Croaking Out A Tune:
    Throw Him Down, McCloskey

Michigan J. Frog And The Songs of One Froggy Evening

Maggie Cline from In the Good Old Irish Way
Maggie Cline
One Froggy Evening
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Atop a tightwire, Michigan J. Frog enthusiastically belts out Throw Him Down, McCloskey.

Written: 1890
Words and Music by John W. Kelly
Wav clip from OFE

Maggie Cline (1857-1934)
The next song in One Froggy Evening is a famous tune from the 1890s called Throw Him Down, McCloskey. The performer who made it famous was the energetic vaudeville star Maggie Cline. Cline was tall and athletic and had a reputation as an enthusiastic performer who could work a crowd while using the entire stage as she moved about. Around 1881 she acquired the nickname "the Irish Queen", but she was also called the "Brunhilda of the Bowery".

Cline performed for over 40 years and McCloskey proved to Maggie's greatest hit. In fact, she once estimated that she sang it several thousand times. Whenever she performed the song it was as much a reenactment of the fight as it was a performance, typically involving furniture and other items being thrown about the stage and stage hands punctuating the chorus with the sounds of a struggle. It was considered quite a spectacle to see.

According to an interview in The World Magazine in January 1914, she acquired the song from John W. Kelly for $2.00 after asking him if he "had any loose songs about him".

Reportedly she commented once that there was only one man she ever met who didn't like the song and that was her father who told her "Maggie, it ain't lady like.".

In 1892 the song was recorded by Charles Marsh and it was a #1 hit on June 18,1892 for three weeks.

So what exactly is it about? Did McCloskey win? Well, it's the story of an interracial fight staged between McCloskey and another man. In the chorus of it they are trying to get him to do it by talking about how famous it'll make him. As it turns out, his opponent doesn't show but the crowd still expects a fight so another Irishman, Pete McCracken is convinced to fill-in. The remainder of the song is a description of the fight which goes on 47 rounds, eventually drawing in more people and leaving both men injured.

Note: this song has some lyrics (well, one word in particular) which were accepable a century ago but are racially insensitive today. One focus of mine in this project is to maintain historical accuracy and therefore I don't feel the need to edit or sanitize the original lyrics. Moreover, it is my opinion that we learn from the past only when we are aware of it.

If this bothers you, then move along - there's nothing to see here...

[ 1.] ‘Twas down at Dan McDevitt’s at the corner of this street,
There was to be a prize fight and both parties were to meet.
To make all the arrangements and see ev’rything was right,
McCloskey and a nagur were to have a finish fight.

The rules were London Prize Ring and McCloskey said he’d try
To bate the nagur wid one punch or in the ring he’d die.
The odds were on McCloskey tho’ the betting it was small,
‘Twas on McCloskey ten to one—on the nagur, none at all.

"Throw him down, McCloskey,” was to be the battle cry,
"Throw him down, McCloskey, you can lick him if you try”;
And future generations, with wonder and delight,
Will read on hist’ry’s pages of the great McCloskey fight.

[ 2.] The fighters were to start in at a quarter after eight,
But the nagur did not show up and the hour was getting late.
He sent around a messenger who then went on to say
That the Irish crowd would jump him and he couldn’t get fair play

Then up steps Pete McCracken, and said that he would fight
Stand-up or rough-and-tumble if McCloskey didn’t bite.
McCloskey says, "I’ll go you,” then the seconds got in place,
And the fighters started in to decorate each other’s face.

[ 3.] They fought like two hyenas ‘till the forty-seventh round,
They scattered blood enough around, by gosh, to paint the town.
McCloskey got a mouthful of poor McCracken’s jowl,
McCracken hollered ‘murthur’ and his seconds hollered “foul”!

The friends of both the fighters that instant did begin
To fight, and ate each other—the whole party started in.
You couldn’t tell the dif’rence in fighters if you’d try,
McCracken lost his upper lip. McCloskey lost an eye.

If you want to learn even more about this song and the people behind it, here are few webpages you might want to check out.



Maggie Cline

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Hello, Ma Baby | Michigan Rag | Come Back to Erin | I'm Just Wild About Harry
Throw Him Down, McCloskey | Won't You Come Over to My House
Largo al factotum | Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

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