Today is the birthday of Bud Flanagan (Chaim Reuben Weintrop, 1896-1968) of the British music hall team of Flanagan and Allen.
A few years ago, someone slipped me a couple of CDs of this quirky duo and I absolutely fell in love. I find them hilarious and yet sentimental in an inexplicable way that only the English could pull off. They have this dry, quiet, understated and sweet manner, and sing these sleepy, sleepy nostalgic songs like “Underneath the Arches”, “Run, Rabbit, Rabbit” and “The Umbrella Man”, a tune I loved so much I got David Gochfeld and Michael Townsend Wright to perform it in my vaudeville show a few years back.
Flanagan’s an Irish name but it was just a stage name. His parents were actually Polish Jews who came to London as refugees fleeing a program (they actually they thought they’d bought tickets for New York. He left home as a teenager to work on ships, and wound up America, which is where he first broke into vaudeville on the small time, touring Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well. World War One brought him back to the Mother Country. He teamed up with Chesney Allen in 1926. The pair were also part of a sextet, called The Crazy Gang. Flangan and Allen appeared in music hall, radio and films until 1945, when Allen retired. Flanagan continued performing as a solo until his death.
And here, because I love it so, “The Umbrella Man”:
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.