Thursday, June 2, 1994

Today in Music (1894): “Yankee Doodle” hit #1

Yankee Doodle (aka “Yankee Doodle Went to Town”)

Vess Ossman

Writer(s): Dr. Richard Schukburgh (lyrics), traditional (music) (see lyrics here)

Published: 1780s

First Charted: June 2, 1894

Peak: 14 PM, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.006 video, -- streaming

Awards (Schukburgh):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Ossman):

About the Song:

He was born Sylvester Louis Ossman in Hudson, New York, on August 21, 1868 and is considered “the foremost recorded ragtime musician of the original ragtime era.” PM Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories describes him as “’The King of the Banjo’ from the 1890s to World War I.” PM He charted 27 times from 1894 to 1911, PM most notably with his instrumental version of “Yankee Doodle,” his first chart entry and first #1 in 1894.

The song was published in the 1780s, but its tune is thought to be even older. It may have originated from the Irish tune “All the Way to Galway” or even a 15th-century song from Holland. The latter contained nonsense words in English and Dutch such as “Yanker, didel, doodle down.” WK

The term “Doodle” appears in English in the early 17th century. It is thought to be derived from the word “dudel,” a Low German word which means “playing music badly,” or the word “dödel,” which means a “fool” or “simpleton.” WK The phrase “macaroni” from the song comes from 1770s slang for a macaroni wig. WK Finally, the term “dandy” referred to men who “placed particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisure hobbies.” WK

In pre-Revolutionary War times, British military officers sang the song to mock the “disheveled, disorganized colonial Yankees with whom they served in the French and Indian War.” WK It played on a stereotype that American soldiers were simpletons who thought they wer stylish by sticking feathers in their cap. WK It was written by British Army surgeon Richard Shuckburgh around 1755. WK However, for Americans it became a song of defiance and national pride.


First posted 6/25/2024.