Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dwight Fiske: Songs His Mother Never Taught Him

Dwight Fiske (1892-1959) was a wildly popular night club entertainer and a prominent gay voice in comedy in the first half of the 20th century. He was a Rhode Island native who grew up in Providence and Boston, then attended Harvard and the Paris Conservatoire. When the Great War ended he found himself in Europe entertaining American socialites looking for fun overseas during Prohibition, and he developed his signature delivery of ribald stories with piano accompaniment. After Tallulah Bankhead gave him the good word, leading to a nine-month gig at the Bat Club in London, Fiske spend the last half of the 1920s and most of the 1930s bouncing between high-class joints in Europe and New York City where he entertained high society as their swishy musical mascot into the world of S-E-X. Through innuendo and witty double-entendres, he became the king of the party record, releasing no less than 30 sides on his own Fiskana imprint between 1933 and 1937. After World War II he hooked up with Gala Records, basically re-recorded his entire catalogue, and sat back as they released a flurry of brand-new songs, new versions of old songs, and straight dubs of his older records, until he eventually won an injunction against them from the New York Supreme Court for non-payment of royalties (he sued them for contempt in 1952, claiming he hadn’t been paid since 1948 and they were still selling his records). You’ll find loooots of different Fiske 78s floating around, but his LPs are more scarce – Gala released four of them; Jubilee released this one in 1955; there’s a very iffy LP on Monarch called “Song Satires”; and there’s a split LP with Fiske on one side and Nan Blackstone on the flip called Tongue With Cheek, which incidentally features one of the all-time great covers. It’s hard to get very excited about Fiske today, mainly of course because the power of innuendo has dripped away to nothing like an Italian glacier, but also because Fiske’s stories were surprisingly topical (sometimes a little TOO topical; in 1941 Fiske was successfully sued for libel by a Mr. Philip Pratt because of his song “Coney Island Honeymoon”). This LP was recorded very near the end of Fiske’s career, and if you’re a real trainspotter you get 100 points for knowing which Del Close LP cover was also designed by this LP’s designer, Burt Goldblatt.

Senorita Margarita Del Campo
Elizabeth and Raleigh
Fountain of Youth
Mrs. Pettibone
Mr. America

LP audio & artwork

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.

1 comment:

  1. Holy crap, how did I end up on queermusicheritage? Not that there's anything wrong with that.


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