England's Clown Prince of Song

in Music

At one time he was one of England's highest paid performers but very few people would recognise the name George Hoy Booth. Born in 1904 in Wigan, Lancashire, George Booth went on to create one of the most recognisable characters in early British cinema. An honest, good-hearted but accident-prone imbecile called George Formby.

With his banjolele in his hand, his big toothy grin and broad Lancashire accent he started to wow audiences everywhere with his cheeky style of humour and even cheekier song lyrics. The persona George created led to over 20 films which saw him get into all sorts of ridiculous situations and trouble but as always he came out on top through sheer good luck and some help from those around him. Like a lot of screen characters he developed several catch phrases such as "It's turned out nice again", "Ooh Mother!", and "Never touched me" especially when losing a fight.

George Formby was most widely known for his cheeky comic songs which, compared to today's unpleasant, expletive ridden, comedy scene, are not even mild. Full of double entendre his songs were considered extremely rude at the time so much so that the only broadcaster in the UK, the BBC, banned one completely. It considered the lyrics of "With my little stick of Blackpool Rock" so offensive that it would not allow it to be played. Perhaps his most famous song was "When I'm Cleaning Windows"

Despite the acclaimed success of George Formby's films in the UK and Canada they never seemed to catch on in America. Columbia Pictures gave George a contract worth over £500,000 but never circulated his films within America. In 1939 Hollywood came calling but George turned all further offers down in order to entertain British troops during the Second World War in Europe and Africa. A magnificent effort which earned him an OBE (Order of the British Empire) medal in 1946.

George Formby had his first heart attack in 1952 and was forced to semi retire from show business. He kept popping up as guests on various shows but never regained his former career status again. His wife Beryl died from leukaemia on 24th December 1960 and unfortunately George Formby suffered a second heart attack and died in hospital on 6th march 1961.

The legend of George Formby lives on through fan clubs, websites, tribute acts and of course YouTube. Although there have been numerous 'comic song' acts, none have ever matched George Formby, England's Clown Prince of Song.

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Adrian Donaldson has wide and varied interests interspersed with other ramblings which can be found @ http://www.AdrianDonaldson.Com

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England's Clown Prince of Song

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This article was published on 2010/04/18