Monday, January 25, 2010

The Origin of "Who Dat"

Scene from "Swing Wedding"; Cover of the libretto for "Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd." from 1898, found in the Paul Laurence Dunbar Digital Collection of Wright State University.

I linked to the Wikipedia "Who Dat?" entry in a previous post but didn't read it. The ubiquitous chant for America and Freedom's Alltime Underdog Heroes the New Orleans Saints has a more interesting history than I previously knew.
The first reference to "Who Dat?" can be found in the 19th Century. A featured song in E.E. Rice's "Summer Nights" is the song "Who Dat Say Chicken In dis Crowd", with lyrics by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.[1] A common tag line in the days of Negro minstrel shows was: "Who dat?" answered by "Who dat say who dat?" Many different blackfaced gags played off that opening. Vaudeville performer Mantan Moreland was known for the routine.[1]
The article points to the 1937 minstrel-heavy Happy Harmonies/Harman-Ising cartoon "Swing Wedding" viewable on the Japanese video site YouKu. Click here to view it; I couldn't decipher how to embed it. "Who Dat" appears at the 6:00 mark.

Edited to add: the clever and talented DJ Misc figured it out.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting piece. I did not know about the history of "Who Dat".