JOE DIXIE MIT SEINEM ORCHESTERPosted: November 22, 2012
A couple of years ago I found two 78s by Joe Dixie in a little thrift store in the street where I live. When I recently found two more records that had his name on it, it was time to do some research. Unfortunately there is very little information about pianist, arranger, band leader and songwriter Joe Dixie on the Internet. Not even his real name is known. His music seems to be forgotten. Although clearly jazz tinged, it is too commercial for hardcore jazz fans and too obscure for everybody else to ever be reissued. A good starting point for a very small portrait.
In 1946 a group of young jazz fanatics who had survived the chaos of the last years of World War II were determined to establish a jazz scene in the ruins of Dresden. Among them was a 22-yer old pianist who called himself Joe Dixie, because crazy English-sounding nicknames were customary among German jazz fans. Spurred by his love for real Jazz, Joe Dixie founded one of the first big bands in post war Germany, the Original Dixies – Dresdner Tanzsinfoniker. The group fused jazz and dance music and even had a string section. Although popular locally they did not record, which they most probably would have, had they been based in Berlin. In 1951 the young ambitious bandleader left the group and Dresden for the Western part of Germany to pursue a professional career in music. Throughout the next decades he would keep his moniker “Dixie” from his early life in Dresden.
When exactly Joe Dixie recorded these songs for the West Berlin record label Metrophon is not known, but it was definitely prior to his leaving East Germany, because the little annex on the side of the label Hergestellt unter der Zulassung Nr B-511 der Nachrichtenkontrolle der Militärregierung (made by permission Nr. B-511 of the surveillance of the military government) was only used until the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. Cultural transfer between the two Germanys was still relatively common, before the Berlin wall was built in 1961. While the borders were transparent, it might have been decisive that it was a West Berlin label that released Dixie´s first records. It mustalso have been obvious to the young musician, that in the long run an artist going by the name of “Joe Dixie” would not fly with the communist East German regime. Nor would a song about springtime in Texas and the cowboys having a ball with no cops and no tax authorities around…
I already posted these songs two years ago, but back then I did not know how to record them properly, so now I did it again and though there are still ticks and hisses to be heard, the files sound much better than before…
Eins, zwei, drei kleine Mädchen is a German version of The Trolley Song performed by Judy Garland in the film ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, from 1944. The German lyrics are credited to Joe Dixie so I suppose this was his unique version. The Ping-Pongs were an East German girl group very much like the Andrew Sisters.
Louise was composed in 1929 with music by Richard Whiting and lyrics by Leo Robin for the film “The Innocents of Paris”, Paramount´s first musical picture, starring Maurice Chevalier. The song became a swing favorite recorded by many groups.
After Joe Dixie escaped from communist East Germany, he settled in a small village, tellingly called Freiheit in Osterode, Lower Saxony. By 1952 he had established himself as a songwriter and even started his own small publishing company for sheet music issuing songs like: Der Lange Jan Aus Amsterdam, Die Fahrt zum Mond, Fritzchen pfeift fabelhaft, Sieben Tage keinen Kuss von dir, Canzonetta d`amore, Prego, prego, Gondoliere (together wit Fred Oldörp, die drei Travellers)
In the late fifties he led groups of various sizes (Joe Dixie Swingtett, Joe Dixie Und Sein Tanzorchester, Joe Dixie Und Seine Instrumental-Virtuosen, Joe Dixie Und Seine Solisten) and recorded for Telefunken, Baccarola and Ariola but also for the small indie label Jupiter from Munich. Jupiter released two 45s by Mona Baptiste backed by Joe Dixie and his orchestra.
This EP, released in 1957 on the Opera label out of Stuttgart (and also on Donauland 1563), really does have extended playtime, with each side being around six minutes long. Though burdened by the fact that these tracks are not only medleys, a particularly weak format, but also medleys of German schlager songs from the 1930s and 40s, Joe still manages to fill in quite a few jazz licks on his piano.
By the mid-60s Joe Dixie stopped performing and moved towards songwriting and arranging. But I´m pretty sure there´s more Joe Dixie solo material out there that I´ve never heard of.