Please Note: Booking for Naturally Insane opens at midday on Tuesday 5th October.
The 40 page Autumn 2021 issue of The Call Boy has just been published and includes articles on Variety Theatre Orchestras, The Art of the Comedian, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Clitheroe’s radio and TV show Call Boy, Wartime Memories of The Royal Hippodrome in Preston, The Royalty Theatre, Barrow-in-Furness, The Amazing Yoxanis, Gracie Fields’ visit to Dundee, The Great Cingalee, CD and book reviews, etc.
The Call Boy is only available to British Music Hall Society members. To join the society please click on the link below:
The British Music Hall Society is delighted to announce that a blue plaque commemorating Fred Barnes, the music hall singer, is to be unveiled on Monday 18th October, 12 noon at 22 Clifton Villas, Maida Vale, London W9 2PH by Paul O’Grady.
Comedian, broadcaster, writer, actor and former drag artiste, Paul O’Grady was announced as the Society’s new President in January 2021, taking on the role previously held by Roy Hudd.
Fred Barnes was hugely popular on the Music Hall stage and was known as ‘the wavy haired, blue-eyed Adonis’, lauded for his looks, talent and charm. He is chiefly remembered for his signature song, The Black Sheep Of The Family which he first performed in 1907 and made him an overnight success. He composed the music and wrote the lyrics for this song, a rarity at the time as music hall performers usually employed songwriters to write for them.
The son of a butcher, Frederick Jester Barnes was born in 1885 in Saltley, a working class area of Birmingham. He became interested in performance when at the age of 10, he saw the male impersonator Vesta Tilley on stage and thereafter was determined not to join the family meat business. His phenomenal success with The Black Sheep Of The Family, led to top billing at all of the major music halls (including the London Palladium). He also played principal boy roles in pantomime every Christmas, an unusual step for the time as these roles were generally taken by popular female music hall stars. Barnes’ other hit songs included Give Me The Moonlight and On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep, later popularised by Frankie Vaughan and Danny La Rue.
Considerable wealth followed for Barnes and he became renowned for his lavish spending and lifestyle as much as for his songs. He was openly gay at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence and his family found this difficult to digest. Barnes’ father committed suicide in 1913 possibly connected to the shame he felt about his son’s lifestyle choices.
Alcohol proved to be Barnes’ undoing and he became increasingly reliant on it. Having squandered his wealth, he died in Southend-on-Sea in 1938.
Barnes lived in the grand house at 22 Clifton Villas, where the Blue Plaque will be unveiled, during the years 1926-1930 when success and money were flowing and his popularity was undimmed.
The British Music Hall Society’s In The Limelight returns to the Water Rats on Thursday September 16th for the first live presentation since the lockdown. Two favourites, Keith Fawkes and Richard Norman, will be presenting The World Of Douglas Byng – A fascinating insight into the career of this English comic singer and songwriter billed as ‘Bawdy but British’ who appeared in music hall, variety and revue.
To book tickets click on the link below:
Sir Harry Secombe would have been 100 years old on 8th September 2021 and to mark this event, BBC4 will be screening a biography of Sir Harry on Tuesday 7th September at 9pm followed at 9.30pm by an episode of Parkinson when Michael Parkinson interviews the Goons. (The biography is from the series Welsh Greats and was originally broadcast on BBC1 in 2009.)
On Wednesday 8th September at 7pm the National Library of Wales is presenting an online event entitled Remembering Harry Secombe – a live Q&A session with two of Harry’s children, David and Katy Secombe as they discuss items from the archive which is being transferred to the National Library of Wales. Tickets are free but need to be booked in advance via Ticketsource:
The 2016 final of Britain’s Got Talent was unique. For the first time the winner was a magician, Lance Corporal Richard Jones, who devised a magic programme based on the story of Richard’s fellow Magic Circle member, Fergus Anckorn. The veteran had used magic to help him through wartime captivity by the Japanese on the notorious Burma railway in the Second World War. At the end of Richard’s routine, a Union Jack was raised to reveal the 97 year-old Fergus Anckorn. A week later Fergus was part of the BMHS Day By The Sea at the Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne where he wowed the audience with his card tricks. On Friday 22nd October 2021 L/Cpl Richard Jones presents his own evening of magic at the same theatre in his show, Escape: Breaking the Limits of the Mind. Other October dates include Bristol, Chesterfield, Peterborough and Market Drayton.