Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: After dozens of times listening to and analyzing “I'm My Own Grandpa,” I'm throwing in the towel.

This includes many versions (Lonzo & Oscar; Grandpa Jones; Ray Stevens; etc.), but no matter who sings it, I just can't follow the crazy storyline and end up with the singer being his own grandfather.

Has anyone explained this mess in a way that's easy to understand?
—Lydia Locke, Atlanta

DEAR LYDIA: Apart from the lyrics, with their intrinsic complexities, I have never seen a simplified explanation.

So I'll give it a whirl.

Making things more difficult to follow are all of the added lyrics used to embellish and extend the story, and also to create rhyming verses.

However, since I am not singing it for you, I can temporarily disregard everything except the essential relationships. I'll revisit the remnants later.

To assist with the tracking, I'll assign familiar names to all of the participants, some of whom are blood relatives and others connected by marriage (no inbreeding).

Just call me Homer, and here's my extraordinary story:

When I met Marge, she was a widow with an adult daughter named Lisa. When we married, Lisa became my stepdaughter.

Lisa fancied older men and fell for my dad (Abe). Soon they were married, an event that led to some bizarre associations:

By being married to Lisa, my stepdaughter, Abe is now my new son-in-law.

Marrying my father (Abe) also makes Lisa (already my daughter) my new stepmother.

Marge, already my wife and Lisa's mother, is also now my grandmother (in-law). This is because Marge is the mother of Lisa, who is my father's wife and therefore my stepmother.

As the husband of my step-grandmother Marge, I am now my own grandpa.

Reduced to a single sentence: Being married to his mother's mother makes a man his own grandfather.

Though the central plot is covered in these few lines, it would make for an unacceptably brief song.

To lengthen it to an appropriate running time, some other characters and events were added. They do not change the “I'm My Own Grandpa” outcome, though they do add considerably to the confusion for those trying to track the relationships.

Bringing them to life by using the same family names, here are those extra connections cited in the lyrics:

Marge and I have a child of our own, a boy named Bart, making Bart a brother-in-law to Abe, my son-in-law.

Bart being the brother of Lisa and her husband (Abe) also makes him my uncle (my father's brother-in-law).

Abe and Lisa then had a son (Nelson) who, as the child of my stepdaughter and son-in-law, is now my grandson. Nelson, the child of my father (Abe) and mother-in-law (Lisa), is also my new stepbrother.

Imagine the stress this family endures when trying to select an appropriate greeting card.

DEAR JERRY: I bought a CD of Polish music at a rummage sale, and one of the selections is titled “Dzieci Pireusu.” It is sung in Polish, which I don't understand.

I was surprised, however, to find the tune is the same as the song we know here as “Never on Sunday.”

Is “Dzieci Pireusu” the original recording, or did it come later?
—Ellen Bourget, South Milwaukee

DEAR ELLEN: The music known in the English-speaking countries as “Never on Sunday,” was written by Manos Hadjidakis, in his native Greek.

Originally titled “Ta Paidia tou Peiraia” (The Children of Piraeus), versions of this infectious tune quickly appeared in about 20 different languages.

In Polish, “Dzieci Pireusu” means Piraeus Child, Piraeus being a municipality of Athens. Situated on the Eastern Mediterranean, the Port of Piraeus is the largest and busiest port in Greece.

In the U.S., Don Costa (His Orchestra & Chorus) had the instrumental hit, and the Chordettes (with Archie Bleyer & Orchestra) the vocal version (English lyrics written by Billy Towne).

Both Costa (1960) and the Chordettes (1961) turned “Never on Sunday” into Top 20 hits.

IZ ZAT SO? In the first 70 years (1934-2003) in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented an Award for Best Original Song, the only Oscar winner from a foreign-language film went, in 1961, to Manos Hadjidakis for “Ta Paidia tou Peiraia” (“Never on Sunday”).

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page