On Monday 18th October at 12 noon the British Music Hall Society President, Paul O’Grady will unveil a Blue Plaque to Music Hall singer Fred Barnes at 12 noon at 22 Clifton Villas, Maida Vale, London W9. All welcome.
Naturally Insane!The Life of Dan Leno, starring Steve Royle on 15th November 3 & 7.30pm at London’s Criterion Theatre. Special guest appearance by actor and comedian John Thomson who will play Herbert Beerbohm Tree.
“A play that captures the heart and soul and genius of our greatest Victorian comedian…” Roy Hudd OBE. “Unique, heartfelt production…” Peter Kay “Comical, gripping, poignant…” Lancashire Evening Post.
Dan Leno was the most famous music-hall and Drury Lane pantomime star of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era. His name lives on in legend – his early death in 1904 at the age of 43 meant he was never immortalised in film. He did influence comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel among others. Born George Wild Galvin in 1860 in Somers Town near King’s Cross Station in London. The cottage was demolished as part of the clearance of a slum area to make way for St Pancras Station. According to Dan, the site of the cottage is about halfway down platform one and to the left! His early childhood was spent touring the northern music halls as part of his step-father’s act ‘The Lenos’ – he then went on to be billed with his brother Henry as ‘The Great Little Leno’s’. Their act involved tumbling, juggling, contortions and comedy capers. He would later become the preeminent pantomime star at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created the role of Mother Goose and other pantomime traditions that carry on to this day.
The play is set in the last weeks of Dan Leno’s life and we discover his story as we meet his wife, Lydia, and his brother, Henry. His struggles with an undiagnosed brain tumour, mental health issues and a love of gin. We also meet Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who Dan discussed his ambition of playing a Shakespeare role with, and also his Doctor who mistreated him for both insanity and syphilis.
BBC Radio4 Extra devotes 3 hours to Roy Hudd on Saturday 9th October. The programme entitled I Did It My Way can be heard from 9am – 12noon and again at 7pm- 10pm. Details of the programme are given below:
Much-loved comedian and actor Roy Hudd talks to Peter Reed about his radio life and times.
With behind-the-scenes stories of making and starring in his hit BBC shows:
* THE NEWS HUDDLINES (06/06/79) BBC Radio 2
Poking fun at topical events and personalities, this series ran for 25 years. Roy was joined by Chris Emmett and his leading ladies Janet Brown, Alison Steadman and June Whitfield.
* THE NEWLY DISCOVERED CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (16/01/1999) BBC Radio 2
Roy dons his deerstalker to investigate ‘The Case of the Clockwork Fiend’ with June Whitfield.
* HUDDWINKS (14/08/86) BBC Radio 2
Chris Emmett and Denise Coffey join Roy for ‘Railway ’86 – The Movie!’: British Rail’s new ‘Silver Bullet’ train ends up as a runaway express to Aberdeen. Sony Radio Academy Gold award-winning comedy.
* THE SCAN (29/09/1999) BBC Radio 4
Roy reveals his more dramatic side in Peter Tinniswood’s drama. Compulsive talker Ernest seeks reassurance from a protective nurse. Co-starring Judy Cornwell.
Sadly Roy died aged 83 in 2020.
Producer: Mik Wilkojc
Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra – and first broadcast in March 2008.
Scriptwriter Brad Ashton will tell lots of humorous backstage stories about the many top name comedians he has had the pleasure of working with, including Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery, Groucho Marx, Tommy Cooper, Bruce Forsyth, Les Dawson and Bob Monkhouse.
Thursday 18th November at 7.30pm
Gwen Farrar And Norah Blaney
Presented by Alison Child and Rosie Wakley
Alison has written a book (shortlisted for the Polari Prize) about a unique musical comedy double act who appeared across the country, including the London Palladium, Victoria Palace and the London Coliseum in the 1920s. The talk will include slides and live recordings of this remarkable pair.
Both events take place at The Water Rats pub, 328, Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8BZ. Tickets are £8 (BMHS members) and £10 (non-members) and should be booked in advance from
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.