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GOOFUS. AKA "Doin' the Goofus." Western Swing. The melody was written by Wayne King and William Harold, and the lyrics were written by Gus Kahn (composer of "Makin' Whoopie," among others), a prolific songwriter/lyricist of the 1920's & 30's. Bandleader Wayne King ("the Waltz King") had been urging him for some time to write a song for him, and Kahn came up with "Goofus," a joke at King's expense since it was about him. King, however, turned it into a novelty hit and it became a swing and jazz standard, then entered folk tradition. One influential version was recorded in 1933 by Lisbon, Indiana, fiddler Homer Slim Miller (1898-1962), an early member of the Cumberland Ridge Runners. He is often mistaken as a Kentucky fiddler because of his association with the group.

I was born on a farm down in Ioway
A flaming youth, born just to fly away
I packed my grip and I took my saxophone.
Couldn't read notes so I played everythin' by ear
I made up songs from the sounds that I used to hear
When I'd start to play, folks used to say,
"Sounds a little goofus to me".

Corn fed chords appeal to me
And I like rustic harmony
Hold the note and change the key
That's called goofus
Not according to no rules
That we learned in music schools
But them folks, they danced like fools
They liked goofus.

I got me a job but I just couldn't keep it long
The leader said that I played all the music wrong
So I stepped out with an outfit of my own.
Together we made a new kind of orchestry
Just playing that same goofus harmony
When I'd start to play, folks used to say,
"Sounds a little goofus to me".

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: Bluebird 5928-A (78 RPM), Fiddlin' Arthur Smith, 1935. Yazoo 512, Cumberland Ridge Runners - "Times Ain't Like They Used to Be."

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]

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