Happy St. Andrew’s Day, for them that celebrate! A fitting time, says I, for a brief tribute to the Collins Variety Agency, which ruled Scottish music hall for the first half of the 20th century. The empire was built by Fred Collins (James Nelson, 1876-1931), a Glasgow-born boxer, songwriter, music hall performer, and finally booking agent, theatre owner, panomime producer, philanthropist, and much more. The reins were taken up by his son Horace Collins (1901-47), who founded the Five Theatre Seasonal Circuit, and was made an O.B.E. When he came of age, Horace’s son Randle (b. 1934) got control, running it until 1957. But it’s hardly gone. The Collins family maintains this incredible web site that tells much much more about this fascinating history — one can spend hours poring through it all, and I still need to, so I refer you now to them. Thanks to Ross Collins for putting me wise to this amazing family.
And if you’re interested in a number of Scottish variety entertainers who made it big in American vaudeville and other forms of show business, go here.
To learn more about vaudeville, including british music hall, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous