Sister Kate

James Houston MCCONNELL

Color serigraph, edition 24, 1947. Signed, dated, titled, and numbered '24' in pencil. Annotated '10.00 - 19 colors - 24 copies - #24' in pencil.

Image size 8 5/8 x 14 1/16 inches (219 x 357 mm); sheet size 11 1/16 x 15 1/2 inches (281 x 393 mm).

A fine impression, with vibrant, fresh colors, on heavy tan wove paper, with full margins (11/16 to 1 1/2 inches). Tack holes in the four margin corners, well away from the image, otherwise in excellent condition. Scarce. Matted to museum standards, unframed.

"I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate", often simply "Sister Kate", is an up-tempo jazz dance song, written by Armand J. Piron and published in 1922. The lyrics of the song are narrated first person by Kate's sister, who sings about Kate's impressive dancing skill and her wish to be able to emulate it. She laments that she's not quite "up to date", but believes that dancing like "Sister Kate" will rectify this, and she will be able to impress "all the boys in the neighborhood" like her sister.

Over the years this song has been performed and recorded by many artists, including Frances Faye and Rusty Warren, a 1959 version by Shel Silverstein, The Olympics in 1960 (released as "Shimmy Like Kate"), the Red Onion Band, and a beat version by The Remo Four in 1964. It was performed live by The Beatles in 1962, and a recording of one such performance appears on 'Live! At the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962'. The song arrived in the 1960s and 1970s folk scene thanks to Dave Van Ronk (recording it twice on In the Tradition and on Dave Van Ronk and the Ragtime Jug Stompers) and Jim Kweskin, who made it part of a "Sister Kate's Night Out" medley on his Relax Your Mind album[3] with Mel Lyman and Fritz Richmond. In 1967, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band included it in on their eponymous The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (album). David Bowie used to team this song with an updated version of the Flares 1960 doo-wop song "Foot Stompin'" during the (1974) Diamond Dogs tour, as heard on the compilation Rarest One Bowie. Guitarist Carlos Alomar blessed the update with a riff that became Bowie's hit "Fame", cowritten with John Lennon. Judith Durham recorded a version for her album, Judith Durham and The Hottest Band in Town (1974).


Born in Chicago, Illinois, James Houston McConnell was a lithographer, screenprinter, and a painter. He studied at Denison University, the State University of Iowa, and with Grant Wood, Jean Charlot, Fletcher Martin and Emil Ganso. He taught at Michigan State College and was a member of both the National Serigraphy Society and the American Color Print Society. Another of McConnell's mid-century modernist, jazz-inspired serigraphs, 'Combo', is featured in the British Museum's 2008 publication (and traveling exhibition) 'The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock'.

Included in the numerous exhibitions of the artist’s work are: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1941; Kansas City Art Institute, 1941-42; American Color Print Society, 1942 (prize); Northwest Print Museum, 1942-46; City Art Museum of St. Louis, 1942 (prize); Springfield (Mo.) Museum of Art, 1942 (prize); Zanesville, Ohio, 1945 (prize); Union Seaman’s Service Traveling Exhibition, 1943-33; National Academy of Design, 1946; United States Library of Congress, 1946; Laguna Beach Art Association, 1946.

McConnell’s work is held in the permanent collections of Denison University, State University of Iowa, City Art Museum of St. Louis, and the British Museum.