Allan Sherman's "My Son, The Box" -- the complete works of the Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah guy

I got my first Allan Sherman LP when I was five: My Son, the Nut. It had been my mother's, and soon we both knew all the lyrics to all the songs. Not just the canonical "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah," but also "RATTFINK," "Eight Foot Two, Solid Blue" ("Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue"), "You Went the Wrong Way Old King Louis" ("You Came a Long Way From St Louis") and many others.

I can tell you why I loved them: they were subversive, they had wonky, comic rhymes, they were sung in a broad, nasal borscht-belt comedy voice, and they reminded me of the MAD Magazine parody songs that were my favorite part of every issue. I sang those songs everywhere I went. When I heard the originals, it was another revelation, the original lyrics revealing even more clevernesses in Sherman's lampoons.

Over the years, I've picked up a few more CDs as they were issued, and discovered more of his great material (the medley that contains "Do not build a stingy sandwich/pile the coldcuts high/customers should see salami/coming through the rye," and "When you go to the delicatessen store/Don't buy the liverwurst," is a major favorite around our household). But it wasn't until last week, when I finally got my hands on a copy of "My Son, the Box," that I got to hear every damned thing Sherman ever recorded.

Cross "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" with MAD Magazine, throw in the Smothers Brothers and Dr Demento (Weird Al clearly owes a debt to Sherman) and you've got this remarkable box-set. Listening to these discs prompted me to do some digging on Sherman, which led to the revelation that Sherman was a prude who thought that the sexual revolution had destroyed America, which is just weird enough to be the icing on the cake.

When you go to the delicatessen store
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst
I repeat what I just said before
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst

Oh, buy the corned beef if you must
The pickled herring you can trust
And the lox puts you in orbit A-OK
But that big hunk of liverwurst
Has been there since October first
And today is the 23rd of May
My Son, The Box


  1. I received one of those as a child but bigger. It was used to ship the new refrigerator so we turned it into a cabin for all the neighborhood kids to enjoy. It doesn’t stand up to the weather very well. After a few rainfalls the cabin will be ruined.

  2. “My Zelda she found her big romance,
    When I broke the zipper in my pants.
    My Zelda, she took de money and ran wit’ de tailor.”

  3. I grew up on Sherman, too. His “Skin” (to the tune of “Heart”) is an absurd masterpiece.

    Ya gotta have skin.
    It’s the stuff that we’re all in.
    It’s the stuff that if you got it outside
    It helps keep your insides in.

  4. Thanks to my grandfather, I heard most of Sherman’s albums on vinyl. Our favorite too was “Shticks Of One And Half A Dozen Of The Other.” To this day I still call him on the 23rd of May.

  5. The first album I bought was “My Son, the Folksinger”

    “See how this one looks on me
    Just like Jackie Ken-ne-dy
    You gotta jump dow spin around pick a dress of cotton…”

    and of course,
    “All day with the slaying and slewing
    And smiting and smoting like Robin Hood
    Oh, wouldst I could kick the habit
    And give up smoting for good”

  6. Aha but you DON’T have everything yet.

    You must must must find a copy of Allan Sherman with the Boston Pops, featuring Peter and the Commissar.

  7. Good stuff. I grew up on the sequel to “My Son the Folksinger” (which had both “Do not build a stingy sandwich” and “Don’t buy the liverwurst,” as bits in a long song called “Shticks of One, Half a Dozen of the Other”). I still blank on verses to “Harvey and Sheila” (“…traded their used MG for a new XKE/Switched to the GOP, that’s the way things go!”) but the one that really drives my wife nuts is “Al and Yetta”. Sung to the tune of “Alouette”, it’s a fabulous tour through television of the early 1960s.

    “Al and Yetta
    Watched an operetta
    Leonard Bernstein
    Told them what they saw.

    “They all shouted ‘Hail Bernstein!’
    Then they switched to ‘What’s My Line?’

    “Hail Bernstein, ‘What’s My Line’,
    ‘Elliott Ness’, ‘Meet the Press’,
    ‘Bowery Boys’, ‘Real McCoys’,
    ‘Millionaire’, ‘Yogi Bear’,
    ‘December Pride’, ‘TV Guide’,
    ‘Mr Ed’, stay in bed,
    Dorothy Kish, what a dish, Oh-oh-oh-oh…”

  8. Hold the phone!

    I read Allan Sherman’s RAPE OF THE A.P.E. back in high school (You know: while still dodging all those pesky trilobites… ). And so I think that that Wikipedia entry is (gasp!) wrong. Or the putative reporter of it is greatly mistaken. Or maybe *I* am, regardless of my name? Because, I mean, I recall the book as being 1) remarkably funny and 2) totally PRO-sex (and general debauchery).

    THE RAPE OF THE A.P.E was also a bit tongue-in-cheek, too, though … so may someone’s Sarcasm Detector or Subtlety Radar was on the fritz?

    Seriously, Cory, you might be dissing Her Son, The Happy Perv out of hand …

  9. Loved him growing up. I have several albums. Here is his Christmas letter to all employees:

    Allan Sherman Christmas Letter


    375 Park Avenue, New York, New York

    MEMO TO: All office Personnel

    FROM: Allan Sherman, Producer, “I’VE GOT A SECRET”

    SUBJECT: Office Xmas Party

    The Office Party, as most of you know, is set for December 24th, at 12 noon.

    Girls who have been present at previous Office Parties have been, I realize, looking forward to seeing me at this party next Monday.

    Due to the unprecedented demand for my services this year, and the limitations imposed on my nature and time – – I must set forth the following rules and regulations for conduct at the Office Party:

    1. ALL GIRLS WISHING TO PECK ME POLITELY ON THE CHEECK, or pinch my cheek, and say, “Isn’t he a doll”, will kindly line up at the 29th floor water cooler. If time allows, I will appear there late in the party, to accommodate one and all.

    2. GIRLS WITH NO PREVIOUS SEXUAL EXPERIENCE, OR TRAUMA, will please report the night before at 7:30 PM to my assistant, Mr. Irving Mayall, who will give you pre-party instructions, a chalk-talk, and a specially prepared pamphlet from the National Safety Council

    3. FRANCES SONTAG will report directly to me immediately on receipt of this memo. What I have in mind is the same thing as last year, but I’d like to get started a little earlier.


    5. I HAVE NO DESIRE TO REPEAT MY UNFORTUNATE EXPERIENCE OF LAST YEAR’S CHRISTMAS PARTY. Most of you will remember my regrettable case of trench mouth which lasted well into February of this year. I’m not going to name any names. You know who you are.

    6. Married girls, whose husbands do not understand them: To all those in this classification a brief note – – it would be best if you could keep in mind how messy emotional entanglements can become. What I mean is – – I’ll give you the usual few words of sympathy about your husband, we’ll drink our little toast to mankind, we’ll have our little moment of wild ecstasy, and then – – LET’S BREAK IT OFF CLEAN. Back to the office after Christmas, cheerful as ever, as though nothing had happened. No wistful looks, no tears, no regrets. No remorseful blubbering about how I won’t look at you any more. We’re grown people, all of you and I. Let’s remember that.

    7. Due to the unprecedented demand, priority will be given this Christmas to those who have done their part during the course of the regular year.

    8. A little rack with numbered tags will be placed on the corner of my desk. (I’m sure you’ve all seen this system used in the bakery.) Girls – – please take your number, then line up in an orderly fashion, keeping very quiet so as to allow me to concentrate. To insure fair treatment, memorize your number and, when called, be ready to specify exactly what you want.

    9. Girls – – remember the Golden Rule. Be fair to the other girls. Do unto me only what you would let me do unto you. Take only what you need! Waste not, want not! Remember, a man isn’t made of wood, but he isn’t made of iron either.

    10. TO THE NEW GIRLS WHO HAVE JOINED THE ORGANIZATION SINCE THE LAST CHRISTMAS PARTY: How I envy you this wonderful experience – – having me for the first time! O, moment of perfect joy – – that can come to a woman only once in her lifetime. I must beg you to control yourselves as much as you can. Remember – – you are about to fulfill your purpose as a Woman. For heaven’s sake, maintain your dignity if it is at all possible. And, in years to come, when you tell your friends about it – – and I know you will – – please, be kind.


    12. Girls who bring up the subject of Office Politics at critical moments in the procedure will be regarded as blasé’, and tabled indefinitely.

    13. Lips that touch Howard Slotkin’s must never touch mine.

    14. Girls who are essentially “rejects”, “seconds”, “irregulars, or “dogs”, will report to my assistant, Mr. Irving Mayall, who is in charge of sub-standard accommodations.

    15. TO ALL MEN IN OFFICE: Once I have completed a given girl, as you know, I have no objection to your taking up with her, if that makes your Christmas a little happier. For your convenience, I will label each girl as completed. Men, I am very sorry, but this year, I will be entirely too busy to compile my usual Guidebook to the Office Girls. So it’s Pot Luck, and may the Devil take the hindmost.

    Merry Christmas!


  10. I’ll have to check him out. I did, however, grow up listening to Tom Lehrer, which holds up pretty well.

  11. Judy Garland had a special on TV and “Judy” was spelled out in lights. Sherman’s special a few weeks later had “Allan” spelled out in lights.
    My favorite was his Jewish take on Xmas in Kilarney. The original had been a hit for Bing Crosby.
    Shake hands with your uncle Max my boy and this is your sister Sherl, and here’s your cousin Yetta who expects another girl. And these are the Tishman twins Gerald and Jerome, they’ve all come out to meet you and to wish you welcome home.
    So, a long list of Irish names became a long list of Jewish names.

  12. Your post strikes a chord. Substitute “aunt” for “mother” and a post by me introducing Allan Sherman would read identical to yours. I’ve long felt that comedy albums are a poor investment. Once you’ve heard the gags, how often are you compelled to revisit? The two big exceptions for me are Allan Sherman and Firesign Theater. Firesign Theater is just so dense that you never reach the bottom of the comedy well even after repeated listenings. And for me, Allan Sherman’s lyric sensibility just never gets old. I must add that after reading Sherman’s “Rape of A.P.E.” as a teenager, “prude” is not a word I would use to describe him.

  13. One thing that makes Allan Sherman so relistenable is the sharp and sweet musical arrangements by Lou Busch on Allan’s first six lps.

    This part about Allan Sherman being a prude needs to be struck from the record. His book “The Rape of the A.P.E.” is a diatribe against prudery. He spends several pages dissecting the word “fuck”, then types out “fuck” 504 times, until he isn’t “afraid of it” anymore. Hardly the work of a prude.

  14. I always preferred Tom Lehrer to Allan Sherman, but the point I would like to make is, does anyone do anything like this stuff anymore?

    I doubt it.

    We seem to be taking ourselves too seriously. Where are todays Tom Lehrer’s and Allan Shermans?

  15. There is a Swedish cover of “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”, that’s actually better then the original (at least if you understand Swedish). It probably wouldn’t pass the censors in the U.S. The youtube version has two verses about moonshining and suicide removed.

    There is also a lot of Allan Sherman covers from another Swedish artist: Povel Ramel. Most of them are improvements to the originals. Couldn’t find any of them on youtube though.

    Could someone please explain why European covers of U.S. music is usually better then the original (even when the original is great), whereas U.S. covers of European music is usually awfull. And why do the U.S. public accept covers that is worse then the originals?

  16. Wow, I first heard “My Son The Nut” as a 10 year old in 1964. I can still recite 80% of the lyrics.
    It’s colored my life/art/ humor as much as any Beatles or Zappa or Firesign Theatre album has.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  17. Yes, he’s great! Another fun fact: the familiar “Dancing Bear” image adopted by the Grateful Dead originally appeared on the back of an Allan Sherman album– I forget which one (I have it, but it’s packed away). When I first scored it at a sidewalk sale, I took one look and thought wow– the guys in the Grateful Dead must have been / must be Allen Sherman fans– I’m not surprised!

  18. also in the hard to find category of Shermanalia is a one-sided vinyl LP of song parodies and clever originals written for the Scott Paper Company in early 1966. Titled: “Music to dispense with by Allan Sherman” the subtitle is: “Created by Allen Sherman for the Container Division for the Scott Paper Company.” There are four originals and two parodies: “There’ll be some Changes Made” becomes “That’s How Change is Made” and “Makin’ Whoopee” becomes “Makin’ Coffee”. Sherman made fun of his employer with impunity, singing about a beautiful tree getting cut down for paper cups (“There’s a Beautiful Tree in the Forest”) and malfunctioning machines (“Vending Machines”).

    The liner notes are also rather charming. Probably written by some company flack, they use phrases like: “pokes friendly fun”, “good-natured joshing” and “Allan takes ordinary things and makes them extraordinary. He smoothes wrinkled brows. He makes you laugh at yourself. He is a laughable guy promoting a laudable product.”

    Shakespeare step aside.

  19. PSPINRAD, the laughing bear logo on the back of the Allan Sherman album which the Grateful Dead appropriated is actually an old logo from a garage.

  20. Someone needs to take his songs and weave them into a Musical, a la “Tomfoolery”. I’d buy a ticket.

  21. The University of Penn radio station WXPN has a great kids show called Kids Corner hosted by Kathy O’Connell. She regularly plays a couple of Sherman’s songs along with Weird Al and Tom Lehrer. Her main influence is Soupy Sales and I used to listen to the show before I had a kid.

  22. Oh. My. God!!!

    A post about Allan Sherman containing comments that reference Weird Al, Firesign Theatre and Soupy Sales!!!

    Sell my clothes, I’m goin’ to heaven!

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