A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 23, 2009
“Yes! We Have No Bananas”

“Yes! We Have No Bananas” is a popular song, written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohen in 1922.  Eddie Cantor sung it in the 1922 Broadway revue Make It Snappy. The song tells of a Greek fruit store man who can’t say “no,” so he says “Yes, we have no bananas!”
The phrase is often credited to New York newspaper cartoonist Thomas Aloysius Dorgan or “TAD” (1877-1929), who was also the author of the slang phrase “What, no spinach?” An article in the July 23, 1923 Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune stated that Dorgan got the idea from Chicago (IL) American cartoonist Harry Nelly, who originated “Yes, we have no bananas” in the fall of 1920.
Wikipedia: Yes! We Have No Bananas
“Yes! We Have No Bananas” is the title of a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn from the 1922 Broadway revue “Make It Snappy.” Sung by Eddie Cantor in the revue, the song became a major hit in 1923 (number 1 for five weeks) when it was recorded by Billy Jones, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufman and others. It was covered later by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Spike Jones & His City Slickers and many more. It is one of the top songs of the 20th century. It also inspired a follow-up, “I’ve Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues,” recorded by Billy Jones and others in 1923.
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"es you to death, and as he takes your dough
He tells you
“Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
We’ve string beans, and onions
Cabbageses, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned to-mah-to
A Long Island po-tah-to
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 walnuts 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.”
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.
Newsday.com - It Happened on Long Island!
1923: “Yes, We Have No Bananas” Written in Lynbrook
One of the biggest hits of the 1920s was the song, “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn. According to Art Mattson, Lynbrook Village Historian, Silver and Cohn wrote the song in 1923 at the Blossom Heath Inn on Merrick Road in Lynbrook, one of the most popular speakeasies of the period. Legend also claims that a Greek fruit seller in Lynbrook coined the phrase.
–Cynthia Blair
Wikipedia: Thomas Aloysius Dorgan
Thomas Aloysius Dorgan (April 29, 1877 – May 2, 1929) also known as “Tad Dorgan”, was an American cartoonist who signed his drawings as TAD. He is credited with coining more popular words and expressions than anyone else.
He was born in San Francisco on April 29, 1877. He had two brothers: Richard Dorgan an Joseph Dorgan, and he was married to Izole M. When he was thirteen years old, he lost the last three fingers of his right hand in an accident with a factory machine. He took up drawing for therapy. A year later at the age of 14 he joined the art staff of the San Francisco Bulletin. By 1905 he was working in New York City at the

as a sports writer and cartoonist. Jack Dempsey described him as “the greatest authority on boxing”.
Dorgan is generally credited with either creating or popularizing such words and expressions as “dumbbell” (a stupid person); “for crying out loud” (an exclamation of astonishment); “cat’s meow” and “cat’s pajamas” (as superlatives); “applesauce” (nonsense); “cheaters’” (eyeglasses); “skimmer” (a hat); “hard-boiled” (a tough person); “drugstore cowboy” (loafers or ladies’ men); “nickel-nurser” (a miser); “as busy as a one-armed paperhanger” (overworked); and “Yes, we have no bananas,” which was turned into a popular song.
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Pg. 210:
T. A. Dorgan
U.S. cartoonist and sportswriter, 1877-1929
“Yes…we have no bananas.”
Wisconsin News, 18 July 1922. Became famous as the title of a 1923 song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn.
10 October 1922, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 17:
Jumping to his feet, he answered: “Yes, we have no bananas!”
13 October 1922, Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Motion Picture News,” pg. 26:
There’s a fruit dealer in Hollywood, very near the Metro studios, who is known to lack even enough courage to say “no” when the occasion requires. It’s “yes” this and “yes” that, even though he later realizes that he ought to have said “no.”
One day Billie Dove wanted a banana. None of the famous California-grown fruits seemed satisfactory. So Miss Dove sought the exotic banana. The first place she visited was the Hollywood fruit dealer.
“Have you any bananas?” inquired the Metro actress.
The dealer smiled. “Yes, ma’am, we have no banans,” was his reply.
OCLC WorldCat record
Yes! we have no bananas
by Frank Silver; Irving Cohn
Type:  Musical score; English
Publisher: Sydney : J. Albert & Son, ©1923.
23 July 1923, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 6:
Sir: “Yes; we have no bananas” was originated in the Fall of 1920 at Senn High School by Spud and his gang. Harry Nelly introduced it in the Chicago American, and used it freely in the late edition. Tad Dorgan copied it from Nelly.
OCLC WorldCat record
I’ve got the Yes! we have no banana blues
by James F Hanley
Type:  Musical score : Popular music; English
Publisher: New York : Shapiro, Bernstein, ©1923.
4 May 1926, Olean (NY) Times, pg. 16, col. 3:
“Tad”—T. A. Dorgan—is credited with being the originator of many of the most popular slang expressions. “Flivver” and “He’s the cat’s whiskers” are among them. It is said that the song writers of Tin Pan Alley who wrote “Yes, We Have No Bananas” first saw the line in one of Tad’s “Indoor Sports” and framed the ditty around it.
3 May 1929, Xenia (OH) Evening Gazette, pg. 1, col. 1:
NEW YORK, May 3.—Funeral services will be held tomorrow for Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, known to newspaper readers everywhere as “Tad”, originator of the “indoor sports” drawings and countless slang expressions.
Dorgan died yesterday in his sleep at his home in Great Neck, L. I., after bronchial pneumonia had developed to harass a heart which had been in a weakened condition for years.
Sports enthusiast and boxing writer of note as well as a caricaturist of contemporary life, “Tad” has been an invalid for years but had cheerfully gone about his work.
His breezy slang covered the span of time from the days of his “twenty-three skiddoo” to “yes, we have no bananas” and “what, no spinach?”
13 October 1929, New York (NY) Times, “Our Wisecracks Live Fleetingly,” pg. XX13:
Last Winter an actress in a popular comedy on Broadway made quite a hit with the audience when she entered a room filled with people, making the strange remark, “What! No spinach!” It may have been that this phrase was a variation of the old popular song “Yes, We Have No bananas.” it has about as much meaning.
Peter Huestis
Ever heard the song “Yes, We Have No Bananas”? Here’s it’s origin, its first use in print in a drawing by Tad Dorgan from 1921 in my collection:
9:26 PM - 11 Jun 2018
Peter Huestis
Jun 11
Correction, sorry, 1922.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, February 23, 2009 • Permalink

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