I have blogged a couple of times in just the past days about “silly songs” I recall fondly.
One of the writers of the silly songs…Yogi Yorgesson is the correct spelling of his stage name…has caused me to research him more. I found a website (yogiyorgesson.com) by myself and then got another tip from a blog reader which I followed up.
The life and times of the man who called himself “Yogi Yorgesson” is a fascinating one to explore.
He was born in 1908–the same year as my mother was born….and his name was Harry Skarbo. His parents were Norwegian immigrants to the U.S who landed finally in the Seattle Washington area where so many other Norwegians and Swedes had come. I think Seattle was attractive to them because the climate and environment is a lot like some of the Norse/Svenske seaports…Bergen,Norway comes to mind.
The mother died young and left a bereft grieving father who was unable to care for his 3 young children. Harry was adopted by the Stewart family and thereafter went by Harry Stewart. His brother and sister grew up in the home of an Uncle and Aunt.
Harry showed promise as a singer and songwriter of silly songs according to one of his Skarbo aunts. At a young age he had his relatives in stitches with his songs and his heavy dialect which became a “Swedish dialect” later even tho. he was a full blooded Norwegian! His persona later as “Yogi Yorgesson” was definitely based on Swedish dialect humor but then Norwegians and Swedes sound a lot alike when they actually speak in dialect.
He married his wife Gretchen in the later 1930s and they had a family. Harry tried out for a national radio show…comedy for sure..called “Merrymakers”. He eventually earned a spot as entertainer and singer of silly songs on a radio show. One memorable routine involved his persona as “Yogi Yorgesson” the “Swedish-Hindu Mystic from Stockholm, Sweden”. His costume consisted of a lumberjack shirt, a Hindu loincloth, big Swedish workboots and a turban. Picture that! It was a time of broad humor and slapstick comic routines.
In one session, Yogi’s son, Steve Stewart, recalls that they had a call in-advice time with Yogi the Mystic. A woman called and said her baby had swallowed bullets and what should she do? Yogi advised her to give the baby castor oil and “don’t point him at anybody.”
That story reminded me of a joke my friend Yvonne’s father told us way back in the 1950′s. Yvonne’s dad was 100 % Swedish and still had his Swedish accent when he spoke English. He was a big man with a huge booming voice and I can still hear that voice as he told us about Mrs.Olson and her bratty boy, Johnny Olson. It seems there was going to be a big doing at the Swedish Lutheran Church and Mrs Olson was expected to make her delicious homemade baked beans. When she was stirring up the bean recipe, she got a phone call and her bratty son poured a whole vial of beebees into the beans. Mrs. Olson of course did not known this and brought the beans to the “doing”. A couple of days latger she got a call from Mrs. Swanson.
“Say Mrs.Olson what did you put in your beans this time?”
“Nothing that I don’t always put in them–why are you asking?”
“Well,” said Mrs. Swanson, “This morning I stooped over to give my cat a drink of milk and I shot my canary.”
Anohter example of humor had him telling about visiting his cousin Hjalmer’s farm where Yogi discovered there were pigs under one of the beds.
“What about the smell?” he asked cousin Hjalmer who replied “the pigs will have to get used to it just like the rest of us.”
Yogi always said that humor about farm animals like pigs, chickens and cows went over big with his audiences. It came as no surprise that when his songs hit
the record market, he sold more in Minnesota than any place else even though they were nationally sold in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Another fact about Yogi/Harry was that he wrote for other radio shows before hitting it big with his Yogi Yorgesson character. He was responsible for the “Froggie” character on the children’s radio show “Smilin’ Ed McConnell” which aired in the 1940s. I remember waiting for that Saturday morning show when I was an elementary age kid….and the moment Simlin’ Ed would say “Plunk your magic twanger, Froggie! ” and we would hear the sound effects of Froggie and his magic twanger. Yogi had created that and the sound of Froggie!!!
I tried to find the lyrics for a silly song called “Hilda At The Smorgasbord”but could not find them on the internet. I have them somewhere in this house in a briefcase of old music from our quartet days when we and my sister and her husband would sing “Hilda” at entertainments and have the audience in stitiches. I am so sure it was one of Yogi’s songs but I cannot be certain til I find it. I hope I can find that case with all the music…I am baffled about where it is now. I used to keep it on top of a piano we had to get rid of.
I did find some other titles of Yogi’s many silly songs and some of them made laugh hard. Here are a few:
“Someone spiked the punch at Lena’s wedding”
“Who hid the halibut on the poop deck?”
“The ballad of Ole Swenson” (parody of the famous Ballad of Davy Crockett)
“The Snoring Song”
“Rusty Chevrolet Christmas”
“Aunt Frieda is enjoying poor health” (based on one of his own aunts!)
“Nincompoops have all the fun”
Yogi Yorgesson’s old recordings are available on the ‘net. I am thinking of saving up my “penger” and getting some just for the enjoyment of hearing his humorous silly songs once again in his own voice.
He was a good one!!!!