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Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

Arthur Lloyd - The first of the Lion Comiques - By Peter Charlton

The CallBoy Journal of British Music Hall Society

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,
If he knows it, not for Joseph,
No, no, no, not for Joe,
Not for Joseph, oh dear no."

Perhaps not the wittiest lyric in the history of song-writing, but a hit nonetheless for a music hall star who was also a most prolific song-writer, theatre manager, possibly the first of the Lion Comiques and, some say, the man who inspired George Leybourne to become a music hall performer.

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 town.

In October 1862 it would have been no surprise to his many fans to read in The ERA that their hero was "after two years of immense success in the Provinces" to invade London. .

Comique Par Excellence - From ' the story of the music hall ' - Courtesy Gareth Price.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.

Programme for Arthur Lloyd at the London Pavilion 1886 - Click to enlargeThe 'Marylebone' was Better: "First appearance in London of Mr. Arthur Lloyd, the great comique" Very soon he added 'The Canterbury' to his daily tour and became a firm favourite there as well.

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."

Left - A Programme for Arthur Lloyd at the London Pavilion in 1886 - Click to enlarge.

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."

Courtesy John Culme

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!

On Wednesday February 19th 1868, out of the blue, came one of Lloyd's finest hours. Along with Vance & Jolly John Nash, he was summoned to Whitehall Gardens to a party given by Lord Carrington, to sing for the Prince of Wales. Surely Music Hall's first ever Royal Command Performance.

On July 31st 1871 Arthur married Katty King, daughter of tragedian T.C King, who, according to H. Chance Newton "for so long raised the roof even of old Drury by his thunderous tones." Another theater historian calls T.C KING 'organ voiced'- so you can imagine the voice he must have possessed.

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.

By this time Arthur had put together a touring concert Party entitled "Two hours of genuine fun" which he successfully toured for many years.

Sadly, Katty died in 1891, after only twenty years of marriage most of which seems to have been spent in hectic touring, though she must have taken some time off to give birth to their two children Annie and Harry. By 1892 both children had joined the company - and Arthur was still playing the No.l's and getting good notices:

"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)

Do you detect a slight hint of "he's past it" in that review? I think I do and he had been criticised by some for not keeping his act up-to-date. Certainly by the end of '92 Arthur's date-book was showing a few blanks and by 1902 there were occasional mentions in "THE ERA" of his being at liberty for immediate dates".

Death of Arthur Lloyd - From 'The Evening Dispatch' - July 21st 1904Lloyd had tried his hand at theatre management too with notable lack of success and, according to W MacQueen Pope had "too great a sense of responsibility" in that he had "made demands upon him which he always satisfied" . But the calls on his purse plus his losses in management must have made it impossible for him to take a well-earned retirement.

Arthur Lloyd died on July 2Oth. 1904. No crowds lined the streets for him, his death barely got a mention in "The Scotsman". "Lloyd: at the home of his son-in-law, 18 Fettes Row on 20th inst. Arthur Lloyd, comedian, aged 65". The same edition gave a whole paragraph to a story about Herbert Campbell falling from a carriage, and a later edition carried an 18" tribute to Wilson Barrett who died the same week.

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.

I hope my very much this curtailed account does him a little more justice. Let me give the last word to the Birmingham Daily News of June 1862:

"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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