A Singing “Mobster”


I had all but forgotten about Fred Buscaglione, a very entertaining singer from the late 1950’s, until about 2 weeks ago when, not once, but twice, I was reminded of his songs.  The first time was when I was going through some of my mom’s old LP’s and I came across one by Mr. Buscaglione.  I remembered as a child listening to it and liking the way that he sang the songs – they were never boring!  And then, a few days later, I visited one of my favorite Italian restaurants here close to my home, and who did they have playing over the sound system but yours truly!!!  I took this as a sign to write a post!!  Fred Buscaglione epitomized the stereotype of a mobster!  He played the persona of a gangster who was weened on whiskey and followed anything in a skirt!  He sang onstage with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth and a stiff drink to moisten the vocal cords!  He was like an Italian version of Dean Martin!  Sadly, though, his career came to end at the young age of 38 when his pink Ford Thunderbird collided with a truck right in front of the U.S. Embassy in Rome.   One of his songs is a typical mobster ditty…Il Dritto di Chicago!  I have tried to translate it to the best of my abilities – there are lots of subleties to this song and I hope to have gotten all the nuances (especially since I’m not up on my mobster lingo!!)

“Il Dritto di Chicago” as sung by Joe Varnelli and the Sing Sing Band


Sono il dritto di Chicago Sugar Bing                  I’m the “straight” from Chicago Sugar Bing
arrivato fresco fresco da Sing Sing                    freshly arrived from Sing Sing
Io ho avuto da bambino                                        As a child I had
Al Capone per padrino                                           Al Capone as my godfather
e mia madre mi allattava a whisky e gin         and my mother nursed me on whiskey & gin
Sono il dritto di Chicago Sugar Bing                 I’m the “straight” from Chicago Sugar Bing
so sparare la pistola con lo swing                      I can shoot a pistol while doing the Swing
Io con Jimmy lo sfregiato                                    Me and Jimmy we scarred him,
sette banche ho svaligiato                                    I robbed seven banks,
nello spazio limitato di un mattin                     All in the space of one morning.                                                                                 

                                                                          Chorus (band singing about Sugar Bing)

Ragazzi mamma mia che spago                         Guys, what a time
quando per Chicago                                               when in Chicago
scende a passeggiar                                                He gets down to take a walk.
Ragazzi presto sorridete                                      Guys, soon you will smile
se lo disturbate                                                        If you disturb him          
certo sparerà                                                            He will surely shoot.

Sono il dritto di Chicago Sugar Bing               I’m the “straight” from Chicago Sugar Bing
deputato nel distretto di Sing Sing                 Deputized in the neighborhood of Sing Sing
Quando vedo una ragazza                                  When I see a girl
quella lì diventa pazza                                         She becomes insane     
perché Sugar tiene ′o fascino latin                 Because Sugar has a Latin charm.
Quando il grande poliziotto Peter Kan        When the famous cop Peter Kan          
fu in un bar di Cincinnati un po′ villan        Was in a bar in Cincinatti acting rude
lì per lì senza riguardo                                        By and by, without regrets
sollevai un gran biliardo                                   I picked up a pool cue
e glielo misi al collo come un astrakan       And wrapped it around his neck
Quando ad Hollywood per caso capitai     When I happened to be in Hollywood
ad un pranzo con Kim Novak non andai     I did not go to  dinner with Kim Novak.
Di risate sempre ghiotto                                    Always greedy for a laugh
per veder Gianni e Pinotto                                 To see Gianni and Pinotto,
anche un bacio ad Ava Gardner rifiutai      Even a kiss from Ava Gardner I refused.
Sono il dritto di Chicago Sugar Bing              I’m the “straight” from Chicago Sugar Bing
ho una villa riservata giù a Sing Sing            I have a villa reserved down in Sing Sing
Sorridete e salutate                                             Smile and wave
state attenti o le buscate                                   Be careful or you will get it
Sono il dritto di Chicago Sugar Bing             I’m the “straight” from Chicago Sugar Bing.

2 responses »

  1. While cycling in Italy last year with a bike tour company, our guides provided us with some wonderful entertainment one evening singing many old Italian favorites. The next day we all took up song while we rode thru the countryside of Tuscany. This particular song became our very favorite for the next 4 days of riding!! It is so Italian!! And helped us tackle those Tuscan hills!!!

    • I always love hearing this song!!! It reminds me of my childhood. Every time I hear it, I always want to break out in song – I’m sure you guys were a hit with all the country folk as you rode by singing!!! What fun!

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