Four Eleven Forty Four

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  • Pete Wylie has always been characteristically vague about who or what inspired this love song. However, the roots of the enigmatic title can be traced to the illegal lottery known as "Policy" in 19th century America. A three-number entry was known as a "Gig" and the ever-popular 4, 11, 44 bet became known as the "Washerwoman's Gig" after it was featured on the cover of Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book in the 1890s. Probably the earliest written reference to the gig is in The Secrets Of The Great City by Edward Winslow Martin. The book is about the New York slums and it was published in 1868.
  • In 1889, sheet music publisher H.J. Wehman of New York advertised a song called "Four 'eleven forty-four," possibly taken from the unsuccessful musical show 4-11-44 by Williams & Walker, of the same year. The phrase also appeared in a now-considered racist minstrel song by William A. Heelan & J. Fred Helf in 1900. In 1925 the phrase "Four-Eleven-Forty-Four" appeared in "The Penitentiary Bound Blues" by Rosa Henderson and the Choo Choo Jazzers, and Papa Charlie Jackson recorded a Blues number of the same name in 1926. The blues theme continued when Pinetop & Lindberg (aka The Sparks Brothers) released another song called "4-11-44" in the 1930s and a Jazz number of the same name was released by Poindexter & Erwin on Prestige records in 1963. An LA band called The Blasters made "4-11-44" the title track of their 2004 album, while Jawbone released yet another track called "4-11-44" in 2005. Like most of the earlier songs, but unlike Wylie's, these tracks had an anti-gambling theme. More recently, this lucky number and sign of good fortune has appeared in online dictionaries as slang for a large male appendage. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Stu - Fife, Scotland, for above 2

Comments: 1

  • Stu from Fife, ScotlandThe above songfacts are just a small sample of the rich history of this phrase, turned up during research. The conclusion I came to was that, in my opinion, Pete Wylie's song differs from all the rest with the same title. The other songs refer quite closely to gambling and the effect it can have on people and families, whereas Wylie's song appears to rely on the mystery of a number-phrase whose original meaning is being lost. Love is an enigma and so, to most people, is the meaning of the phrase 4-11-44.
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