History of the Song: "Minnie the Moocher"

Picture of Cab Calloway

Folks, here's the story 'bout Minnie the Moocher.  Well, it's actually about the song "Minnie the Moocher" by Cab Calloway.  This classic from the Big Band Era is known mostly for it's scat style lyrics and was first recorded back in 1931.  It's hard to imagine that this song is now 90 years old!

An interesting little fact I read while researching the song was that those famous "Hi-De-Ho" scat lyrics came about because he forgot the lyrics.  Calloway admitted in a Billboard Magazine article that the "Hi-De-Hos" weren't in the early and raw versions of the song. One night while performing a live radio remote he forgot the lyrics and started to ad-lib.  Can you even imagine the song without the legendary scat included?    

So we all love to sing all of those "Hi-De Hi-De Ho" parts, but it's easy to miss all of the drug references contained in the song. The term "kick the gong around" was slang for smoking opium.  And let's not forget that Minnie was in love with Smokey even though he was kokey.  Yea, it sounds like Smokey had a bit of a cocaine habit.

Cab Calloway would go on to mention Minnie in many of his other songs including: "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day", "Ghost of Smoky Joe", "Kickin' the Gong Around", "Minnie's a Hepcat Now", "Mr. Paganini - Swing for Minnie", "We Go Well Together", and "Zah Zuh Zaz". 

So an obvious question you may have: Was there really a Minnie the Moocher?  There's a bit of a debate on that.  According to an article published in Jet Magazine in 1951, there was a real Minnie who had recently died and “was a familiar figure in downtown Indianapolis.” Her real name was known to be Minnie Gayton and she acquired the nickname “Moocher” by regularly begging for food. But there's a lot holes in that theory and Calloway himself never mentions that as a fact.

You can listen to "Minnie the Moocher" below.  I've also included the lyrics without the Hi-De-Hos to save space.  Enjoy!

Listen to "Minnie the Moocher" by Cab Calloway

Minnie the Moocher:
Folks, here's a story 'bout Minnie the Moocher
She was a red hot hoochie-coocher
She was the roughest, toughest frail
But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale

She messed around with a bloke named Smokey
She loved him though he was kokey
He took her down to Chinatown
And he showed her how to kick the gong around

She had a dream about the king of Sweden
He gave her things, that she was needin'
He gave her a home built of gold and steel
A diamond car, with the platinum wheels

He gave her his townhouse and his racing horses
Each meal she ate was a dozen courses
She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes
She sat around and counted them all a million times

Poor Min, poor Min, poor Min

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