Hot Feet (Wendell Hall) – 1927, with lyric
latest edit: 9 January 2017
Hot Feet (Wendell Hall) — The earliest recording of the song that I’m aware of is that by its composer and lyricist, Wendell Woods Hall, recorded on 24 February 1927. According to information provided by 78discography.com, the honkingduck.com discography of the artist, and other sites, Hall evidently released at least four different recordings he made of the song, recorded on separate dates in the years 1927 and 1928, on three different labels. The four I know about are listed under the image of Columbia 942-D below.
Wendell W. Hall discography:
Wendell Hall — The recording in the video below is probably one of the following four recordings of the song by Hall:
- Columbia matrix 143522, take 3 (aka matrix W143522), recorded on 24 February 1927, and issued on Columbia 942-D (1, 2), c/w “Down Kentucky Way,” recorded on the same date
- Columbia matrix 143522, take 4 (aka matrix W143522), recorded on 24 February 1927, and issued on Columbia 942-D (1, 2), c/w “Down Kentucky Way,” recorded on the same date
- Champion matrix X0561, recorded on 28 March 1927, and issued on Champion 15259 (1, 2), c/w “I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana,” recorded by Gordon & Glover
- Brunswick matrix E27803, recorded on 29 June 1928, and issued on Brunswick 3983 (1, 2), c/w “Oh! Lucindy”
At its page on Columbia matrix 143522 (Columbia 942-D), the Discography of American Historical Recordings lists the following personnel (adapted):
- Wendell W. Hall – guitar, baritone vocal
- Carson Robison – guitar
- Murray Kellner – violin
- Edward T. King – drums
The fact that the whistling solo* heard in the recording in the first video below is unaccounted for among the credits on the DAHR page suggests that this version might not be one of the two Columbia matrix 143522 takes (3 and 4) that were each, according to DAHR, separately issued under the catalog number Columbia 942-D. The guitar is one of the instruments that the multi-instrumentalists Hall and Robison each played, and it’s likely that one or both of them played guitar on the Hall recording of “Hot Feet” featured in the video. Nevertheless, I can not confidently identify any of the instrumentalists, presently, in part because of the uncertainty as to which of the multiple recordings by Hall is represented in the video.
Note also that the credit of Paul Whiteman by the video creator probably refers to another recording in the collection from which this recording was drawn, Odd Numbers of the 1920s. Whiteman did not, to my knowledge, record this song or any song of the title “Hot Feet.”
See the full lyric below the video. During instrumental and instrumental/whistling sections of the recording, clucking sounds, whistling, and improvised verbal vocalizations are heard, the latter including Hall uttering various phrases such as “happy feet,” “I got happy feet,” “happy, happy feet,” and “Get happy,” and repeatedly singing the phrase “Get happy.” I’ve omitted these vocalizations from the lyric transcription.
Hot Feet (Wendell Hall)
I want to tell you about a Charleston dancin’ fool, called Hot Pete
He had a little colored Charleston dancin’ school, in Trot Street
He was gettin’ old and grey
So he thought he’d dance his life away
A brand new dance was born that day in Trot Street,
Hot feet, fire in the middle
Hot feet, warm as a griddle
Hot feet, sizzlin’ through
Oh, what will I do wacka do
Hot feet, stingin’ like a busy bee
Trot feet, smokin’ like a chim-in-ey
Hot heat, burnin’ terribly
Nearly made a furnace out of me
And what I mean hot, hot, hot, hot
That’s the way they have got
(From a lotta hotty whatnot trotty trot)
Hot feet, Charleston’s a-doin’ ’em
Shot feet, Black Bottom ruined ’em
Hot Pete, hear ’em yell
Oh, what so hot feet
That was many, many years and years ago,
In Trot Street
But everybody in the town is sure to know
This Hot Pete
You see his statue every place
Every home has pictures of his grace
They got busts of his feet and face in Trot Street,
(repeat chorus, with improvised additional words)
lyric transcribed by Jim Radcliff on 4 Oct 2015 (latest edit 12 Oct 2015)
The transcription was made from the Wendell Hall recording in the above video, with help from the lyric provided in the Imperial player piano roll in the video below. My transcription differs only slightly from the words in the roll, with the differences largely consisting of normalization of variant spellings of certain words. For example, to my ears Hall sings “about” in line 1, and “colored” in line 2, whereas these two words are given in the scroll as “’bout” and “cullud,” respectively. However, as in the scroll, I’ve replaced the “g” in words ending in “ing” with an apostrophe, and abbreviated “them” as “’em,” to reflect Hall’s colloquial pronunciation of the relevant words.
I have not followed the scroll regarding the compound word “whatnot,” the two parts of which are disjoined as “what not” there. Also, whereas the scroll has the grammatically correct “They’ve got busts” in the final line of the second verse, I’ve transcribed the phrase as “They got busts,” because I think Hall colloquially omits the auxiliary verb “have.”
Imperial Player Piano Roll — 1927
The roll features what appears to be a close transcription of the Wendell Hall lyric, including verses, sung by Hall in the above recording.
Paul Specht and his Orchestra, vocal: Johnny Morris — recorded on 27 April 1927, and issued on Columbia 1186D, c/w “Roll Up the Carpets” **
The verses are omitted in this version, and the line in the chorus that in the Hall version goes
And what I mean hot, hot, hot, hot
seems to be transformed into
And I wanna be hot, hot, hot, hot
but I believe what is actually sung by Morris is
And a-what I mean hot, hot, hot, hot
If the line were in fact modified to “And I wanna be hot…,” then the revision would have been made with disregard to the fact that the entire chorus of the above Hall version purports to be a series of complaints, albeit jubilant, about the experience of having feet that have become painfully overheated and inflamed, and even worn out or temporarily damaged to the extent that one could refer to them as being “ruined,” by engaging excessively in fast or “hot” dances such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom.
One might also point out that the phrase “And what I mean hot…” colloquially omits the verb “to be.” If one were to translate it into proper English, it would be either “And what I mean is hot…” or “And what I mean’s hot…”
Girl Meets World — from Season 2, Episode 18, “Girl Meets World: Of Terror 2,” which aired on 2 October 2015 as a part of Disney Channel’s Spooktacular weekend. The song is performed (sung and danced to) a few times in the episode. I believe the video below includes all instances, splicing them together, the first beginning at about 51 seconds.
The words used here were apparently adapted from those sung in the Specht recording. This is evident by the presence of a modified version of the aforementioned inaccurate “And I wanna be hot…” line, with the “And” omitted here, and other peculiarities of the Specht version lyric.
However, the Girl Meets World version also introduces the following modifications of the lyric, probably due to transcription errors, not found in the Specht version:
- The phrase “burnin’ terribly” has been replaced by the unsuitable “burns heavily.”
- The phrase “trot feet” has been replaced by “drop feet,” a compound noun which ordinarily refers to the neuromuscular disorder “foot drop” or “drop foot.”
All three of the just mentioned modifications of the original lyric are present in a transcription of the lyric provided by Bryan Clauson in a comment, dated “10 months ago,” as of 4 February 2016, on the YouTube video of the Specht version provided by rockingsockings (first of the two Specht version videos above). The presence of at least three of the same modifications, plus the fact that the date of the comment, roughly April 2015, precedes the telecast of the Girl Meets World episode containing the number by several months, together suggest that Disney may have used the flawed Clauson transcription found in a comment on the cited YouTube video.
Despite the mistakes, I want to thank Disney for reviving interest in this gem of a song. And as for you, Bryan Clauson, I hope you’re getting royalties from Disney for your lyric contributions.
Pop quiz: What is the expression used by Maya (at 52 secs) just before she begins to sing and dance, and who is she imitating?
* On numerous Wendell Hall recordings, such as the following, whistling is performed by Carson Robison:
- “Whistling the Blues Away” (Victor 19338), recorded on 1 May 1924
- “Meadow-Lark” (Brunswick 3331), recorded in October 1926
- “I’m Tellin’ the Birds, Tellin’ the Bees, How I Love You” (Brunswick 3387), recorded on 23 November 1926, or 26 November 1926
- Take In The Sun, Hang Out The Moon” (Brunswick 3387), recorded on 23 November 1926
That might be the case in this Wendell Hall recording of “Hot Feet,” since the “Get happy” chant by Hall and whistling are heard simultaneously during one break. The Encyclopedia of Country Music, p. 432, says of Robison, “He won large audiences by whistling two notes in harmony at the same time.” Robison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.
I’ve yet to discover any instances of Wendell Hall credited for vocal whistling on a recording. The pages on the Wendell Hall Victor recording of “Whistling the Blues Away” at the Library of Congress National Jukebox and at the Discography of American Historical Recordings, note that, while the label indicates that Carson Robison contributed guitar and (vocal) whistling accompaniment on the recording, Hall provided the baritone vocal and played a “whistle,” as an instrumentalist. This information is supplemented, in the aforementioned LOC and DAHR pages, by reference to a Victor ledger which states that Hall played a “[s]inging whistle” on the recording. The instrument played by Hall on his Victor recording of “Whistling the Blues Away,” and referred to in the ledger as a singing whistle, seems to have been a slide whistle, which is a prominently heard on the recording.
** 78discography.com credits the recording to “Paul Specht’s Georgians,” though the Columbia 1186D label in the second video containing this recording credits the band as “Paul Specht and his Orchestra.”
There are at least two other notable jazz songs titled “Hot Feet.” One is a 1929 song by the songwriting team of Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. The second is a much later composition by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, written in the 1950s.
Hot Feet (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields)
Duke Ellington & his Cotton Club Orchestra — recorded on 7 March 1929
The recording features scat vocals (male vocalist, unidentified), credited on the label only as “vocal refrain.” I presume Dorothy Fields wrote a lyric for the song, but haven’t found a version including the words yet.
Hot Feet (Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle)
- sheet music dated 1952 and 1958 — mdhs.org
- 1954 – date of creation, according to Copyright Encyclopedia (copyright registration number/date: PAu000058555 / 1978-10-30)
- dated 1958 — amica.org
Gregory and Maurice Hines and other cast members performed “Hot Feet,” a song and tap dance number, in the Broadway musical Eubie! (1979). The number features a song of the same title written by Eubie Blake (music) and Noble Sissle (words) in the 1950s. According to the provider of the following video, the clip shows the Hines brothers, with three others, performing the number at the 33rd Annual Tony Awards in 1979.
Kendrick Jones performing a tribute to Gregory Hines at a charity for the Whole In the Wall Gang Camp for children (date unknown; video published 31 January 2013) — The provider says the number is “Hot Feet” from Eubie!, but if you can recognize this as the same song danced to by the Hines Brothers in the video above, you’ve got a skill that I lack.