In 1962, Monte would release his first million-seller, “Pepino the Italian Mouse”, which was awarded a gold disc. Sung in a pastiche of both Calabrese and English, “Pepino the Italian Mouse” tells the humorous tale of a mischievous mouse who lives within the walls of a man’s kitchen. A mouse that who comes out at night to eat cheese, drink wine, frighten Lou’s girlfriend when she comes over…and befriends the cat, sent out to catch him.
Luigi Scaglione (later known by his performing name “Lou Monte”) was born to Italian immigrant parents. His mother died when he was only two. He was raised in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and he began performing at age fourteen. But success came slowly: by his own account, although he sang and played guitar in a number of clubs, he did not begin to gain a large following for about fifteen years.
Lou Monte’s first big hit came in 1954, with the release of his version of “Darktown Strutters’ Ball”. In 1962, Monte would release his first million-seller, “Pepino the Italian Mouse”, which was awarded a gold disc. Co-written by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell and sung alternately in English and a pastiche of Calabrese, Arranged by Joe Reisman, the single is credited to Don Costa Productions. “Pepino” peaked at number five on Billboard’s Hot 100 in mid-January and fared even better in certain markets, including Monte’s native New York City, where the single spent two weeks at number one on WABC at the end of December.
The “flip side” of the single featured another Italian-American hybrid novelty song called “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed The Delaware?).” The song presumes that George Washington was cold, tired, hungry and without a change of underwear on his famous trip. At one point in the song, “Washington” complains that the pizzas his wife Martha baked were as “cold as ice”. His solution? “Sell them to the Indians for only half the price.” He then asks his boatsmen to row faster because “tonight I’m posing for my picture on the dollar bill.”
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