Buddy DeSylva, the Varsity Drag


A great day for songwriters! Not Just Jerome Kern, but also George “Buddy” DeSylva (1895-1950) has a birthday today. DeSylva was one third of the great Tin Pan Alley songwriting team Henderson/ Brown/ DeSylva, the team behind some of the greatest hits of the twenties , including “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”, “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (all 1925),  “The Varsity Drag” (1927),  “Button Up Your Overcoat”, and “Keep Your Sunny Side Up” (1929). He went on to become a major Hollwyood movie producer (first as a producer  of Shirley Temple pictures, then becoming a top executive at Paramount), and also a major record excutive (he was one of the founders of Capitol Records.) He died at the young age of 55, and if you’re allowed to curse in heaven that’s probably what he’s doing — think how rich he would have become over the ensuing decades.

Now, here’s one of his co-compositions “The Varsity Drag”, comically performed here by Dorothy McNulty (later better known as Penny Singleton) and a chorus of others. The energy in this clip is electric, you won’t regret watching it. It’s from the 1930 movie Good News:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.


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