgett stepped into a Chicago sound studio to record a new song she had penned. The idea for the piece was simple: describe the allure of a new dance called the “Black Bottom”—a title that would serve as an obvious gateway to lewd innuendo throughout the song’s lyrics.
Some time later in 1927, Pridgett, who was better known by her stage name, Ma Rainey (“The Mother of the Blues”), finally released the track to the public, giving birth to one of history’s earliest—and finest—recorded examples of music explicitly about the ass. Well, her ass to be exact.
Over the course of nearly six minutes, Ma Rainey takes “Black Bottom” listeners on a ride over her backside. She begins:
Now, you heard the rest
Ah, boys, I’m gonna show you the best
Ma Rainey’s gonna show you her black bottom
Nineteen twenty-seven, folks. Rainey continues:
Now I’m gonna show y’all my black bottom
They stay to see that dance
Wait until you see me do my big black bottom
I’ll put you in a trance
While there is no historical record of the immediate reactions to this song at Ma Rainey’s live performances, one can only imagine that her act prompted lines for the men’s bathroom—complete with jizz overflowing from 1927 trough-style urinals in speakeasies across the country. Let there be no doubt about it, Ma Rainey’s “Black Bottom” was the “Milkshake” of the early 20th century, as she crooned to the masses about the allure of her assets.
“It Must Be Jelly (‘Cause Jam Don’t Shake Like That)” by Chummy MacGregor, George Williams, and Sunny Skylar (1942)
The year was 1942 or 1941. Jazz composers Chummy MacGregor and George Williams teamed up with lyricist Sunny Skylar to write and record a hit song for the hip world (no, I did not make those names up). Light sexual innuendo had already become somewhat commonplace within the swing-music genre, but these three men decided they were going to push the envelope. The result was the song “It Must Be Jelly (‘Cause Jam Don’t Shake Like That)”—a not-so-discreet tune about booty wobble.
Performed and recorded by the Glenn Miller Band as an RCA 78 single, “It Must Be Jelly” went on to enjoy tremendous success, making it all the way to the number twelve spot on the Billboard chart for January of 1944. For MacGregor, Williams, and Skylar, the gamble paid off. In February of that same year, the song ascended to the number-two seat on Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade chart (apparently, 1944’s version of the R&B list). The people had spoken and they made clear what they wanted—ass, lots of it, jiggling like jelly all over the dance floor.
It must be jelly
’cause jam don’t shake like that
It must be jelly
’cause jam don’t shake like that
Oh, mama, you’re so big and fat
“Vikki Dougan” by The Limeliters (1961)
The year 1961 saw ass—as a lyrical theme—spill right over into the world of American folk music. With their song “Vikki Dougan”, the New York City-based Limeliters took listeners on a tour down the buttcrack of model and actress Vikki Dougan:
Vikki baby, you rock me
Without you I’m bereft
I’m hypnotized by those crazy eyes,
and that callipygian cleft
In this live version of the song, from the album The Slightly Fabulous Limeliters, the band’s frontman sounds lascivious and sweaty as he spends over 2 minutes and 30 seconds introducing the song (i.e. waxing poetic on Dougan’s butt). If you listen closely, you can actually hear his dick stiffening in this part of the recording. Once the song finally starts, the lyrics are priceless:
Vikki turn your back on me
Come on, darling, just for me
‘Cause there is something so appealing
that your eyes are not revealing
Oh, Miss Dougan, you’re for me
Vikki, baby, we’re older
My get up and go is gone
But when I see you walking down the street,
them buns still turn me on
Tune in next time for Booty Music Part II: Planet Ass (1970-1999)