Weekend Listening: “Hi De Ank Tum” by Nita, Rita, and Ruby
Song Title: “Hi De Ank Tum”
Artist: Nita, Rita, and Ruby
Released: 45 RPM single in 1955 by RCA Victor with “Jimmy Unknown” on Side A
Recommended if you like: sweet silly country old stuff
Too many things on menus across America have stupid fucking names. Sit down in any chain restaurant and you’re confronted with a long list of bullshit names that require a description because they make almost no sense. Denny’s has that fucking ridiculous Moons Over my Hammy and apparently also a ‘slam’ theme going on, with The Slamburger and the Red, White, and Blue Slam turning your food into a WWE match. At this terrible place in Richmond called Bo’Dillaz, you can order tasty treats like Papa G’s Mess (chicken, bacon, olives, jalapenos, and sweet Bo sauce) or the Cranky Chicken (fried AND grilled chicken, olives, pappers, ranch, and buffalo Bo sauce), not to mention a million other incomprehensible dishes. I fully understand naming something that has some meaning, like “Grandma’s Favorite” and then having some cute story about how your granny used to eat this everyday and you’re making it to honor her memory or whatever. The need to fancy up pretty standard fare by renaming it insane shit probably comes from how whatever the food is. Trying to market a salami, bologna, turkey, ham catastrophe? Probably you should call it The Gut-Buster and give someone a t-shirt if they can finish that shit without dying. It’s so weird and demeaning to be an adult who wants an egg salad sandwich and has to say, aloud, “Give me the Eggsaronious Disaster please” before you can be served. It’s like paying the troll toll to cross a bridge and I don’t like it.
I don’t call appetizers “munchies.”
I don’t call sandwiches “sammies.” (Fuck yourself, Rachel Ray.)
I don’t even call vegetables “veggies.”
You might be surprised to hear, then, that I’m fully in love with this song titled “Hi De Ank Tum.”
Yeah. It’s a stupid nonsense name. I know it. Before I wrote this, I did some research on the phrase and couldn’t find any sense of origin (if you do know it, leave it in the comments please), so as far as I know it’s just one of those prairie calls or something. It feels a lot like something you’d say to a horse, although I’ve never met a horse and don’t know how to talk to them.
There’s a huge difference between being silly and being coerced into someone else’s version of self-aware cuteness that makes this song, or asking my dog if she’s hungy, or letting my kids call their butts booty pom poms into something else. There’s this attitude that sometimes comes attached to adulthood that seriousness in all matters is preferred, and being silly, even with kids, must be performed with a self-consciousness that says I’m so cray cray y’all, is that what the kids call it, but really I wear a suit and tie to the beach even I’m so seriously serious. That affect, that unwillingness to just be silly when you feel it but to pull it on only when it’s been deemed okay by the powers that be – that’s what so goddamn irritating about menus like that.
Early pop and folksy music from the beginning half or so of the 20th century has this undercurrent of honest silliness, though, and this song stands as example of that tone. So many fantastic songs have been sung tongue in cheek, and this one is a catchy, sweet example. In this version we hear Nita, Rita, and Ruby, a girl trio comprised of some heavy hitting country families including Ruby Wright, daughter of Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright, as well as Anita Carter from that whole country dynasty. Those voices combine to bring us the simplicity of having a sweet fella ringing out of a simple musical arrangement. Primarily just a strummed banjo, with some sweet ass spoons and handclaps (have I said before I can’t resist a handclap, because I fucking CANNOT), the music serves just as a back-up for the three women’s voices sung in classic Nashville harmony. Clearly in the lovestruck early stages of an infatuation, our lovely ladies are just beaming out with the most pure, most virginal love comprised of some amalgamation of sunshine, smiles, rainbows, and dreams that would rival any neon train wreck from the mind of beloved Lisa Frank.
It goes nowhere. There’s no real progression, just a verse, chorus, bridge, chorus of the simplest lyrics. The only percussive instrument is just some dude’s hands. It’s not complicated, it’s not ground-breaking, but it’s fucking fantastic in its straightforward, adorable upbeat nature, and I want you to listen to it this weekend and be just as, like, goofy as you want in the sunshine.