Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"I Got Your Ice Cold NuGrape"

It is the real thing, with genuine rings, often imitated but never equalled. It is the beverage of the promised land; beloved of children, the married, and those who are courting; sold by street vendors and storekeepers alike. It is a cure for the blues and mysterious illness, an irresistible treat, an aid to romantic and connubial bliss. Or as Tom Waits would say, "It's a friend; it's a companion; it's the only product you will ever need."¹ Listen:

NuGrape Twins, "I Got Your Ice Cold NuGrape" (1926)

This strange and beautiful song is available on American Primitive, Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897-1939), from Revenant Records. My best shot at the lyrics (with two corrections from the comments -- thanks, readers):

I got a NuGrape mighty fine
The Three rings around the bottle is a-genuine
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

I got a NuGrape mighty fine
Got plenty imitation but they none like mine
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

Way down yonder in the promised land
A-run and tell your mama here the NuGrape man
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

Little childrens in the backyard playin' in the sand
A-run and tell your mama here the NuGrape man
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

[wordless chorus]

When you feelin' kind of blue
A-do not know what ailin' you
Get a NuGrape from the store
Then you have the blues no more
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

What's that make your lips go flippity-floppa
When you drink a NuGrape
You don't know when to stop
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

If from work you come home late
Rolling pin waits at the gate
Smile and 'prise her with NuGrape
Then you seek direct to shade (?)
Then you'll sneak through in good shape
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

Sister Mary has a beau
Says he crazy loves her so
Buys a NuGrape every day
Know he's bound to win that way
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

[wordless chorus]


[NuGrape cap, from The Bottle Cap Man.]
¹ In "Step Right Up," from the 1976 recording Small Change.

comments: 14

Tom the Piper's Son said...

Brilliant find Michael!
I love these lines;

"If from work you come home late
Rolling pin waits at the gate
Smile and 'prise her with NuGrape"

Michael Leddy said...

It works every time.

I've been meaning to make a post about that song for almost two years — I'm glad that I finally did.

Tom, do you know that Lowell George's daughter Inara George is in music? She has a record coming out in August with orchestrations by Van Dyke Parks.

Tom the Piper's Son said...

Michael -
I also wanted to comment on that beautiful Nu-Grape bottle cap.

Yes, I stumbled upon that info somewhere too, but thanks for the reminder. I think she is on myspace somewhere as part of a duo/group.

Tom the Piper's Son said...

update: Just listened to Inara George's collaboration with Van Dyke Parks and was very impressed.
There are some songs from it posted on her myspace site. What I heard was her singing solely accompanied bt Parks' orchestral arrangements.
I can't say there is anything overtly reminiscent of her music and Lowell's but that she has a wide range of expression and a great voice.
Her other records are equally as individual and compelling.

Anonymous said...

I just bought this collection and I'm obsessed with this song. Thanks for the transcription. I think the questionable line is "Then you sneak through in good shape"

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the reading of the mystery line, anon. If you like old records, you know that these kinds of mysteries are a fact of life. (King Solomon Hill's "The Gone Dead Train" is an example.)

Michael M. said...

Thank you for this post, especially the lyrics. I, too, cannot hear this song too many times.

King Solomon Hill was a fellow McCombite. Represent!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting, Michael. If you have an alternative reading of that mystery line, it'd be welcome.

Your King Solomon Hill connection is way cool. There's an essay (as you might already know) by Gayle Dean Wardlow about trying to decipher "The Gone Dead Train."

Michael M. said...

I do not know that essay, but I would like to.

I think one line first verse is "Three rings around the bottle is a-genuine." This page has some bottle photographs, and indeed, the bottles have three rings.

As to the mystery line about avoiding the rolling pin, I cannot tell. I think the anonymous post guess is reasonable.

Michael Leddy said...

The Wardlow essay is in his book Chasin' That Devil Music.

"Three rings": I just listened again — I think you're right!

Anonymous said...

Definitely "three rings," definitely "then you'll sneak through in good shape." At least definite in my opinion.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Anon.

Beth Varden said...

One of my favorite bands from the 90s, His Name Is Alive, sampled this song heavily on one of their tracks. Their song is called "Library Girl":

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za5jAsMHbpg

I always wondered what the source material was but forgot about it for many years. I have no idea what made me think of it today, but I Googled the lyrics I remembered and stumbled upon your blog. Mystery solved, 20 years later!

Michael Leddy said...

I had no idea. Thanks for that!

When I type NuGrape, my iPad suggests migrate — exactly what the song has done.