Pistol Packin' Mama
Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
Song: Pistol Packin’ Mama / Victr’y Polka
Artist: Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters with Vic Schoen and his Orchestra
Record Label: Decca Records 23277
Recorded: September 27, 1943
Location: KTI Radio, Diamond City Radio
This record sure packs a wallop. Both sides have been featured in video games.
Whether driving the streets of Los Angeles or roaming the wasteland of Boston, be sure to have your weapon handy.
This side lasted eleven weeks on the music charts, peaking at No. 2.
The song was originally composed and sung by Al Dexter in 1942. The chorus melody is remarkably similar to the folk song “Boil Them Cabbage Down“, though slowed down quite a bit.
As the story goes, Al Dexter met a woman who owned a honky-tonk joint whose husband operated a whiskey still in the mountains of Kentucky. Taking a pistol for protection from moonshiners and revenuers, the woman would holler for her husband in the dark. The reply was “Lay that pistol down, Ma, or I ain’t coming’.“
There is no apparent relation to 1930 song “Pistol Packin Papa” by Jimmie Rodgers.
The Andrew Sisters (left to right: LaVerne, Patty, and Maxene), Bing Crosby, and Jack Kapp, president of Decca Records. Kapp holds the famous poster of an Indian maiden asking “Where’s the Melody?” a tongue-in-cheek reminder to avoid improvisation in the recording studio, a rule frequently broken by this group.
This was the first record the Andrews Sisters made after the infamous 1942–44 musicians’ strike. Union musicians could play on the radio, but were barred from the recording studio. The Andrews Sisters were only able to record “There Are Such Things” during the strike.
Recording together for the first time since 1939 with “Ciribiribin“ and “Yodelin’ Jive”, Bing Crosby arrived from the golf course with the Andrews Sisters, still in makeup from filming at Universal.
Along with arranger Vic Schoen and Decca president Jack Kapp, the quartet completed the session in ninety minutes for what would become a million selling record.
Ignoring the long-standing “no improvisation rule”, Bing Crosby ad-libbed “Lay that thing down before it goes off and hurts somebody”.