I was at the annual Newberry Library sale last summer (an event that coincides with the excellent Bughouse Square debates, in which anyone with something to say is allowed to get on a soapbox in a public square and say it. Prizes are awarded to both best speakers and best hecklers.) and came across this little gem of an album - Gentlemen, Be Seated! (A Complete Minstrel Show) Much of it is scratched beyond the point where listening to it makes sense, but there is this little duo of songs that remains in fairly good condition and is worth far more than the $1 I spent on it. (In truth, the album cover is worth the admission price alone. It insists that the album is "an artful and elegant reconstruction of the most celebrated minstrel shows" and they advertise that it includes "sundry hilarious quips and absurdities" not listed in the "programme".)
Strangely, there is not much to be found on the web about this album. One would think that if Osie Johnson, the singer of I wish't I was in Peoria* is, in fact, an "unequalled song stylist" as he is proclaimed on the cover (a claim I would have to agree with), that there would be at least one webpage devoted to him. Likewise, the "banjo virtuoso par excellence", Uncle John Cole, seems to be similarly excised from our collective e-memory.
Gentlemen, be seated! Here without further ado is I Wish't I was in Peoria and Oh By Jingo!
*I wish't I was in Peoria is a sad song, a compendium of people at death's door who's final thought is that they wish they were in Peoria. I'm not sure if this is an advertisement for Peoria or not. Do they remember Peoria fondly and want their last thoughts to be good ones or are they saying that being in Peoria is just one step better than death? It's unclear. Elucidate...elucidate....