Two of the real life Band of Brothers, best friends Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron, sing “Mares Eat Oats.”
William J. Guarnere (April 28th 1923 – March 8th 2014) and Edward James “Babe” Heffron (May 16th 1923 – December 1st 2013) were United States Army soldiers who fought in World War II with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.
Guarnere was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Frank John Hughes, Heffron was portrayed by Robin Laing.
The mini-series was hugely successful. It won a number of awards and was nominated for many more. Though it took some creative licence with the facts, all the characters were based on real members of “Easy Company,” and the series is considered a very faithful recreation of this historical period. The veterans who were the inspiration for the characters in the series were involved in the production at many points along the way, and the real-life veterans of the stories portrayed viewed and approved the episodes before they were aired.
“Mairzy Doats” was composed in 1943, by Al Hoffman, Milton Drake, and Jerry Livingston. It was first played on radio station WOR, New York, by Al Trace and his Silly Symphonists. The song made the pop charts several times, the version by the Merry Macs reached the No. 1 position in March 1944. The song was also a number-one sheet music seller, with sold over 450,000 times within the first three weeks of release.
The song’s refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless:
“Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe!”
However, the lyrics of the bridge provide a clue:
“If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing ‘Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy'”.
This hint allows the ear to translate the final line as “[a] kid’ll eat ivy, too, wouldn’t you?”