Primary Source

Jailbait (1957) [Song Lyrics]

Annotation

Zeffrey 'Andre' Williams, a Rhythm and Blues performer, born in Chicago in 1936, is best known as co-writer and producer of songs such as "Shake a Tailfeather" by the Five Dutones. After moving to Detroit in his teens, he befriended the owners of Fortune Records. Among the recordings he released on that label in 1957 was "Jailbait," one of two solo singles in which he talked over a funky rhythm.

The slang term jailbait appeared in the US in the 1930s, and captured the awareness of the legal significance of age that had percolated through popular culture by the early decades of the 20th century. It is not just underage girls look sexually attractive that makes them jailbait, but that they also express sexual desire, something that experts argued was a normal feature of adolescence. Acting on that desire, however, was not. Girls might walk free from age-of-consent prosecutions, as Williams laments, but working-class girls at least would have suffered consequences in the juvenile justice system.

Among the other pop music performers who have recorded songs titled jailbait or which deal with the age of consent are Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Eric Clapton, ABBA, Dragon, Motley Cru, and Aerosmith.

Source

Williams, Andre. "Jailbait." On Movin On: Greasy and Explicit Soul Movers 1956-70. Vampi Soul, 2006. Annotated by Stephen Robertson.

Primary Source Text

I'm running
Yes before it's too late
Trying to get away
From that jail bait

It's a rough temptation
But a common invitation
And a good association
But a quick elimination
That will take you out of circulation
Yes I'm talking about that younger generation

So take my advice fellas
For goodness sake
15, 16, 17 that's jail bait

Now they swear that they're in love
That you and her good stars above
And she's lookin mighty good
Just like a young girl should

Well we try to tell ya no
And let that young girl go
But you you know it all
You have yourself a ball

And now it is too late
As you look from cell number 8
I tried to tell you old mate
17 and 1/2 is still jail bait

So tomorrow's the date
For the trial of jail bait
And this you watch and see
The young girl will go free
And you'll get one to three

So out the door she walks
To another man she talks
Before you can count
From one to eight
Another man in for
Jail bait

Please mister judge
If you just let me go this time
I won't mess with them young girls no more
I swear I'm not gunna bother them Mister Judge

I ain't gunna bother nothin fifteen
I ain't gunna bother nothin sixteen
I ain't gunna bother nothin seventeen
I ain't gunna mess with none at eighteen

I'm gunna leave the twenty year old ones alone too
Gunna get me a girl about forty-two
If you just believe what I say Mister Judge Please Mister Judge I ain't gunna bother them young girls no more

Gimme a break Mister Judge

How to Cite This Source

"Jailbait (1957) [Song Lyrics]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #46, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/46 (accessed September 2, 2014). Annotated by Stephen Robertson