Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Erwin A. Thompson’s 1936 song “Girl in the Little Blue Hat” coquettes again Valentine’s week 2008

Blue HatJanet Blue Hat RosesJanet Blue Hat Roses

In 1936, when my father was 21, he wrote a song for Sherman Bowen's younger sister, Lucille, that came to be titled "The Girl in the Little Blue Hat." Lucille was sixteen when he composed the song, but had been perhaps eight-years-old when my father started dancing square dances with her at Ben Hill's dances in his garage. Lucille was a bundle of energy and a lot of fun. A few of the grown-up dancers objected to her being so small, but most of them accepted my father and Lucille on the dance floor with a smile.

Eddie Lock and Bee Lewis helped write the song. My father hadn't considered it seriously, just something he'd put together for fun. He says, "Eddie was helping me work one Saturday, and we got to talking about it as we worked. That evening we were playing music over at Lewis' and Eddie said, 'Play that one we were fooling around with today.'" Thus, "The Girl in the Little Blue Hat" was born as a full-fledged tune. The Bee Lewis music group played it for the centennial of the Godfrey Congregational Church later in 1936.

My father used Lucille Bowen as a model for heroines as the characters of Laurel Rusk and Louisa Ray in his novels "The Home Place," and "The Lean Years," respectively.

Janet half frame roses

My father sang with his children as we grew up. "The Girl in the Little Blue Hat" is part of my heritage. It's a fine little comic song. I only wish you could hear the tune.

This Valentine's week I revived the coquette in the Little Blue Hat with two performances at two St. Louis open mics. I performed the song at the St. Louis Writers Guild Wired Coffee Open Mic to an older crowd on Tuesday night. On Thursday, at the Valentine's Day Massacre at the Royale (which turned out to be a bar, not the fine restaurant it looked like in the website photo!), I shared it with a much younger group of college students and 20-and 30-somethings, and to my delight, they responded as well, chiming in on the chorus:

CHORUS

See that girl! See that girl!
The Girl in the Little Blue Hat?
See that girl! See that girl!
As she looks this way and that?
[major retardando on next two lines for comic effect]
Still we sometimes wonder
Just how much is under
Under the little blue hat!
[this line then speeds up]

Curiously, both young women who modeled the hat at the Wired and the Royale share the name '"Julie." They both added to the act by hamming it up quite nicely.

Violin close-up

VERSES

1
There is a girl you know quite well,
of every ball she is the Belle.
I saw her, and oh boy I fell
for the girl in the little blue hat!

2
Now this girl, I do declare,
really is a lady fair!
Light blue eyes, and curly hair,
and oh that little blue hat!

3
I asked her if she'd ever been kissed?
She said: "Well now, if you insist: [Spoken with a lot of sassiness!]
I'm sweet sixteen, and never been missed,
under my little blue hat!

Blue Hat

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