In this edition of Music Hall Studies you will find these great performers. Click on their names for a short taster.
The words and haunting melody of the chorus of Daisy Bell or A Bicycle Made For Two are universally recognised by young and old alike. However, few people realise that the song, written and composed by Harry Dacre, began life as a humble music hall song. Fewer still remember the young lady who introduced the song to the London stage nearly 120 years ago, initially with little success. Her name was Katie Lawrence. The song was the making of her, but she drifted into obscurity and, when she died in 1913, her body was buried in a common grave with no memorial stone. A sad end to a notable career.
Probably, one of the main reasons for the dislike by the working man of the Salvation Army was its insistence on a ban of alcohol. The working class man could be persuaded to do many things, but one thing he would not give up was his pint of beer. By attacking music halls, pubs and gin palaces with particular vigour, Salvationists were in effect attacking the male use of leisure. All this is reflected in the many music hall songs about the Salvation Army.
Little Tich, who was four feet six [137 cms], hated being small. He mostly shunned social occasions because of his shortness and he was not best pleased if someone patted him on the head. He once said he would have traded all his celebrity in favour of being of normal stature. Even so, he was not averse to exploiting his shortness on stage. Thankfully, there was more to Little Tich than his tichiness. He danced well [in or out of those big boots], he chose good songs, he had a wide range of quaint and eccentric business and his enunciation was as fine in the theatre as it was in the recording studio.
Beside the Seaside
Traditional seaside entertainment has gone forever. No longer at the end of a sunny summer’s day do we hear the sounds of music and laughter wafting into the warm evening air from Pavilions, Floral Halls and Winter Gardens, which were to be found at seaside resorts around the coast. Yet, in their day, no summer holiday was complete without a visit to a concert party, be it one of the mammoth ones that toured the provinces in the winter or the little open air shows that gave three performances a day. Many top performers started off in seaside shows and they all, without exception, sang the praises of the summer show and the valuable experience they gained.
Ignorance is Bliss
Maurice Winnick ran a highly successful 1930s dance band, but, when the craze faded, he changed his career by buying the British rights of some popular American radio and television programmes. One show started out in America as It Pays to Be Ignorant. Here, it became Ignorance is Bliss, in which each week three nincompoops were given questions of ridiculous simplicity: How long does it take a ship to make a five-day journey? What animal does a blacksmith makes horseshoes for? And for what meal do we wear a dinner jacket?