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Book Fair Blog

Every book has a story
Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

Oh, THAT Kind of Party!

Hey, I got somebody’s collection of party records. These are records people used to play at parties. You say you could’ve figured that out by yourself? But I don’t mean that. I mean PARTY records.

Once upon a time, before George Carlin explained it all, there were words you could not use on a record. This made life tough for comedians whose material was what they used to call “Blue” or “Stag” or, well, “Smutty”. And there were comedians as well who did material that could be done at a church picnic AND material that was best saved for the smoky air of a nightclub. The first material could be released commercially, but the latter routines could (technically) not.

So very small, very private record labels, one of which even called itself “Party Records”, existed to purvey naughty gags for people to play privately. (Most of these records state that may NOT be played over the radio.) Such stuff comes in a variety of forms. There are naughty songs (Oscar Brand, Alan Arkin, and others released bawdy folksongs, while singers like Rusty Warren came out with new material.) There are naughty monologues, often no more than one extended joke that went on for the whole record. One or two of these manage to be exceedingly smutty without using a single naughty word, while others will blister your speakers. Yeah, even if you’re a rap fan.

And there are naughty skits. Actually, there seem to be two skits, redone in multiple variations (as any good vulgar comic would approve.) One is where THEY know what they’re talking about and YOU don’t, until the end. (That honeymoon couple is trying to turn the key in in the suitcase lock. What did you THINK they were talking about?) The other is where you and the straight man know what’s going on, but the comic doesn’t. (They’re interviewing someone to work in a mine but he’s in the wrong room and gets the wrong idea, what with all those questions about drilling.) Ah, the classics!

Is there any value of passing this material on to the next generation? Well, I like the answer a Newberry librarian gave a patron who asked why a late 19th century book on fishing in upstate New York was worth preserving. She was told, “We don’t censor culture.” If it’s part of the history of the people you’re studying, you’ll miss part of their story if you don’t consider the bypaths of research.

And, anyway, it’s good for the current generation to be reminded that they didn’t invent this stuff. 

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