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Re: Back-street jelly roll-- used in several Van Morrison song lyrics

Posted by Bruce Kahl on January 06, 2001

In Reply to: Back-street jelly roll-- used in several Van Morrison song lyrics posted by Randy Carothers on January 06, 2001

: The Phrase Back street Jelly-roll appears in many songs by Van Morrison from his very early albums to his most recent releases-- Does anyone know the derivation?

I cut and pasted a page from a website for you:

Glossary entry for
jelly roll
The following passage is from The Story of English by McCrum, MacNeil and
Cran. New, revised edition. London: Faber & Faber; BBC books, 1992. From page 237:

In the African language Mandingo, jeli is a minstrel who gains popularity
with women through skill with words and music. In the English creole of
the Caribbean, jelly refers to the meat of the coconut when it is still at
a white, viscous stage, and in a form closely resembling semen. In
English, jelly and jelly roll are both items of food.
On the street, jelly roll had many associated meanings, from the
respectable 'lover, or spouse', to the Harlem slang of the 1930s, 'a term
for the vagina'."
To cite another source: chapter 4 of Blues Fell This Morning: Meaning in the Blues is entitled
"I'm a rooster, baby" and deals with sexual metaphor
and euphemism in the blues. The book is by Paul
Oliver. Revised 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, 1990 (originally
published in 1960).
[Ed: see another citation from this work in the Glossary entry for "TB"]
From page 109:
"An exhaustive study of black sexual symbols is long overdue, indicative as
they are of modes of thought and reactions to popularly held stereotypes.
Among domestic metaphors culinary themes are especially common, which a brief examination of one stream of associations may illustrate. Arising simply
from the motions of sexual intercourse the term 'jelly roll' is a familiar
one which has been in use for more than half a century. In black song it
occurs frequently, as in a recording by Peg Leg Howell and His Gang:
Jelly-roll, jelly-roll, ain't so hard to find.
Ain't a baker shop in town bake 'em brown like mine
I got a sweet jelly, a lovin' sweet jelly roll,
If you taste my jelly, it'll satisfy your worried soul
I never been to church and I never been to school
Come down to jelly I'm a jelly-rollin' fool
I got a sweet jelly to satisfy my worried soul
I likes my jelly and I like to have my fun
The term was correctly applied to a jam (jelly)-rolled and lightly baked
confection and in consequence the references to baking 'nice and brown' had
an added punning significance. So a lover admired his 'jelly bean' and the
way she could 'jello' and prided himself on being a 'good jelly-roll baker.'
But the baker made not only jelly roll but also other foods." (Oliver goes
on to discuss the significance of "biscuit," "biscuit-roller," "cornbread"
and other metaphors.)
See also the glossary entry for Jelly Roll Morton
for some additional Van references to that related term.
Van references in:
"You Move Me" (an early, unreleased Van song)
"He Ain't Give You None" (on Blowin' Your Mind)
"He Ain't Give You None" (on T. B. Sheets)
"And the Healing Has Begun" (on Into the Music)
"Philosophers Stone" (on Back On Top)
Part of The Van Morrison Website