Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Lately we have been streaming the second season of "ER," intent on watching all 15 seasons.

In one episode a mentally challenged patient named Mitchell keeps singing what nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) describes as "a stupid little song that gets stuck in your head."

It did became contagious, and soon others were infected with the same earworm.

Part of it is "without you ... I'm Napoleon without his Josephine" and continues with more of "I'm (whatever) without (whatever)."

I cannot recall the other verses.

Was this written specifically for this show, or was it an actual record by someone?
—Virgil Hartman, McKinney, Texas

DEAR VIRGIL: This silly song is "I'm a Poached Egg," sometimes shown as "I'm a Poached Egg (Without Toast)."

It was written especially for the 1964 Billy Wilder comedy, "Kiss Me, Stupid," starring Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Ray Walston, Felicia Farr, and Cliff Osmond.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that the "ER" script called for Hathaway to call it "stupid," as an inside joke to tie in with the movie title.

In the film, Orville (Walston) and Barney (Osmond) are aspiring song writers, and Barney's latest creation begins this way:

I'm a poached egg without a piece of toast
Yorkshire pudding without a beef to roast
I'm a haunted house that hasn't got a ghost
When I'm without you

Other rhyming examples of an incomplete existence include:
A doctor without a single pill
A dentist without a tooth to fill
Las Vegas without a slot machine
A gypsy without a tambourine

A mouse trap without a piece of cheese
Vienna without the Viennese
Da Vinci without the Mona Lis (pronounced "lease")
A police force without a single cop
A kangaroo without a way to hop

A western without a hitching post
A network without a coast-to-coast
Venice without a gondolier
Milwaukee without a glass of beer
Switzerland without a mountaineer

Columbus without Queen Isabel
Neiman Marcus without a thing to sell
Mr. Hilton with only one hotel

Any egghead would have me diagnosed
As a poached egg without a piece of toast
Each time I'm without you

Rather than the fictional Barney Milsap, "I'm a Poached Egg" was actually composed by two brothers of some notoriety: Ira (words) and George (music) Gershwin.

In December 1964 a record of "I'm a Poached Egg," by Ella Fitzgerald (Verve 10338) was issued, coinciding with a Christmas release of "Kiss Me, Stupid."

The Verve single didn't chart, but Ella was outstanding as always.

There is also a reasonable digital option, titled "Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles Vol. 1" (Verve 44007605820), with 36-tracks (1956-1966) on two CDs.

This collection can be found in the $20-$25 range.

DEAR JERRY: About a year ago, you unearthed some songs that apparently didn't sell well enough to make any of the nationwide charts, yet managed to reach No. 1 in at least one part of the country.

I loved that information, and am wondering if you have come across any others.

DEAR GENE: It's always a thrill to find another tune for this beguiling list, and we are updating it as new titles are found.

In order to keep everything together on one page, click here and we'll take you there.

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