Breedloves's Folk Songs



“Yes! We Have No Bananas” is the title of a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn that was a major hit in 1923, and one of the top songs of the 20th century. The song was recorded by Billy Jones, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufman and others that year, and covered later by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Spike Jones & His City Slickers and many more. Some speculate that a banana shortage at the time inspired the song. The Long Island, New York, town of Lynbrook claims the songwriters wrote the tune there and that the catchphrase “Yes! We have no bananas” was coined by Jimmy Costas, a local Greek American greengrocer; however, a 1923 article in the Chicago Tribune said the phrase originated in the Windy City in 1920. The term has been resurrected on many occasions, including in Britain during World War II when the British Government banned the importing of bananas for five years. Shop owners would place signs stating “Yes, we have no bananas” in their shop windows in keeping with the general war spirit.

There’s a fruit store on our street It’s run by a Greek. And he keeps good things to eat But you should hear him speak! When you ask him anything, he never answers “no”. He just “yes’s you to death, And as he takes your dough, he tells you… “Yes! We have no bananas We have no bananas today!! We have string beans and onions, cabbages and scallions And all kinds of fruit and say We have an old fashioned tomato A Long Island potato, but Yes! We have no bananas We have no bananas today!” Business got so good for him that he wrote home today, “Send me Pete and Nick and Jim; I need help right away.”When he got them in the store, there was fun, you bet. Someone asked for “sparrow grass” and then the whole quartet All answered: “Yes, we have no bananas We have-a no bananas today. Just try those coconuts Those wall-nuts and doughnuts There ain’t many nuts like they. We’ll sell you two kinds of red herring, Dark brown, and ball-bearing. But yes, we have no bananas We have no bananas today.”


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