Arthur Lloyd - The first of the Lion Comiques - By Peter Charlton
The CallBoy Journal of British Music
Very many other names decked the bills of the first Oxford, great names of which more will be heard as Music Hall spreads still further, names like Arthur Lloyd, a most remarkable man, The Great Vance, perhaps even more remarkable, and Jolly Johnny Nash, one of the first music hall performers, with Lloyd, to entertain Royalty.
"Not For Joe," not for Joe,
THE GREAT ARTHUR LLOYD.
To tell the whole of the Arthur Lloyd story would take a long time. My talk to the 'Study Group' overran its allotted hour by some time and my research into his life is still not complete. However, I'll try to give you a brief glimpse of his career.
We'll start in the early 19th century when Arthur's grandfather was a hatter in the Strand. He sent one of his sons, Horatio, to deliver a hat to a theatre in the Aldwych. Horatio waited in the wings, probably under the instructions to be sure to get the money! Instead he became stage-struck and when the company moved to Edinburgh, he joined them.
Horatio prospered in his new career, changed his first name to 'Arthur' and eventually became quite famous. He married Eliza Horncastle of the Pyne & Harrison Opera Company, became principal comedian at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, and ended up owning theatres in Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dundee. When he died, it is said that half of Edinburgh's citizens lined the streets to pay their respects. A marked contrast with son Arthur's demise, as we shall see.
Arthur junior was the 5th of 11 children. He was born on May 14th 1839 in Annandale Street, Leith Walk, Edinburgh. As a child he would build stages out of the furniture and act out plays for the servants and his younger brothers and sisters. His father, however, was determined that his son would not follow in his footsteps and set him off in the engineering business. Young Arthur didn't care much for this and made his feelings very plain. Eventually father gave in and sent him off to the Theatre Royal, Plymouth where his brother Fred was a leading actor. Arthur was sixteen when he joined the company in 1856; he received 12s. a week in wages.
Arthur stayed in Plymouth for just a couple of seasons and then returned to Scotland where he toured with his father in an entertainment called "Facts and Fancies". Perhaps it was whilst playing in sketches that he decided to opt for a career in the music halls. Father was not keen. "Mind if you take to the Music Halls" he warned, "you will become a drunkard!" Well, he did take to the halls, and didn't become a drunkard.
Arthur's Music Hall debut was in March 1861 at the Whitebait Music Hall in Glasgow. Walter Freer recalled that hall in his "My life & Memories" published in 1929" "Shearer's Whitebate (sic) Music Hall was on the spot where St. Enoch Station now stands........as you went in you paid your entrance- money, and the price of a refreshment (for drinkin gin those days was almost as common as breathing) and took your place in the hall beyond. The stage was railed off from the audience, and the owner of the music hall acted as chairman, announcing each item as it fell due."
Arthur's hit of the evening was Sam Cowell's "The Railway Porter" which Cowell had given him the rights to sing; Arthur always gave Cowell a credit when ever he sang this song. Copyright of material was a very serious matter to Lloyd all through his career.
"THE ERA" applauded his act: "Mr. Lloyd's comic songs are of the good old style, humorous without being coarse; and excellently sung without depending upon gagging absurdity for their success."
Arthur was a palpable hit and his stay at the Whitebate was extended. There were always "shouts of laughter and thunders of applause" but eventually it was announced that " after four months at Whitebait Rooms, Glasgow, going to Coliseum, Belfast on the 19th June for two months."
Success followed him over the Irish Sea where he received "treble encores every night" and the applause was still resounding in his ears at following dates at Holders Grand Concert Hall in Birmingham and Hardy's Concert Hall in Manchester where he was deemed "the most attractive comic singer since the time of Cowell" "enthusiastically received and heartily encored" and "the great sensation comique" . The Lion had roared!
The next few months must have been a sensational
time for young Arthur. He toured
England and Scotland, constantly adding to his now extensive repertoir
of songs and receiving rave reviews in every
His London debut was on October l2th 1862 at The Sun, Knightsbridge (9 p.m.) followed by Marylebone (9.50) and the Philharmonic, Islington (10.45). The past two hectic years in the provinces would at least have kept him fit enough for the tough world of the London Halls. But his first spot of billing, at The 'Sun' would have brought him down to earth - they billed him as 'Fred Lloyd'.
Right - Comique Par Excellence
- From ' the story of the music hall ' - Courtesy Gareth Price.
Years later, in May 1879, 'The Sketch' reviewed his appearance at 'The Canterbury'. "There is a finesse about Arthur Lloyd's fun that is carefully studied, and it is never too broad." He was, said 'The Sketch' critic, "the most deservedly popular of comic singers."
Certainly for the next decade Arthur Lloyd was one of London's most popular comic singers, a firm favourite at every hall he appeared and he appeared at all the major dates - but perhaps he made The Pavillion his real 'home'. "Mr. Arthur Lloyd, a greater favourite than ever, is back again and nightly meets with most vociferous applause for his original and admirably rendered comic songs."
But he didn't neglect his provincial
audiences and every now and then he would take off on a tour
of the British Isles that is exhausting just to read!
Daughter Katty was one of his
company but after her marriage, she also deserted the legit' and took
to the 'Halls' as part of her new husband's company.
"Mr. Arthur Lloyd's style is in
direct contrast to Mr. Robey's. It is less exuberant, less forced,
quieter, more refined; and as it still succeeds in making the owner
of it highly popular, it may be said to have served him well." (THE
ERA, Jan. 1892)
Arthur Lloyd was buried in Newington Cemetery in Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh, only members of his family attended his funeral. Not a fitting tribute to one of the country's greatest music hall comedians.
"Night after night as this mirth-inspiring singer appears upon the stage, are the risible muscles of the spectators excited, and instances of laughter holding both his sides may be witnessed in every part of this chaste and beautiful hall." They don't write them like that any more.
This article was written by Peter Charlton and first published in the CallBoy Journal of British Music Hall Society - Kindly sent in by Frederick Denny.
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