Today is the birthday of British music hall star George Mozart (b. David John Gillings, 1864-1947). Mozart was gifted not only as a singer (mandatory in the halls) but also as an actor, clown, and musician. He’d gotten his start at the age of 14 as a percussionist in the Prince of Wales own Norfolk military band. From here he went on to be musical director with Livermore Bros. Court minstrels, eventually exchanging his baton for burnt cork**, becoming one of the minstrel men.
In 1886 he made his music hall debut. For a time, he was part of a team called Warrington and Gillings, later renamed the Mozarts. From the 90s through the 20s he appeared in music halls throughout the U.K. and Australia. Songs associated with him included “Colonel Nutty of the Nuts”, “Derby Day” and “The Quack Physican”. He made his tour of big time American vaudeville in 1907.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, 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
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.