Luna Mezzo Mare/Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy)
Paolo Citorello was a Sicilian seaman who would pass the time on long voyages by playing and singing folk songs from his native land. After one ocean trip in the late 1920s, he returned with his composition of one of those songs: “Luna Mezzo Mare. There was some question that he took some of the lyrics and melody from Rossini’s work.In any case, the tune underwent a revival due to Paolo’s new interpretation. It was called “Mamma mia M’ha Maritari”, which is the line in the lyrics after C’e la luna mezzo mare.
Various versions of the tune began to be made and released in the United States. Spelling his last name “Citarella”, Brunswick records put out Paolo’s rendition as “Luna Mezzomare” in September of 1927.
All of this was part of a flourishing of Italian music from approximately 1894 to 1942. In their book Italian-American Folklore (1992, August House Inc., Little Rock), Frances M. Malpezzi and William M. Clements point out that some 473 individuals and ensembles made Italian-American records in that time-frame, more than any other non-English-speaking group in the United States. The authors include the song they call “E la Luna Mezzu Mari.”
For the full story and the lyrics, check the Bob Shannon web site.