07 January 2010

Alley who?

I have a friend at work named Alejandro (ah-ley-HAHN-droh) but most people call him by his "hipocoristico" or "pet name", Ale (AH-ley). However, he reminds me so much of the character "Alley Oop" in the "funny papers" that I have begun to call him Alley Oop. The cave man character Alley Oop was invented by an artist named V.T. Hamlin back in 1932 (the V.T. stands for Vincent Trout). Alley Oop has been published as a syndicated comic strip ever since that time even though Mr. Hamlin died in 1993 at the age of ninety-three. His work was carried on by Dave Graue until he died and by Jack Bender and his wife Carole up to the present time. I have fond memories of Alley Oop. In 1960 there was a number one song on the radio about Alley Ooop that was written by Dallas Frazier and produced by Gary Paxton under the name "The Hollywood Argyles". The lead singer was Norm Davis. The Alley Oop song has been recorded by a number of artists since that time and the song always conjures up the image of a swinging cave man.

In the summer of 1960 I was a twelve year old Boy Scout trying to earn a medal honoring the famous chief of the Sauk Indian Tribe, Chief Blackhawk, or "Makataimeshekiakiak" as he was called by his people. In those days the Boy Scouts were really heavy into "Indian lore". I am not sure that this is politically correct anymore so I am begging the pardon of any native Americans who may read this. At the age of twelve back in those days we were just innocent kids following our "leaders". To get my medal I had to read three books about Chief Blackhawk and do a book report on each one of them and then walk a twenty mile trail at the Chief Blackhawk monument in Lowden State Park near Oregon, Illinois. A number of other scouts did this with me and we walked that twenty miles singing the Alley Oop song to keep the pace and pass the time. We had a lot of fun making up new verses as we went along. It is something that I will never forget and I cling to memories like this. I think it is important for all children to have good experiences while they are still young so that they can have fine memories when get old because in the end the good memories are all that we have left that's worth keeping.

The name Alley Oop itself is very interesting. The phrase "Allez Hop" is generally recognized as a French interjection used to get someone to leap into action. The word "Hop" sounds like a cross between the English words "up" and "hoop" and so therefore in English we tend to say "Oop". Some people say that the term "Allez Hop" is the cry of a French circus acrobat about to leap into his act while others say it is the command used in the circus to get lions and tigers to jump through a hoop. There is no doubt that the first part is French and that "Allez" is the third person imperative form of the verb "Aller"... to go. It is the second part, "Hop", that is a bit controversial. Some people say that is a corruption of the English word "up" and other people say that that it may come from the middle eastern "hopla" meaning "to jump" or even from the Greek "Oooopa !" when they throw the dishes. There is quite a bit of evidence, however, that indicates it may have actually come from an old German word "hoppen" meaning to jump and is sometimes used in the form "hoppla" to mean "whoops" as in the English "woopsy-daisy". To complicate things even further the name Alley Oop has been given to a basketball play in which a pass is lobbed above the basket by one player and another player jumps up and attempts to catch the ball and make a basket before his feet come back down to the floor.

There is also an Alley Oop connection to Mexico. In the 1980's there was a "historieta" or "comic book" about Alley Oop published in Mexico but the name of Alley Oop was changed to "Trucutú". The name "Trucutú" is the name of a Latin salsa drum beat and the word "trucu-tú", when repeated over and over, imitates the rhythm of the beat. There is a picture of a "Trucutú" comic book cover below. There is also a picture of my friend Alejandro, the V.T. Hamlin version of Alley Oop, and my version of what Alejandro looks like as Alley Oop.

There's a man in the funny papers we all know
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)
He lived 'way back a long time ago
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)
He don't eat nothin' but a bear cat stew
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)
Well, this cat's name is-a Alley Oop
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)

(Alley Oop) He's the toughest man there is alive
(Alley Oop) Wearin' clothes from a wildcat's hide
(Alley Oop) He's the king of the jungle jive
(Look at that cave man go!!) (SCREAM)


GlorV1 said...

Bob, he sounds and really looks like a very nice guy. I love that song Alley Oop. Great music. Bob did you paint that version yourself? If you did, it is an awesome painting. Let me know if you did because then I can say you are definitely one heck of a painter.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time now...Alley Oop is the first record I asked my dad to buy me! (I was 8 yrs old).
Your post brought back many pleasant memories.

Calypso said...

Alejandro could very well be the most common name around these parts - I might have to steal your thinking and name my favorite Alejandro Alley OOPS!

YayaOrchid said...

Interesting trivia about Alley Oop. Such a light and cheerful post Bob. I also enjoyed the music.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.