Saturday, December 28, 2013


No, I'm not going anywhere, more like coming back after a busy end of December. This is actually a post I've been wanting to put up since we saw my aunt over Thanksgiving weekend. Sadly, she is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's, but as a trained pianist, she has always loved music, and so we do try to sing together with her a bit when we, too infrequently, visit. For some reason,  we often seemed to be traveling in the car with my aunt and my mom when we were kids, which is a bit  mystifying now, as we mainly lived in another part of the state from her. But they had a whole repertoire of songs for such occasions, and one of them was "Toodle-oo, So Long, Goodbye." As we were leaving her house, we of course sang this old standard, and afterward my sister asked, I wonder where Toodle-oo came from?

That's been on the back burner for me to look up for awhile now.

According to The Phrase Finder, "toodle" is related to "toddle", apparently a word that originated in Scotland and northern England, though possibly related to "totter". "Toodle" and "tootle" and "toddle" and even "tooraloo" are therefore all kind of clustered together. The first sighting of "toodle-oo" in print was in 1907, and the Online Etymology Dictionary has it as "origin unknown". As The Phrase Finder indicates, it is a Bertie Wooster kind of word, and in fact, Wodehouse used it in a story in 1919.

I had never particularly thought of "toodle-oo" as a British word, as it was tied in my mind to this particular song. And actually, I have never heard anyone sing it but my mom and my aunt, so it occurred to me to wonder a bit more about the song itself. I thought for awhile I'd found the answer in a sorority song, as I think one or possibly both of them had been in some sorority, although it didn't make a lot of sense that they'd both know it, as they didn't go to the same schools. At any rate, the Theta Phi Alpha sorority does include a version in their songbook, but it's not quite the same.

Turns out, though, that there's a fairly likely explanation for why my mom and my aunt knew this song. It was Rudy Vallee's sign-off song for his radio show, although judging by Google entries, he had more than one. He wrote it with Byron Gay in 1931, which would have been just the right time for my mom and aunt to have been listening to it as girls.

Whether or not these are the actual lyrics, this is more or less how we sang and sing it:

I'm awfully glad I met you,
Toodle-oo, so long, good-bye.
I hope we meet again someday,
Toodle-oo, so long, good-bye.
I've enjoyed your company,
And your hospitality--
If it's not amiss,
Don't you think that this,
Is a very good time for a goodnight kiss?
And now that I have met you,
What-do-you-say that you and I
Sing a little song,
A good night song,
Toodle-oo, so long, goodbye.

Somewhat surprisingly, since it was a hit in its day, this is the only recording of the tune I could find. It's a little faster paced than we'd sing it, but I think you can get the idea.



  1. Cool to hear that recording!

  2. Yeah, I'm glad there is at least some musical record of it.

  3. Lovely! I learned the word "toodle-oo" from my mom, and I'll bet she learned it from the radio! I'll ask her. Thanks for this. (The song sounds like a wonderful background for some of the cartoons of my childhood, too.)

  4. Yes, that is definitely the sound of cartoon orchestration of a certain era.

  5. I’ve always liked toodle-oo and Duke Ellington’s ”East St. Louis Toodle-Oo.” I seem to recall reading somewhere that the name came from that of a local character called Toad Low.
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  6. Thanks, Peter.Yes, I saw a lot of versions of East St. Toodle-oo on YouTube. Not that I expect the one I put up here to be quite so ubiquitous, but I would have expected to find at least one sung version. It was apparently popular enough in its day for both my mom and Kathleen's mom to have heard it.

  7. I'm with Kathleen on the cartoon music, and toodle-oo sounds like something Olive Oyl would say.

  8. Cartoon music is probably the one area in which quality has most indisputable declined in America from the middle of the twentieth century until now. Anyone interested in cartoon music might look into Don Byron's album Bug Music.

  9. Nancy and Peter, it doesn't sound much like cartoon music when you sing it, to be honest. But I was thinking the same thing about the decline of cartoon music. It's actually kind of amazing that producers were willing to shell out for orchestration for cartoons when you come to think of it.

  10. It is indeed, which is one reason music in cartoons today is so vastly inferior. We got snippets and pastiches of classical and jazz, even if we didn't know it. The Disney Channel generation gets crappy pop music.

  11. I am going to have to listen more carefully to the score of the next cartoon I watch, in the interest of not maligning anyone.

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  13. When my nephews were younger, I'd spend an evening watching the Disney Channel with them, and no uncle ever made a greater sacrifice for the love of his family. The acting and writing were surprisingly good, and I learned that Miley Cyrus has a bit of acting talent. But oh, the godawful music.