In this edition of Music Hall Studies you will find these great performers. Click on their names for a short taster.
G H Elliott
George Elliott is among the best remembered of all music hall artistes. Because of the length of his career, there are still many people who have fond memories of seeing his act. George has left a great body of recorded songs from his first in 1904 to his last in 1960; sadly, very little visual evidence of his act survives; and, apart from his disjointed autobiography, nothing substantial has been written about him. The world into which George was born on 3 November 1882 was very different from our own. Black-faced minstrelsy or coon singing was then considered to be a thoroughly respectable form of music hall and seaside entertainment. George was the only child of a musician, Henry Elliott, and his wife, Alice, a singer, who ran the George and Dragon pub in Rochdale. When George was five, his parents emigrated to America, where his mother found work in vaudeville and his father played in bars to supplement their income.
When Lily Morris died in 1952, The Times reported that that she did not make any considerable name for herself until the years immediately following the First World War. While that is true, there were many theatre-goers in London who enjoyed her appearances as a mere girl in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. Lily was born in the Holborn area of London on 30 September 1882, the daughter of Maurice Crosby, a cigar maker, and his Scottish wife, Mary Ann. It was Maurice who propelled her into music hall. When she was only 11, he lent her his forename, differently spelt, and helped to write some of her early songs. Her first recorded appearances came in 1894. She played several weeks at the South London Palace, sharing one bill with Bessie Bellwood. It is interesting to speculate about a young entertainer whose appearances are still within living memory [Lily] working alongside a star of the generation of the music hall heyday [Bessie].
She was a dear little dicky bird. “Chip, chip, chip”, she went. Sweetly, she sang to me till all my money was spent. Then, she went off song. We parted on fighting terms.
She was one of the early birds and I was one of the worms. The man who made the song popular was George Beauchamp, whose life has been relatively easy to research. For once, we have a birth certificate. George was born Sarsfield Patrick Beauchamp on 20 February 1862 in Southwark, the son of a policeman, Alphonsus Beauchamp. Young George started his working life as an errand boy at a printing works in Lambeth and proceeded to work his way up until he eventually became a compositor. He had various jobs in printing, ending up in the composing room of the Morning Post. But this was never the job he wanted. In his spare time, he tried his hand as a comic singer and, towards the end of the 1870s, he took the plunge. He joined a barnstorming company appearing in Shakespeare and melodramas.
Born in New York in 1900, Brown started his career as a xylophonist and drummer with bands coming to England in 1925 with Joseph C. Smith and his Orchestra. He led a band at the Cafe de Paris in London and it was with this band that he started appearing in the largest and most prestigious London variety theatres, including the Coliseum and the Palladium from as early as March 1926. Later, he would often appear essentially as a solo act, playing the xylophone and other instruments to a piano accompaniment as well as appearing with his own band.