Croaking Out A Tune:
    Hello, Ma Baby

Michigan J. Frog And The Songs of One Froggy Evening

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Hello, Ma Baby
a.k.a. Telephone Rag

Michigan J. Frog booms out Hello, Ma Baby and a star is born...

Written: 1899
Words and Music by Ida Emerson & Joseph E. Howard
Wav clip from OFE

In One Froggy Evening, the song Hello Ma Baby is the catchy tune which Michigan J. Frog uses as his opening number both times in the film. It is one of the most well-remembered of the songs from One Froggy Evening - in fact I've lost track of how many times people have used it to identify the film during a conversation (e.g."What was that cartoon where the frog sings "Hello my baby, Hello my honey, Hello my ragtime gal"?").
In the real world, Hello, Ma Baby was one of the biggest musical hits in the U.S. back in 1899. It is an extremely memorable Tin Pan Alley ragtime tune which was recorded by many artists over the years from Arthur Collins to Judy Garland.
The song is a tune about a man who telephones a faraway girl every day who he has never seen. Each day he tries again to woo her over the phone, eventually getting her name and address. But he knows that due to distance and interlopers he could lose her so he plans to keep her by calling her every day.
The telephone was an emerging technology in the day and this was one of the first times it was mentioned in a song. Because of this it acquired the nickname of the Telephone Rag.
The success of this song led the team to write a sequel to it. In I've Lost Ma Baby we learn that our singer's fears are justified as he seem to have lost his Bess. You can see the sheet music to it here.
sheet music for Ma Baby Girl
Portraits of Howard and Emerson from the
cover of the sheet music to Ma Baby Girl

The song was written by the team of Joseph Howard and Ida Emerson who performed together in vaudeville for many years and were even married for awhile (one of Howard's nine marriages). Joe Howard was born Feb. 12, 1867 in New York, but soon ran away from home and was performing in vaudeville shows around St. Louis by the time he was eleven.

Over the years Howard composed music as well as perform in vaudeville, stage shows and nightclubs. Later on he even hosted radio shows. Fittingly, he died on stage May 19, 1961 in Chicago's Opera House. Immediately after leading the audience through a rendition of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" he went out for a curtain call, blew kisses to the crowd and then collapsed on stage with cardiac arrest as the final curtain fell.

Hello, Hello, Hello,
Hello, Hello, Hello,
[Verse 1]
I've got a little baby, but she's out of sight,
I talk to her across the telephone.
I've never seen my honey but she's mine all right,
So take my tip and leave this gal alone.
Every single morning you will hear me yell,
"Hey Central! Fix me up along the line."
He connects me with ma honey, then I rings the bell,
And this is what I say to baby mine,

Hello! ma baby, Hello! Ma honey, Hello! ma ragtime gal.
Send me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
If you refuse me, Honey, you'll lose me, then you'll be left alone;
Oh baby, telephone and tell me I'm your own.
Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello there.

[Verse 2]
This morning through the phone she said her name was Bess,
And now I kind of know where I am at.
I'm satisfied because I've got my babe's address
Here pasted in the lining of my hat.
I am mighty scared, 'cause if the wires get crossed,
'Twill separate me from ma baby mine,
Then some other man will win her, and my game is lost,
And so each day I shout along the line,

Hello, hello, hello.
Hello, hello, hello.

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.




The voice of the frog - Bill Roberts
give your 2 cents at Blog the Frog
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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