Friday, October 24, 2008

Oh, Lee—wan—do!

Elaine found and forwarded a link to an extraordinary Google Books find: several volumes of old Boston Symphony Orchestra programs. This ad for Lewandos, from the 1917–1918 season, spoke to me right away:

Yes, that's an illustration of a cat hanging out chicks to dry. (Yikes.) But what interested me is a Duke Ellington connection:
"[E]verything we used to do in the old days had a picture. We'd be riding along and see a name on a sign. We used to spend a lot of time up in New England, around Boston, and we'd see this sign, 'LEWANDO CLEANERS,' and every time we saw it we'd start singing:
'Oh, Lee—wan—do!'
Out of that came 'East St. Louis Toodle-oo.' Probably it would have gone better if we had called it 'Lewando' and got some advertising money from it."

Duke Ellington, quoted in Stanley Dance's The World of Duke Ellington (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970)
You can hear one of the first recordings of "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" on YouTube. The Boston Globe reported the disappearance of the last Lewandos in 2002.

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