Song of the day: Johnny Chester And Jigsaw – "Shame And Scandal In The Family"

May 23, 2010

Before I play you today’s shameful and scandalous song, I’d like to let you know that:

Last Week’s Songs Were Brought To You By The Letter “I” – And By My Friend Col*.

Today’s song is the perpetually jolly country artist Johnny Chester with his backing band Jigsaw and their take on a jolly (but lyrically dubious) ditty:

Johnny Chester And Jigsaw – “Shame And Scandal In The Family” (1971)


I thought that the lyrics to this song were highly distasteful, thinking they were incestuous (or something – I couldn’t quite figure out what made me feel uneasy about those lyrics) until Wikipedia clarified things:

The story follows a young Trinidadian man in search of a wife. In each of the verses, the young man asks his father for permission to marry a different woman, only to be told he can’t marry the girl as “The girl is your sister but your mamma don’t know”. However, the tables are turned during the last verse, where the young man’s mother tells him that “Your daddy ain’t your daddy, but your daddy don’t know”, clearing the path for him to marry any of the girls.

I guess that makes it a bit more palatable. Sort of.

(The lyrics are still highly dubious to me. I can’t get over all that “Your father’s your mother but your uncle don’t know” stuff, and how the boy doesn’t realise that all those girls are his sisters. I mean, how would you not know? And how would you feel being told that a girl you hit on was your sister? and then to find out that another girl you’re interested in is your sister? And then another? Ewww. Talk about messing with your mind in a major way. I’m afraid it still leaves me very queasy…)

The history of the song is even weirder (but at least it doesn’t involve amorous family members). It was originally performed by someone called Sir Lancelot for the 1943 horror movie I Walked With A Zombie (I told you it was weird). But it first appeared on record in 1965:

Lance Percival – “Shame And Scandal In The Family” (1965)


And then Peter Tosh recorded a version the same year:

Peter Tosh – “Shame And Scandal” (1965)


And then, for some reason, Madness decided to record it in 2005:

Madness – “Shame And Scandal” (2005)


If you felt as uneasy with the lyrical content of this song as I did, then I’m terribly sorry that I inflicted four versions of the song upon you. Many apologies.

Johnny Chester official website

(*Col suggested every song last week except for Tuesday which featured King Crimson. Tuesdays are currently reserved for hotshot instrumentalists, and King Crimson is full of hotshot instrumentalists.)