Featured image: ‘Lily of Laguna’ sheet music cover. Song written and composed by Leslie Stuart (1863 – 1928) and first performed in 1898.
A selection of recordings of the controversial coon song ‘Lily of Laguna’, with a focus on Australian material. Hear how the charming melody of the song belies the ugly stereotypes of the original lyrics.
Complete lyrics (taken from the published sheet music):
It’s de same old tale of a palpatating niggar ev’ry time, ev’ry time;
It’s de same old trouble of a coon dat wants to be married very soon.
It’s de same old heart dat is longing for its lady ev’ry time, yes ev’ry time
But not de same gal, not de same gal,
She is my Lily, ma Lily, ma Lily gal!
She goes ev’ry sundown, yes, ev’ry sundown callin’ in de cattle up de mountain
I go ‘kase she wants me, yes, ‘kase she wants me help her do de callin’ and de countin’
She plays her music to call de lone lambs dat roam above,
But I’m de black sheep and I’m waiting for de signal of ma little lady love.
When I first met Lil it was down in old Laguna at de dance, oder night
So she says, “Say, a’m curious for to know when ye leave here de way yer goin’ to go,
‘kase a wants to see who de lady is dat claims ye all way home, way home tonight.”
I says “I’ve no gal, never had one”, And den ma Lily, ma Lily, ma Lily gal!
She goes, “Kern’t believe ye, a kern’t believe ye, else I’d like to have ye shapperoon me;
Dad says he’ll esscortch me, says he’ll esscortch me, but it’s mighty easy for to lose him.”
Since then each sundown I wander down here and roam around
Until I know ma lady wants me, till I hear de music ob de signal sound.
She’s ma lady love, she is ma dove, my baby love,
She’s no gal for sittin’ down to dream,
She’s the only queen Laguna knows;
I know she likes me, I know she likes me
Bekase she says so; She is de Lily of Laguna,
she is my Lily and ma Rose.
Tom Katz’ Saxophone Band performing ‘Popular songs medley, Part 2’, including ‘Lily of Laguna’. Recorded in Sydney, March 20, 1928 and issued on Columbia 0997.
Advertisement for the Tom Katz band in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 – 1954), (1927, December 25), p. 8.
Piano solo by Leslie Harvey with vocal chorus by Vernon Paris. Recorded in Sydney c. September, 1928 and issued on Parlophone A2555.
Baritone Vernon Paris with instrumental accompaniment. Recorded in Sydney, c. October, 1928 and issued on Parlophone A2576.
Banjo soloist Eugene Pingitore with piano accompaniment, performing ‘Popular Old Time Medley’ featuring ‘Lily of Laguna’. Recorded in Melbourne, September 12, 1929 and issued on Broadcast W524 and Vocalion 791. Track courtesy of Geoffrey Orr.
Banjo soloist Eugene Pingitore (1895 – c. 1970).
Those Three Fellows (Fred Witt, Jack O’Hagan, Reg. Hawthorne) with Margot Sheridan on piano performing ‘A Coon Medley’ including ‘Lily of Laguna’. Recorded in Melbourne, June 16, 1930 and issued on Vocalion 842. Taken from the album ‘Jack O’Hagan Collection Volume 2’ Lyric CDs. Courtesy Geoffrey Orr.
Baritone Walter Kingsley with orchestra. Recorded in Sydney, April 23, 1931 and issued on Regal G21030. Transfer courtesy of David Crisp.
Baritone Walter Kingsley was one of the first artists to record at the Columbia studios in Sydney, 1926.
Winifred Atwell on piano with rhythm accompaniment performing “Let’s Have Another Party – Part 2” medley featuring Lily of Laguna. Recorded c. 1950s in England and issued in Australia on Philips B 26154 H.
Winifred Atwell in Studio ‘A’ at Castlereagh Street in Sydney, Australia, 1950’s.
Additional performances of the song:
Musical hall artist Eugene Stratton (1861 – 1918). Discographic details unknown.
‘Lily of Laguna’ performed by Leslie James on the Wurlitzer organ of the New Gallery Cinema, London. Issued on HMV B. 2902. Date of recording unknown.
Another organ rendition by Sydney Gustard on the organ of Gaumont Palace Cinema, Chester. Issued on HMV B. 8088
A jazzy interpretation with less offensive lyrics featuring Bing Crosby (1903 – 1977) and Mary Martin (1913-1990). 1941. Discographic details unknown.