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Black and white photo taken in photo studio of woman in bathing suit looking at dog. Backdrop of beach, waves, and sailboat.
[Young woman in bathing suit with small dog in front of studio backdrop of beach], 1913.

Dog Days of Summer

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The following is a guest post by David Sager, Recorded Sound Research Center, Library of Congress.

The expression “Dog Days of Summer” may evoke images of our canine friends immobilized by blistering temperatures and humidity, panting to keep cool. However, the phrase originally came from the seasonal re-appearance of the star Sirius, found in the constellation “Canis Majoris,” which translates as “big dog.” Regardless of the relationship between the constellation and our own battles with the summer heat, we present a series of early recordings that evoke “man’s best friend,” either directly or metaphorically, but all in great fun.

Published and recorded in 1913, Joseph Daly’s and Thomas Allen’s “What d’ye mean you lost yer dog?” vanished from view almost as soon as it appeared, but not before it was recorded around a half-dozen times, for different labels. The version here, by the Peerless Quartet, features baritone Arthur Collins doing a German caricature dialect, commonly known in vaudeville as a “Dutch” accent, complete with guttural rolling Rs. “What d’ye mean you lost yer dog?” was revived in 1950 by jazz cornetist Red Nichols.

Statue of red guitar on grass next to street sign pointing to Tutwiler. In background, street, a few one story houses, trees, and electric lines with blue sky
A guitar as a local marker in Tutweiler, Mississippi, on the “Blues Trail” in the state’s vibrant Mississippi Delta region. Photo by Carol. M. Highsmith, 2017 November 10.

Recorded October 1, 1919 by Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra, featuring Harry Raderman, trombone. W. C. Handy’s “Yellow Dog Blues” refers not to a canine, but to a Mississippi railroad line, the Yazoo Delta, which was popularly known as the “Yellow Dog.” Joseph C. Smith (1883-1965) led one of the most popular dance bands in New York during the 1910s and 20s. Although capable of barking, the trombone is also an excellent instrument for laughing effects. Its greatest exponent was trombonist Harry Raderman (1882-1940), heard here to advantage. “Yellow Dog Blues” has endured the decades as a traditional jazz standard.

Recorded June 22, 1916 by Six Brown Brothers. During the 1910s, the saxophone was still considered a novelty in popular music. It was most found in military-style bands—such as Sousa’s Band, which utilized a sax quartet in the 1890s—and on the vaudeville stage, where the Six Brown Brothers started an international saxophone craze. “Walkin’ the Dog” was composed by African American composer and vaudeville performer Shelton Brooks, who in 1910 created an enormous stir in popular music with his hit song “Some of These Days.”

Recorded April 1, 1919 (Columbia A2742). The Louisiana Five, which featured New Orleanian clarinetist Alcide “Yellow” Nunez, was one of the first jazz bands to record. It is not clear if either the clarinet or the trombone is offering an attempt at a hound-like onomatopoeia.

Black and white photo of man in uniform holding trombone
Pryor. Photo by Bain News Service, between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920.

Recorded June 18, 1913 by Arthur Pryor’s Band. Trombone virtuoso, bandmaster, and composer, Arthur Pryor (1870-1942) was a master at evoking images through music. The most famous, if not greatest of these was a tribute to his childhood English Bull Dog, Roxy. The whistling here was provided by two of the Victor company’s mainstays, executive Samuel Holland Rous and vocalist Harry MacDonough. Perhaps one of them was induced to bark, as well. “The Whistler and his Dog,” first published in 1905, continues to be an oft-programmed concert band specialty, over one hundred years later.


Summer heat got you down? Plan a visit to the ultra-cool Recorded Sound Research Center, located in the Library of Congress’s James Madison Memorial Building. You can read about the Recorded Sound Collection and Research Center at . If you wish to schedule a visit, please see .

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