Ella Shields (1879–1952)


Baltimore-born Ella Shields was one of the handful of Americans who crossed the Pond and became stars of the British Music Hall. She was also one of Music Hall’s great male impersonators, ranking with the likes of Vesta Tilley and Hetty King. Her career began in the late 1890s and continued long enough to give some pointers in the late 1940s to Julie Andrews, whose performance in the 1982 film “Victor/Victoria” may have been a tribute to Shields.

Ella Shields’s most famous hit was the immortal Burlington Bertie From Bow, written by her manager and first husband, William Hargreaves, in 1915.

From sheet music covers and other sources, Shields is known to have performed at least three Fred Godfrey songs: Oh, The Baa-Baa-Baa-Lambs! (Wagging Their Tales Behind) (with William Hargreaves, 1915); Rolling Home In The Morning (After The Ball) (1923); and W.E.M.B.L.E.Y. (with E.E. Bryant and Hubert W. David, 1924). In addition, in 1918 she recorded a song entitled Coo-ee, which may be the 1916 A.J. Mills, Fred Godfrey, and Bennett Scott song Coo-ee! Coo-ee! (The Anzac Boy).