"get your habits on" (1899, 1924, etc.)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Aug 25 11:00:07 UTC 2005

On Thu, 25 Aug 2005 05:07:32 -0400, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:

>On Wed, 24 Aug 2005 14:06:54 -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>What about "get one's habits on" from at least the '50's? That's the
>>oldest documentable example of this form that I know of. I would pin
>>it down, but I managed to blow up my unbacked-up hard drive and I
>>haven't had time to restock my data base. In any case, it occurs in
>>the R&B song, "I Don't Know," by Willie Mabon.
>Stop awhile : shimmy if it's all night long
>??? things : is got your habits on
>Lofton, Cripple Clarence; I Don't Know; probably Chicago, c. 1936 -1938;
>(  ) private record Yz L-1025

Another blues lyrics site helps out with the Lofton/Mabon connection:

TITLE: Strut That Thing
SINGER: Cripple Clarence Lofton, vocal/piano with unknown washboard.
DATE OF REC.: 2 April 1935, Chicago
ORIGINAL ISSUE(S): Vocalion 02951
Stop awhile, shimmy if it's all night long,
'Times I think you got your habits on,
'Cause you should not do it, you dog,
Shouldn't do it, you dog, shouldn't do it, you -- oh,
I'm telling these lovers, how to be strutting that thing night and day
TITLE: I Don't Know
MATRIX NO.: no mx #
SINGER: Cripple Clarence Lofton
DATE OF REC.: c. 1938 or 1939, Chicago
REISSUE(S): Swaggie SL1235, Yazoo L1025, Mauros LBCCL3840, Blues Document
Stop a while, shimmy if it's all night long,
'Times I think you've got your habits on;
But you shouldn't of -- shouldn't of what?
I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know,
I'm tellin' you, Lord, how to be struttin' that thing night and day
TITLE: I Don't Know
MATRIX NO.: mx U 4315
SINGER: Willie Mabon
DATE OF REC.: 1952, Chicago, Illinois
ORIGINAL ISSUE(S): Parrot 1050, Chess 1531
REISSUE(S): Chess LPs 1439, 60012, 9189, Checker 1050, Argo LP 4042, MCA
Chess CHD2-9385
Sometimes I think you has your habits on
She said, 'You shouldn't say that'
I said, 'What should I say to make you mad this time, baby?'
She says, 'Mmmmmm, I don't know,'
My oh my oh my; I don't know, what my baby puttin' down.

Don't know how trustworthy these transcriptions are.

--Ben Zimmer

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