Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne

FOR THE WEEK OF September 10, 2001

DEAR JERRY: This is in regard to the cry for help in your column from Lois M. Gibble (Manheim, Pa.) who wants to know more about the lyrics to the nonsense song once sung by her grandmother, who was born in 1879. I certainly can help.

The lyrics printed in your column (“Kee mo, ki mo, dare you wear,” etc.) are actually a slightly distorted version to the chorus of an old Minstrel song that dates back to at least 1854, maybe even earlier. I've seen one source place the date around 1840, with words and music as traditional.

The actual title of the song is “Keemo Kimo.”

The tune came out in sheet music form around 1854, and seems to be credited to H. Wood, of Wood's Minstrels.

Both Woods and George Christy — of Christy's Minstrels — certainly performed it, according to the sheet music, as their “Celebrated Banjo Song.”

A. Sedgwick arranged this delightful nonsense song “as sung by P. H. Keenen.” The sheet music was printed by William Hall and Son of New York. Septimus Winner, “Listen to the Mockingbird” fame, wrote an instrumental version in 1855.

Lester S. Levy includes the music (melody line only) and all of the verses in his “Flashes of Merriment: A Century of Humorous Songs in America 1805-1905,” (pages 165-166, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). This book can easily be gotten through interlibrary loan.

“Keemo Kimo” was very popular in the soldier camps during the Civil War, as were many of the minstrel nonsense songs of the time. In fact, I am a Civil War re-enactor portraying a camp musician and perform music from that time period. I've often thought of including this item in my repertoire. It was something of a thrill to me to discover this song still being sung in nursing homes.

One good website where you can hear a MIDI version of this song is

Our musical heritage and musical treasures certainly provide endless surprises and treats. This is just one touching example.
—Mike Wertel, Oshkosh Wis.

DEAR MIKE: Your interesting and informative letter is but one of many from folks rushing to the rescue of Lois Gibble.

Thanks to you for writing, and to everyone else — to numerous to mention — who responded to this example of our musical legacy of the nonsense variety.

DEAR JERRY: A couple of years ago, I think, you devoted some space to one or more of the software packages available that can remove scratches and noise from records.

I didn't even own a computer then, but now that I have one I would like to know about such a program. Kindly provide the name and source of same.
—Gordon M. Kelso, Birmingham, Ala.

DEAR GORDON: Since Ed Bromley, of Paducah, Ky., asks pretty much the same question, it must be time to revisit this interesting topic.

Over the past few years I have jumped from one audio restoration program to another, always anxious to have the latest technology.

The one I currently use is Cool Edit. It performs some truly amazing feats, and has given new life to some of the scratchiest records I have ever owned.

There are a couple of versions available, and even a demo edition which you can download and sample. Just log on at

IZ ZAT SO? Edwin Pearce Christy and Christy Minstrels performed on Broadway for a decade, as well as on tour here and abroad. They were clearly the world's predominant minstrel company.

Their success made the then-39-year-old Christy so rich that he retired in 1854. Unfortunately, retirement was not very kind to Christy. He battled mental health problems and fears of financial failure, all of which contributed to his jumping from a window to his death on May 21, 1862.

This band, as you may now suspect, inspired Randy Sparks to name his popular '60s folk group, the New Christy Minstrels.

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