Once the world’s highest paid entertainer, hailed the world over as the “king” and “emperor” of clowns, Grock performed primarily in European circuses but rates a shout-out here because he did play some American vaudeville dates, including, notably, the Palace. Born in Switzerland on this day in 1880 (Charles Adrien Wettach), he was taught to play and appreciate music by his clockmaker father (Grock was ultimately to master 17 instruments and to make musicianship the wellspring of his act).
He left home to perform with a band of Roma when still a teenager, and worked with a couple of partners before becoming a star on his own prior to the First World War. When he passed away in 1959, he had been an international star and a legend, for decades.
You can see him in action here in this 1931 clip:
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc