Cab Calloway’s Radio Alphabet

by Sarah Totton


A      A-hidee-hidee-hidee-ho
B      Boy!
C      Cotton Club
D      Dig that jive!
E      Eggs on the Jersey side
F      Foo
G      Gator
H      Hoochie coocher
I       Ickeroo
J      Jim, jam, jump on the jumpin’ jive
K      King of Sweden
L      Lay it flat as a gator
M      Minnie the Moocher
N      Nickels and dimes
O      Oh, you dig it
P      Palomar
Q      Quizzicale
R      Reepity-buppity-gaa-gaa
S      Shalomar
T      Tee-dah-dah
U      U hep-hep on the mellow side
V      Vocalista
W     Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-wherever she may be
X      Xep-doodli-diddle-doodle-xep-bott-bottle
Y      Yeah!
Z      Zoot suit


Sarah Totton’s humor has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The New Yorker (She won a cartoon caption contest.), The American Bystander, and Points in Case. Her short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and The Walrus.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Cab Calloway’s Radio Alphabet”?

I was teaching myself the radio alphabet and discovered that there were a lot of variations. It occurred to me that the alphabet could be modified to apply to a person, so I decided to adapt the Radio Alphabet for a celebrity. I chose someone who was big in the Golden Age of Radio (This is a radio alphabet after all.), someone who’s known for playing with language, and someone whose work needs more love and attention. Cab Calloway was the obvious choice. Even though he’s been gone for a long time now, his musical influence is still strong and he’s created some timeless classics. After I had the premise, executing it was like solving a crossword. Trying to transcribe the sounds he’s making when he’s scatting was the biggest challenge. And I will stop there because my explanation of the piece is now longer than the piece itself.


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