Used as a rhyming substitute for “ass,” yas yas and “yas yas yas” appear in hokum blues from the 1920s such as Tampa Red’s big hit, “The Duck Yas-Yas-Yas.” In “Get Yer Yas Yas Out,” Blind Boy Fuller sang “get yer yas yas out the door.”
The most popular version of “The Duck Yas-Yas-Yas” was the party tune recorded by Tampa Red and Thomas A. Dorsey that exhorted guests to:
Shake your shoulders Shake ’em fast If you can’t shake your shoulders Shake your yas-yas-yas
Memphis Minnie used “yas yas yas” to great effect in “New Dirty Dozen”:
Now the funniest thing I ever seen Tom cat jumping on a sewing machine Sewing machine run so fast Took ninety-nine stitches in his yas yas yas
The dozens (also called “the dirty dozens”) is a verbal game in which two-line rhyming insults are shot back and forth in front of an audience. In “New Dirty Dozen,” recorded by Memphis Minnie in 1930, she warns, “Come on all you folks and start to walk. I’m fixing to start my dozens talk.” She then proceeds to rip on everyone from the hookers on the corner to a blind old man and the poor tom cat.