In this edition of Music Hall Studies you will find these great performers. Click on their names for a short taster.
Gus Elen once harboured a phobia about travelling over deep water. It prevented him from going to America. We do not know why he changed his mind, but he managed the trip in 1907. He was a great success in spite of his Cockney patois, but he never returned. Before the engagement, he suggested it was all down to money. An offer of 200 pounds sterling a week would not lure him, he said, but 300 pounds sterling might. According to one report, that is, in fact, what he earned.
Many music hall enthusiasts will name Peggy Pryde as the daughter of Jenny Hill and add nothing else. But Peggy was a successful performer in her own right. Like so many entertainers of that period, however, her career petered out and no-one knew where or when she died. Music Hall Studies has been digging around and we can at last reveal how Peggy Pryde ended her days.
Accounts of the careers of the songwriter, Frank Leo, and his wife, Sable Fern, are bound to include mention of an incident in 1903. At the time, Sable was married to Watty Allan. Leo supplied songs for Sable. Rightly or wrongly, Allan believed that the relationship between his wife and Leo, had become intimate and he confronted them both, intending to shoot Leo dead. But he merely succeeded in killing himself.
Although he sang more than 150 songs during the course of his career, James Fawn is now best remembered for just one chorus of one song, Ask a Policeman. In his day, he had a reputation for performing one of the best drunk acts on the music hall stage. He has also been described as the King of the Red-Nose Comics, but he was much more than that.
The variety and dance band worlds frequently overlapped. Showmen running bands liked to introduce comedy into their repertoire, so they could be seen to be able to mount a whole show, not just play the latest hits. Some instrumentalists became so well versed in comedy that they began to present individual turns. The legacy of Sid Plummer was a xylophone that looked as though it had taken on a life of its own.