Eugene Stratton (1861–1918)


Eugene Stratton in his very early days.
Image source:
S. Theodore Felstead, Stars Who Made the Halls
(London: T. Werner Laurie, 1946), facing p. 53.

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: “Mr. Eugene Stratton, at the Hackney Empire on Monday, was the recipient of roars of welcome from two crowded houses, and his new song, ‘I may be a millionaire,’ caused furores. It has an interesting theme and a haunting melody, and the arrangement is one that must satisfy even this most fastidious and artistic of performers. The number, which is written by Fred Godfrey and Charles Collins, is one that will be much sought after” (“Songs, Writers, and Singers,” The Era 23 July 1910, p. 25).

From the review of his appearance at the Royal Hippodrome, Belfast:

There are no signs of waning popularity in connection with Eugene Stratton. He remains pre-eminent in the line of entertainment which he did so much to bring into vogue.... He has the gift of imparting a distinctive and artistic touch to his performance which places it on a level above the host of imitations familiar to patrons of the variety theatre for years past. Last night [Stratton’s] reception by packed audiences at both performances was quite enthusiastic, and his new song, “I may be a millionaire,” was a big success (Northern Whig, 17 January 1911, p. 3).

Listen to a 1911 recording of
Eugene Stratton singing
I May Be A Millionaire,
writen by Fred Godfrey and Charles Collins



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.