Frank Loesser's Big D.
There are a ton of songs about or inspired by Dallas. And they say a lot about who we are. So, each week in this space, we'll take a closer week at one of these songs — and we'll try to determine what, exactly, they say about this great city of ours.
In the '50s, the country was a much more spaced out place. It was before the era of a million cable channels, the Internet and mass media as we currently know it. So it stands to reason that somebody from a place such as Tuscon by all accounts might not have an accurate picture of what a person from a place such as Tampa was like.
This is where Hollywood and stereotypes come in heavily into play: If the silver screen was your only exposure to New York, you very may take a trip there and yell “Hey, I'm walkin' here!” over and over as if this were the natives' customary greeting. Likewise, folks from New York, California and elsewhere were pretty confident that every person living in Texas at the time lived on huge ranches, owned cattle and relied on horses as their main method of transportation.
In 1956, the blockbuster film Giant cemented these stereotypes into the national public conscious. Rock Hudson and James Dean wearing tight jeans and cowboy hats will do that.
That same year, Frank Loesser's play The Most Happy Fella made its debut run on Broadway. Act II of the play about a May-December relationship contains a number called “Big D” that's about our fair town and in which all of the aforementioned stereotypes abound.
But stereotypes, of course, exist for a reason — and not all of them are necessarily all that negative. In this song's opening recitative, the female character is charmed by the politeness of a passing gentleman character's southern charm, even going so far as to say that his manner of speech — meaning his drawl — puts her in a “friendly state of mind.”
The line was not only a nod to our southern hospitality, but also a reference to our state's very name. The word Texas, of course, comes from the Caddo word Tejas, meaning “friends” or “allies.”
In order to get the male character to further woo her with his sexy southern accent, she gets him to say various phrases. The standout one — as well as the one that makes the song relate to Dallas — is when she playfully goads him into saying “Nieman Marcus,” which he of course does. The luxury retail giant, of course, is headquartered right here in Dallas. Founded in 1907, the high-end store already had quite the reputation in the mid '50s.
Other lines in the song, such as “Oil! Oil! Oil! Cattle! Cattle! Cattle!” could really be about any city in Texas, and really would probably be better suited if the song were about a place like Houston. Nevertheless, the cast spells out “Big D, little A, double L-A-S” more than enough times to make up for it. The fact that they also yell out “Hooray for Big D!” at one point just puts it over the top.
It doesn't really take all that much to win us over, though. We're a pretty friendly set, after all.