Whelan, Albert (1875–1961)

 


(Mander and Mitchenson
Theatre Collection, with permission)

Albert Whelan, Florrie Forde, and Billy Williams were the three most famous Australians who graced the stage of the British Music Hall. Born in Melbourne, Whelan first made a name for himself entertaining the miners in the goldfields of Western Australia. Emigrating to Britain, he debuted as a “scarecrow” dancer at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, but his versatile talents soon led him to singing and piano playing.

Whelan invented the “signature tune,” and always came on stage whistling a waltz from Die Lustige Brüder [The Jolly Brothers]. Music Hall historian W. Macqueen-Pope describes Whelan as having “an individual style which defies imitation, because it comes from his own inherent talent; he has, too, that perfect clarity of diction which was such a feature of Music Hall.”1 In his history of Music Hall, S.Theodore Felstead says of him:

Here is a man who can sing a rattling good comic song,...a serious ballad, play the violin and the piano, dance, and give impersonations ranging from a coster comedian to the latest craze in Hollywood film stars. Add to this a first-class raconteur and the ability to sing...minstrel,...and you have about the greatest all-round genius ever seen.2

Whelan is known to have recorded the following Godfrey songs: Who Were You With Last Night? (Jumbo 903, 1912); Anything To Take Me Home (Jumbo 1091, 1913); and Skin-A-Ma-Link The Sergeant (Eclipse 102, 1931).

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Notes

1  W. MacQueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On: The Story of Music Hall (London: W.H. Allen, 1950), p. 374.
2  S. Theodore Felstead, Stars Who Made the Halls: A Hundred Years of English Humour, Harmony and Hilarity (London: T. Werner
    Laurie, 1946), p. 147.