Mort Dixon Articles

“Sweet Flossie Farmer” (1935)

“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.

Elsie Carlisle – "Sweet Flossie Farmer" (1935)

Elsie Carlisle – “Sweet Flossie Farmer” (1935)”

“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.

“Sweet Flossie Farmer,” like “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” (which Elsie would record two months later), was composed by Hollywood songwriters Mort Dixon and Allie Wrubel. Newspapers of the time suggest that “Sweet Flossie Farmer” was, like “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle,” introduced in the film Sweet Music by Rudy Vallée and Ann Dvorak, but I cannot find the scene in which it occurs; there may very well be different cuts. In the 1935 Warner Bros. cartoon Hollywood Capers a small female animal sings the song. It was also recorded in America by Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra, and in Britain it was included in 1936 in a medley by the Bert Feldman Company.

"Sweet Flossie Farmer." Sheet nusic featuring Elsie Carlisle.

Notes:

  1. As a classicist, I would be remiss if I did not point out that this is one of Elsie’s rare references to the Roman poet Virgil (Eclogues 3.93).

“You’re My Everything” (1932)

“You’re My Everything.” Words by Mort Dixon and Joe Young, music by Harry Warren (1931). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB135-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "You're My Everything" (1932)

Elsie Carlisle – “You’re My Everything” (1932)

An effusive expression of affection, “You’re My Everything” has its origins as the hit song of of a 1931-1932 two-act Broadway revue entitled The Laugh Parade, produced by and starring Ed Wynn, a comedian who twenty years later would provide the voice for the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The music for the play was composed by Harry Warren, with lyrics provided by Mort Dixon and Joe Young. It was French actress Jeanne Aubert and American actor Lawrence Gray who introduced the signature tune.

Elsie Carlisle, in her 1932 recording of the song, brings sincerity to its hyperbolic lyrics. Hers is a surprisingly straightforward and touching interpretation of the composition; we find absent the coyness of her torch songs, the levity of her racier music. The band provides a suitably atmospheric accompaniment to her professions of love and awe for the lucky “you” of the song.

“You’re My Everything” was recorded in September 1931 by the Arden-Ohman Orchestra (with vocals by Frank Luther) and in October by Abe Lyman and His Orchestra (Dick Robertson, vocalist). In 1932 America heard versions by Russ Columbo, Ben Selvin’s Ariel Dance Orchestra (Helen Rowland, vocalist), Jack Miller and the New Englanders,

 Britain produced recordings of “You’re My Everything” later in 1932, with versions by Roy Fox and His Band (with Al Bowlly as vocalist), Syd Lipton (as Sidney Raymond and His Commanders), the Blue Mountaineers (with vocals by Sam Browne), Ray Noble and His New Mayfair Orchestra (as part of a “Paul Jones” medley), Bertini and His Band (with vocals by Tom Barratt), and by Anona Winn and Jack Plant (as “Bob Mackworth”).

"You're My Everything" sheet music (from "The Laugh Parade," 1931")
“You’re My Everything” sheet music (from “The Laugh Parade,” 1931″)

“Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” (1935)

“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

Ambrose and his Orchestra "Fare thee well, Annabelle" 1935

Ambrose and his Orchestra – “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” (1935)

Transfer by phonomono78s (YouTube)

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.

Notable Americans to record “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” that year were Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra (with Pee Wee Hunt as vocalist), Charlie Barnet (with singer Marion Nichols), Ted Fio Rito and His Orchestra (with vocals by Muzzy Marcellino and The Debutantes), Chick Bullock and His Levee Loungers, Wingy Manone, and the Boswell Sisters (recording in London).

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.

"Fare Thee Well, Annabelle" sheet music featuring Rudy Vallée and Ann Dvorak
“Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” sheet music featuring Rudy Vallée and Ann Dvorak

"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

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