Eugene Stratton (1861–1918)
Born Eugene Augustus Rühlmann in Buffalo, New York, Eugene Stratton was probably the greatest minstrel singer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, on either side of the Atlantic. He went to England while still in his teens, and his blackface performances and soft-shoe dancing became legendary in those long-ago days when such entertainment was mainstream. Among the songs most associated with him are those written by Leslie Stuart — regarded by some as England’s Stephen Foster — including I May Be Crazy, Little Dolly Daydream (1900), and the immortal Lily Of Laguna (1898). Stratton died in London in 1918, age just fifty-seven. Seymour Hicks called him “a dancer beautiful beyond words, who seemed to be a feather blown hither and thither by Leslie Stuart’s melodies which he taught the town to sing.”1 Besides Stuart’s lovely songs, however, Stratton found time to perform material by other people, including Fred Godfrey’s I May Be A Millionaire, which, like the songs Godfrey wrote for other performers, was perfectly crafted for Stratton’s style.
Stratton no doubt sang I May Be A Millionaire in numerous halls, but those known are the Hackney Empire (July 1910); Nottingham Empire (October 1910); Empire Palace, Sheffield (November 1910, with Jack Lorimer also on the bill; Royal Hippodrome, Belfast (January 1911), and Empire Palace, Edinburgh (April 1911). One review noted:
From the review of his appearance at the Royal Hippodrome, Belfast:
Eugene Stratton (HMV 02391, 1911), reissued on LP “Play Another Before You Go” (Topic 12-TMH-781, 1984); reissued on 4-CD set “A Night At The Music Hall” (JSP, 2007).
1 Christopher Pulling, They Were Singing (And What They Sang About) (London: George G. Harrap, 1952), p. 204.