“Sweet Flossie Farmer (The Lovely Snake Charmer).” Words by Mort Dixon, music by Allie Wrubel (1935). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on April 18, 1935. Decca F. 5524 mx. GB 7098-2.
“Sweet Flossie Farmer” is a comical song with a circus setting (like Elsie Carlisle’s duet with Sam Browne from the previous year, “Mr. Magician”). The scenario is simple: the title character, “Flossie Farmer,” is a professional snake charmer who is paradoxically attracted to a man repeatedly described as a “snake in the grass.”1 He is an animal trainer, but Flossie cares only for him, not for his animals, whose difficult polysyllabic names Elsie relishes rattling off while dismissing them: “rhinoceroses,” “hippopotamuses,” “sea lionesses” — she appears to give up after the gaffe “kangaroos-a-mooses!” — and the orchestra provides her with a satisfying antiphonal chorus of nonsense sounds. This animal trainer is a very bad man, we are to understand, who is only interested in sex, and he appears to succeed in his lechery, only to be bitten by Flossie’s snakes, who appear to be motivated by both jealousy and loyalty.
“Fare Thee Well, Annabelle.” Words by Mort Dixon, music by Allie Wrubel (1934). Recorded on June 20, 1935 by Ambrose and His Orchestra, with vocals by Donald Stewart, Elsie Carlisle, and the Rhythm Brothers. Decca F. 5590.
Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen and 1 unknown-t / Ted Heath-Lew Davis-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as-bar / Sid Phillips-cl-as-bar-a / Joe Jeannette-as / Billy Amstell-cl-ts / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove-vn / Bert Barnes-p-a /Joe Brannelly-g /Dick Ball-sb /Max Bacon-d
Mort Dixon and Allie Wrubel wrote “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” in 1934; it was introduced in 1935 by Rudy Vallée and Ann Dvorak in the film Sweet Music. The Ambrose Orchestra’s version does justice to this admirable example of the “train song” genre; it lacks the lollapalooza tap dancing sequence of the film, but its simulated train sounds evoke the original context of the song nicely, and Donald Stewart and Elsie Carlisle make suitable stand-ins for the movie actors.
In 1935 Britain would hear other recordings of “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” by the Debroy Somers Band (with Brian Lawrance as vocalist), Billy Merrin and His Commanders (Ken Crossley, vocalist), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (Bill Currie, vocalist), Sidney Kyte and His Piccadilly Hotel band (with Norman Phillips singing), and Joe Loss and His Radio Band.
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.