Swingin' the Alphabet

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"Swingin' the Alphabet" is a novelty song sung by The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard) in their 1938 short film, Violent Is the Word for Curly. It is the only full-length song performed by the trio in their short films, and the only time they mimed to their own pre-recorded soundtrack. It contains a censor-baiting line; when the singers start ringing the changes on the letter “F” it seems as though an obscene word will result, but it does not. [1]


For their 1959 album The Nonsense Songbook, the Stooges re-recorded the song (retitled as "The Alphabet Song") with Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe DeRita (filling in for Curly Howard, who died in 1952). The letters "G", "J", "M" and the "Curly's a dope" line were omitted, and new lyrics featuring the letters "N," "P," "R," "S," "T," "V," and "Z" were added. [1]

In 2005, Stooge film historian Richard Finegan identified the composer of the song as Septimus Winner (1827–1902), who had originally published it in 1875 as "The Spelling Bee". Septimus' own version, though, appears to have been based on an earlier version called "Ba-Be-Bi-Bo-Bu", which has a centuries-old tradition. [2]


The lyrics of Septimus Winner's "Spelling Bee" (a.k.a. "Ba Be Bi Bo Bu") were slightly different. [3] A number of schools like Harvard University used this as one of their traditional songs, which itself may have originated centuries earlier in typesetting, as a very similar song or chant was used to help train apprentice printers in the structure of language, a tradition being described as "ancient" even as early as 1740: [4]

Whilst the Boy is upon his Knees, all the Chapellonians, with their right Arms put through the Lappets of their Coats as before, walk round him, singing the Cuz’s Anthem, which is done by adding all the Vowels to the Consonants in the following Manner.
B a - ba; B e be; B i - bi; Ba–be–bi; B o - bo; Ba-be-bi-bo; B u - bu; Ba-be-bi-bo-bu — And so through the rest of the Consonants. [5]


Use in other media

See also

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  1. 1 2 Solomon, Jon (2002). The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion. Glendale, California: Comedy III Productions, Inc. p. 133. ISBN   0-9711868-0-4.
  2. Finegan, Richard (Winter 2005). ""Swingin' the Alphabet" Composer Finally Identified". The Three Stooges Journal. Gyynedd Valley, Pennsylvania: The Three Stooges Fan Club, Inc. (116): 4.
  3. See Wier, Albert E. (1918). The Book of a Thousand Songs. New York: Carl Fischer Inc. p. 36.
  4. "Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog: Ben Franklin, The Three Stooges, and Ancient Rites of Printers - the Inky History of Ba-Be-Bi-Bo-Bu". esnpc.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  5. The gentleman's magazine. 10. 1740. p. 240. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  6. Dickerson, Dale (2013-04-22). "More than you ever wanted to know about the Gene Vincent song "B-I-Bickey-Bi-Bo-Bo-Go"". Musings Of A Muleskinner. Retrieved 2015-04-21.