Today is the birthday of Gus Elen (Ernest Augustus Elen, 1862-1940), one of the first of the so-called “coster comedians” of the English music hall. Elen began achieve success in the English music hall around 1891 with songs like “It’s a Great Big Shame”, “Arf a Pint of Ale”, and “If It Wasn’t for the Houses in Between”. He was often compared with Albert Chevalier.
In 1907 William Morris booked him for the fledgling U.S. opposition “Advanced Vaudeville” circuit and enjoyed considerable success (although it can’t have endeared him to the Keith-Albee people). By 1914, Elen was effectively retired although he did briefly re-emerge in the 1930s.
To learn more about Gus Elen, check out a new biography and CD here: http://www.guselen.co.uk/
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 check out 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