Mermaids, Frog Legs, and Fillets | Folkstreams

Mermaids, Frog Legs, and Fillets (1978)

About the Film

Long before the advent of hip-hop as a multi-million dollar industry, African Americans were rapping and rhyming in the street, in their neighborhoods, and on the fish market docks in Washington DC. In this film, Lincoln Rorie and Jerry Williams use traditional rhymes--and make up a few new ones--to entertain their customers, sell fish, and make money. Lincoln, from D.C., was hired by Captain White’s fish market boat in 1973, and inspired Jerry, from a fishing family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, to use rhyme to sell. It's a remarkable story about a creative tradition in an occupational setting, and about how the expressive spirit takes hold in everyday life.

The film was produced by filmmaker Paul Wagner and folklorists Jack Santino and Steve Zeitlin who were working for the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife which took place on the national mall, about a mile from the fish market. Lincoln Rorie was a participant in a program called DC Folklore, which marked the first time the Festival highlighted its own community of Washington D.C., and the first time they featured a single city as a setting for urban folk culture.


For licensing, film rights and permissions, contact Paul Wagner, Steven Zeitlin, Jack Santino, the distributor, or Folkstreams.

Film Details

  • Film by: Paul Wagner, Steven Zeitlin, Jack Santino
  • Produced by: The Columbia Historial Society (Perry Fisher, director)
  • Cinematographer: Paul Wagner, Jack Santino
  • Sound: Zack Krieger with Paul Rusnak
  • Editor: Paul Wagner, Steve Zeitlin, Jack Santino
  • Other Credits: Marjorie Hunt (research)
  • Funding: The National Endowment for the Arts, the Folklife Program, Smithsonian Institution
  • Original Format: Film: 16mm
  • © 1978, Steve Zeitlin and Paul Wagner
  • 18mins, Color
  • Categories:
    FoodwaysNarrative & Verbal ArtsWorkUrban LifeAfrican American Culture