8 October 2016


One of my friends says every jazz programme should include at least one bit of nonsense. And I know a couple of fans who constantly request The Cat's Got Kittens (often written as The Kat's Got Kittens).

It is not a tune that's easy to find on YouTube - or anywhere else. I don't know its origin. But the earliest recording of it seems to have been made in New Orleans on 15 May 1945, when the singer was Edward 'Noon' Johnson (1903-1969) and the supporting band included George Lewis, Lawrence Marrero, Baby Dodds, Bunk Johnson and Alcide Pavageau. Here's a picture of Noon Johnson in later years, playing an instrument he invented - the bazooka - along with Kid Sheik Colar (trumpet) and George Guesnon (banjo).
The Cat's Got Kittens could have been 'composed' by anybody (maybe Noon himself). All that was needed was to put some nonsense words and a slightly different melodic emphasis to You Can't Escape From Me (aka San Jacinto Stomp), (words by Charles French, music by Erskine Hawkins and Sammy Lowe). It was published and recorded in 1939.

Fifty years after the Edward 'Noon' Johnson recording, The Cat's Got Kittens was popularized by Cliff 'Kid' Bastien (1937-2003), when he played for years in Toronto.
Cliff 'Kid' Bastien
You can access his storming version - and purchase it, if you wish - BY CLICKING HERE. (Then click on the arrow to make it play.)

And Marla Dixon - herself from Toronto and inspired by Kid Bastien's band - can sometimes be persuaded to sing it at The Spotted Cat in New Orleans, with The Shotgun Jazz Band.

It's a merry and simple tune to play. It works well in Bb. Need the chords? Just think You Can't Escape From Me. I am deeply indebted to my friend John Whitehorn for supplying me with copies of the sheet music.

For a clear performance by a British group CLICK ON TO THIS VIDEO. It's the The Black Cat Jazz Band.
Friend and Correspondent Carsten writes:
I, in turn, was doing a bit of research in relation to 1930s British dance bands and suddenly had my memory jogged about Henry Hall's recording of An Elephant Never Forgets (they famously recorded Bananas, too, of course).  In case it's capable of incorporation into your humorous repertoire, here's a YouTube clip - my favourite line in the lyrics is "You can soft-soap an antelope, but an elephant never forgets".   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rqC4gje5_c