Three London Shows 1918/9
London Palladium December 30th 1918. The first peacetime panto featured some great names, all of whom made records: Neil Kenyon, Whit Cunliffe, Ermie Lotinga, George Mozart, and Gus Elen.
The matinee found hundreds stranded outside as all tickets were sold. A report read, "Ernie Lotinga is causing great fun in his new sketch called Crystals, in which he appears as a spoof clairvoyant... while George Mozart is thoroughly up to date with his thumbnail sketches, which include the unusual behaviour of different individuals upon first hearing of the armistice." Also appearing was Percy Honri who plays "a clever little song which pleasantly suggests the coming doom of the profiteer." Vernon Watson imitates Wilkie Bard, the late Fred Emney, Harry Champion and others.
The Stratford Empire featured Wilkie Bard with his new ditty Roses Are Blooming, as well as The Bathing Machine Man, assisted by Mrs Bard.
The Holborn Empire starred Marie Lloyd "with all her accustomed sparkle and vivacity" with Woman's Opinion of Man, I Can't Forget the Days When I Was Young, and Follow The Van. "The second has a touch of pathos that heightens its ripe comedy, while the third with Miss Lloyd as the slightly fuddled Suckie Hardcastle, hits off the real London type. In each item Miss Lloyd pays that attention to minute detail that is always so delightful... her reception is particularly cordial." Also on the bill was Ernie Mayne with The Old Dun Cow, and a parody of Me and My Girl. This had Mayne as "an emphatically bulbous dame."
Violet Essex was one of HMV's studio singers who turned her hand to almost anything.
Perhaps she was best known for her contribution to the sets that HMV started issuing after the first war that
covered the output of Gilbert and Sullivan, and which appeared in attractive coloured albums.
But she was versatile, singing under various pseudonyms, music hall songs and serious opera. However her forte appears to have been
the light musical comedy-type number.
The operatic songs appear mostly on HMV's cheap label Zonophone range, albeit in their GO series entitled
'Zonophone Celebrity'. Her earliest recordings appear to have been made around 1910 for the Beka Company, and these
were also reissued on labels such as John Bull, Ariel, Scala. She also visited the Sound Recording Company's studios to
grace their Grammavox and associated labels, and she recorded too for Rena, and the Columbia/Regal labels.
But her main recording career was with HMV from during the war until the end of the acoustic era, when she again appeared on the
Columbia label. I have not seen any electric recordings of hers after about 1924, so possibly she retired. Perhaps you can add some information?
The picture of her come from Popular Music Weekly of 80 years ago, where she writes of her "Ideal Holiday." The article doesn't reveal a lot except to
say "my desire is to rest.. away from the various hubs of our country where I have fulfilled my engagements on the music-hall stage." She says she likes solitude in a tent "generally"
in Cornwall. She adds somewhat cryptically that this year she intends to hike "down to that cove I found." Maybe it was to that haven that she retired after penning these lines?
From Talking Machine News 1914:
Early War Records
By October 1914, the record companies were busy adjusting to wartime conditions. Patriotic songs were all the rage. Announcements promoted company Britishness over against imported German labels.
Columbia Graphophone revealed that two London staff members had already joined up, and singled out Harry E Parker in New York, who had caught the first boat to London, "Columbia are proud of him." Not to be outdone, The Gramophone Company declared that "from the manager downwards, all the male staff of the French Gramophone's Paris office are at the front," while 70% of the Russian Company's staff had joined the Russian fighting line. Their representatives at the front also included Mr
SW Dixon of the 3rd Manchester Regiment, Mr Gibbons lieutenant in the Army Service Corps "now in Belgium," Mr Cowen sergeant in the Royal Irish Rifles, Mr Groome with the Queen's Westminsters, and Mr Ricketts assisting in the organisation of an Athletes' Battalion. Well known recording artiste Hubert Eisdell "is tossing about in a battleship on the North Sea as a naval lieutenant." November's issue contained a report from Sgt Cowen, "I tried to catch a shrapnell shell, with the result that my hands were knocked about a bit."
The record companies were making their own contributions to the war effort, most loudly Winner, who had despatched 200 parcels of 24 assorted "new" records for use in the fleet. Mr JE Hough declared that he "is willing to increase this to 500 parcels if necessary. When our lads in blue are tired of them, or if they become worn out, he offers to change them for new ones free of charge." Columbia also announced that at the start of September 60 guineas had been paid into the Prince of Wales Fund as royalties on the sale of Regal war records, which had been on sale from Aug 27th, this figure was up to 150 guineas by 10th Sept. Before the year had ended it was proudly announced that this amount had risen to £1,000.
Perhaps their best seller, judging by its survival in numbers today was G6814 Arrival of the British Toops in France. The artistes were not stated, but according to Regal publicity, those welcoming the troops with 'Vive Les Anglais,' were Belgian refugees. If this smacks of a gimmick, then it was well done for their names were given as Victor de Vert of Rue Danemarck Brussels, Leon and Desire Franck of Liege, and Nicole Fasderin from Louvain.
HMV's record list included the topical 9473 British Troops Passing Through Boulogne. Your King and Country Want You was a huge seller on many labels, Zonophone offered it sung by Bessie Jones. Your King and Country Need You was on Winner with reliable old Sanley Kirkby, and this label had a host of wartime numbers, their best seller also Arrival of the British Troops in France on 2703.
Beka, in a difficult position regarding their origins, announced a Patriotic Supplement including Triple Entente National Anthems. Diploma was in a similarly awkward situation. It offered Your King and Country Want You by Thomas Hayward, and Your King and Country Need You by Laurence Perry, while also promoting similar fare on their all-British Pioneer label.
Scala seem to have been one of the first to latch on to the popularity of it's a Long Way to Tipperary, with their version on 609 sung by, yes, Stanley Kirkby. "Ready October 1st," they trumpeted, "The Clarion Call to Arms." Some less well remembered war songs included I'd like to be a Hero Too (Coliseum 651), So You Want to be a Soldier Little Man (Favorite 734), and Call Us and We'll Soon by There (Diploma).
I finish with an interesting insight from the same paper in 1919: "it is no exaggeration to say that the gramophone has played a most important part in the winning of the war. How would the spirits of our men have been sustained without it?"
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