wash ‘em laundry all day
smoke ‘em pipe they say OR Wants his freedom that way
He’s got a little China gal
She love him all right,
He love little China gal, too,
So he sings to her ev’ry night
Sung Fong Lou, Sung Fong Lou
Listen to those chinese blues;
Honey gal, I’m crying to you
Won’t you open that door and let me in?
China man cries, baby, won’t you let me in
Chinaman feels his habit (OR lovin’) coming on again.
She cries to him “what’s the matter with you
I got those Ipshing, Hong Kong Ockaway Chinese Blues”
Recording of Irving Kaufman singing the Chinese Blues
Recording of Sousa’s Band playing the Chinese Blues
Written by Oscar Gardner, this song was not only published in a Treasury of the Blues by the “father of the blues,” W.C. Handy and recorded by George Gershwin, but also was, according to the critical notes by Abbe Niles, “the first and best by a white man, and had wide popularity in 1915.”  Niles’ notes also clarify that “Chinese Blues” falls under the category “blues-songs,” which do not follow the classical 12-bar blues form, but include songs that have any relation to the blues. “Chinese Blues” only fits the blues category in that it tells the story and emotion of the unrequited lover and there are a couple blue, or flatted notes, to the melody. We know that the early 20th century saw a trend of appropriating the blues to label any song that had ragtime rhythms, blue notes, and the longing emotion, even though the blues specifically came out of African American oppression. In other words, Oscar Gardner, a white composer, tapped into the commercial blues genre in anyway he could to make money, and W.C. Handy benefitted by publishing it in his anthology of the blues.
As if this level of mis-labeling isn’t enough, the song also reflects racist stereotypes about the Chinese and their music. While the published music looks like an average ragtime or jazz arrangement, both period performances of it from the Library of Congress (Sousa’s band and Irving Kaufman) recordings emphasize an “oriental sound,” namely flutes slurring up to their notes and percussion including a gong and woodblocks. The lyrics “Sung, Fong, Lou,” though they don’t actually have a real translation in Chinese, also try to evoke the Orient. Additionally, in the lyrics depending on which version you look at, the Chinese are either washing laundry all day in order to get their freedom or suffering from an opium/other drug addiction. So, in sum “Chinese Blues” presents an example of a white composer using a genre traditional to African American oppression to subjugate the Chinese.
 Oscar Gardner, “Chinese Blues,” A Treasury of the Blues, ed. W.C. Handy, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1926), 184.
 Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), Ch. 1, “What is Blues?” 1-13.