Submitted by Mark Gilston
Back in the early 1970s, I took a trip to San Francisco, where a good friend of mine had given me an introduction to Gil and Gerda Daly, a lovely couple who lived in a huge Victorian mansion. Every room had some kind of immense collection, from playing cards to pinball machines. Truly, it was a museum of a house.
One of the rooms contained wall to wall 78s of every imaginable genre, and the Dalys were kind enough to let me spend about 4 days recording ethnic and American old time 78s from their spectacular collection.
Among the gems, I found one by Bud Billings entitled “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” I knew a very racy and suggestive version of the song, and was intrigued to hear what would have passed the censors in 1929, but it was the flip side entitled “How to Make Love” that really caught my fancy. I fell in love with the song and set out to learn it.
Many years later, my research uncovered that the song was written by Frank Luther using the pseudonym “Bud Billings,” and recorded with Carson J. Robison. Trying to learn the song from listening to the old recording, I did get a few of the words wrong, and I have notated those differences where there is a significant change.
Listen to Mark performing “How to Make Love:”
Do you want your girl to love you? Do you want to be her beau?
Well, I’ll tell you how to do it, boys, I’ll tell you all I know.
Put on your bib and tucker, and scrub your face real hard.
Part your hair right down the middle, boys, and slick it down with lard.
Put your derby hat on sideways. Pull your peg top up pants up short.
Get a big bow tie on a rubber band, and show her you’re a sport.*
Get yourself some drugstore perfume, and sprinkle it on your clothes;
Just a dime’s worth will be plenty, boys, to tickle her little nose.
Grease your buggy and your harness, and curry your trottin’ mare,
Then buy yourself a lasso, boys, and get you a lady fair.**
Tie a ribbon on your buggy whip. Buy a pair of yellow gloves;
Then take her to the county fair, and buy her what she loves.
Tell her she is prettier than a movie act-er-ess.
Talk about her pretty curls, and admire her handsome dress.
Get yourself a gold front tooth. Buy a Sears and a Roebuck ring.
Get a double note harmonica, and learn to play and sing.
Brag about her family: her granddad and her pap;
And before you know it she’ll be a-settin’ on your lap.
Tell her she’s so pretty, she takes away your breath;
And before you know it, she’s a huggin’ you to death.
But if she will not love you, just make her jealous then.
Tell her you love somebody else; that she is just a friend.
Take her out to the dances, and flirt with the other girls:
Hug ’em close, and whisper soft, and give ’em all a whirl.
Laugh out loud with the others, but with your girl don’t you speak;
And when she comes around you boys, just turn from her your cheek.
Just follow these directions, and she will be your wife:
Or else she’ll marry somebody else, and hate you all her life!
* “Red bow tie” in the original
** The original line, which I misheard, is “Buy a purty lap-robe, boys, and get you a lady fair”)
Mark Gilston was born and raised in New York City. Both of his parents were steeped in the folk music revival scene of the 1950s. He grew up listening to 78s and LPs of American, Russian, Spanish, Caribbean and Israeli folk music. Learning guitar and taking piano lessons starting at age 5, he was constantly immersed in music. In his youth, Mark gained a love of traditional American ballads and Old-Time songs and instrumentals from recordings and from his father, who often sang the old ballads which he had learned in his youth in Appalachia.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in folklore, Mark went to graduate school at SUNY Binghamton, studying ethnomusicology, and ended up settling there until 1994.
Mark has been giving concerts and leading workshops since 1971. He interned at the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Song, and has worked as a researcher for Alan Lomax. He has published numerous articles and books on music and folklore. Mark is also a multi-instrumentalist with an international reputation in English concertina and mountain dulcimer. He won the prestigious National Mountain Dulcimer Championship in 2016. Mark has 14 CDs on the Ramble Creek and Creative Engineering labels as well as over a thousand videos of music performance and martial arts instruction on YouTube. “How to Make Love” is on Mark’s second CD, Lend Me an Ear.