Whelan, Albert (1875–1961)
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); Oh, Sailor, Behave! (Imperial 2499, 1931); and Skin-A-Ma-Link The Sergeant (Eclipse 102, 1931). On stage, he perfomed Godfrey’s I?’m Taking That Baby Home (1926).
1 W. MacQueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On: The Story of Music
Hall (London: W.H. Allen, 1950), p. 374.