*Note: Taylor is a member of the student organization USC Troy Camp, a group that mentors/tutors students in the South Central L.A. area and raises funds during the year to send 200 elementary schoolchildren from South L.A. to a week-long summer camp in Idyllwild, CA. This week-long camp is completely run by the counselors, and through the year many legends and traditions have developed that are upheld/told each year at camp, carried on by newer counselors as older ones graduate. Because I am also a member of Troy Camp, she didn’t provide any context for this, so I figured I’d do so to minimize confusion. This is a description of one of our many camp songs – this one’s called “Gigolo.”
The informant learned Gigolo when she first joined Troy Camp as a freshman. Older members either teach it to new members directly or just kind of throw them into it because it’s a call-and-response song. Generally, one person will call to another and that person will eventually show the group “how they gigolo,” and the rest of the group will chant. At the end of the song (which can happen after two people or 20 people do their individual gigolos), the person who just gigolo’d will call out all of Troy Camp instead of an individual, and then there is a longer chant that the whole group sings, with accompanying hand motions. The informant and I walked through the song together.
INFORMANT: Hey Jules!
COLLECTOR (myself): Hey what?
INFORMANT: Are you ready?
COLLECTOR: For what?
INFORMANT: To gig (pronounced jig)!
COLLECTOR: Gig what?
COLLECTOR: Ohhhhhhhhhh. My hands are high [raises hands], my feet are low [point to feet] and this is how I gigolo [do a little dance]!
WHOLE GROUP: Her hands are high [raise hands], her feet are low [point to feet] and this is how I gigolo [mimic dance]. Gig… alo, gig- gig, alo- what what? Gig… alo, gig- gig alo!
Then the person who just did the dance calls out someone else, and the song repeats. Eventually…
INFORMANT: Hey Troy Camp!
WHOLE GROUP: Hey what?
INFORMANT: Are you ready?
WHOLE GROUP: For what?
INFORMANT: To gig!
WHOLE GROUP: Gig what?
WHOLE GROUP: Ohhhh! Bang, bang, choo choo train / wind me up and I’ll do my thing / No Reese’s Pieces, no buttercups / You mess with me I’ll mess you up / My back aches, my belt’s too tight / My hips shake from the left to the right / Left, right, left right left right / I turn around, I touch the ground / I get back up, I break it down / My hands are high my feet are low and this is how I gigolo! [group dances]
Thoughts: Summer camps are known for having different variations of the same songs, and I can personally attest to that in this case. I went to a different summer camp as a kid, and we also sang gigolo, with a couple small alterations (alo alo instead of alo what what, hands are low instead of feet are low). We also didn’t have the group chant bang bang choo choo train part, though something along those lines did comprise a whole separate camp song we sang! “Bang Bang Choo Choo Train” is also used in cheer camps or by cheerleaders as a cheer.
Camp songs are the perfect example of variants – each camp has a very distinct, concentrated culture, and while the general attributes of the song remain the same, little pieces are different and/or specific to the particular camp at which they’re being sung, just like stories or riddles from different countries have the same general framework but vary in their details. These songs have to have started somewhere, so it makes one wonder how they spread from camp to camp, and where exactly they originated.
Gigolo in particular is a great camp song because it allows the group to learn different group members’ names, and lets everyone interact both between individuals and as a greater group/community.