Fred E. Cliffe (1885–1957)


Fred E. Cliffe was born Cliffe Howchin in Liverpool, and in his early years he toured the Music Halls as a lightning sketch artist.1 Primarily a lyricist, he wrote Charles Whittle’s Play Us Another Before You Go (with J.C. Moore, 1911), but his success as a songwriter came in the 1930s and early 1940s when he teamed up with Harry Gifford to supply a huge amount of much-loved material for George Formby Jr., including Madam Moscovitch (1934); Fanlight Fannie (1935); Riding In The T.T. Races (1935); The Wash House At The Back (1935); Dare Devil Dick (1936); Keep Your Seats, Please (1936); Sitting On The Sands All Night (1936); With My Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock (1936); Hindoo Man (1937); The Lancashire Toreador (1937); Oh, Dear Mother (1937); When We Feather Our Nest (1937); The Window Cleaner (When I’m Cleaning Windows) (1937); Does Your Dream Book Tell You That? (1938); Frigid Air Fanny (1938); I Wonder Who’s Under Her Balcony Now (1938); Mother, What’ll I Do Now? (1938); Our Sergeant Major (1938); Hill Billy Willie (1939); I’m The Husband Of The Wife Of Mr. Wu (1939); Imagine Me In The Maginot Line (1939); It’s Turned Out Nice Again (1939); Lancashire Hot Pot Swingers (1939); Mr. Wu’s A Window Cleaner Now (1939); Down The Old Coal Hole (1940); Letting The New Year In (1940); Oh Don’t The Wind Blow Cold (1940); Delivering The Morning Milk (1941); Frank On His Tank (1942); Under The Blasted Oak (without Gifford, 1942); and Bunty’s Such A Big Girl Now (1943). Formby’s name also appears in the credits of many of these songs; however, this is almost certainly a case of the artist’s demanding a share as a condition for accepting the song, although Formby expert Brendan Ryan suggests that George made at least some changes to both melodies and lyrics to come up with final versions of songs that suited him best.2

George Formby and Fred E. Cliffe, 1944.

In 1913, Cliffe and Fred Godfrey wrote The Eskimo (Zam Dammy, Zam Dammy, Zam Buk Joe) (with H. Worton David) and I Ran Straight Home With The News. They did not work together again until 1942, when they wrote Home Guard Blues for George Formby’s 1943 film Get Cracking.

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Notes

1  Brendan Ryan, “Songsmiths to George Formby: Harry Gifford and Fred E. Cliffe,” The Call Boy [British Music Hall Society] 24, no. 2 (1987),  p. 13.
2  Ibid.