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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



The English Music Hall Connection
by Max Haymes
(converted to web format from the original typescript by Alan White)


The origins of the music hall ".... go back at least to the eighteenth century... "(1), and the English music hall tradition, as a recognisable form, evolved around the 1840's reaching its peak some fifty years later. By which time the Blues had also grown to maturity. In the earlier days, prior to recordings, the only way for one tradition to influence another was by oral transmission, as with the normal process of folk songs across the world. This process of handing dorm songs is usually a steady and almost imperceptible one. But certain factors speeded it up in the case of songs from the music hall and the Blues.

As we have seen, the former started life in the U.S.A. in the 1870's based in New York, and soon English artists like Jenny Hill and Nellie Power were being booked by American impresarios like Tony Astor, not only in New York but in cities and venues across the country. Local singers would often take up the English songs, Americanising them when required, and spread them to yet other performers who would travel around the more rural spots in the U.S., including of course the Southern States. Here, country musicians, black and white, would find access to English music hall material, albeit indirectly, from the travelling vaudeville artists such as frequented the circuses, tent and medicine shows, etc. As has been noted, this was a two-way traffic and many American performers visited Britain, predominantly the London area, bringing minstrelsy, Jim Crow blackface traditions, and later ragtime, with them.

With the advent of recordings in the 1890's (in Britain), songs could be 'frozen' in time and learnt or re-learnt at leisure. Initially, in the Blues, it was the vaudeville artists who recorded, starting in 1920 with Mamie Smith in New York City. Bentley notes that she provided "...two popular song (sic) of the time, with a heavy nod in the direction of musical (sic) hall/vaudeville."(2). Baxter observes that Bessie Smith's 1926 recording of "Baby Doll" is "direct from the music-hall,"(3). If many Blues verses featured by the vaudeville blues singers were already in use by the rural performers, as was the case, "...the influence of at least some of the vaudeville singers, particularly Bessie Smith, on the country blues musicians has probably been underestimated of late."(4).

Sadly, this has always been the case, to the detriment of vaudeville blues, Yet as has been shown, rural or country blues singers such as Blind Blake, Lucille Bogan, Charlie Patton, Charley Jordan, Gus Cannon, Robert Johnson, Nellie Florence, Charlie Lincoln, Memphis Minnie, and the Memphis Jug Band, all drew on varying aspects of the English music hall for their material, when it suited them. As well as the more urbanised artists such as Leroy Carr, Scrapper Blackwell, Walter Davis, Georgia Tom, and Big Bill Broonzy. That this list of Blues singers with music hall connections, is not exhausted, seems blatantly obvious. For instance, Georgia-born Bluesman, Kokomo Arnold, made his recording debut in 1930; one of his titles "Paddlin' Madeline Blues" is described as "a funky adaptation oa (sic) a Tin Pan Alley tune,.."(5). The original title in vaudeville/Tin Pan Alley circles being "Paddling Madeline Home". Arnold was a major rural Blues performer from the Peach Tree state and featured some of the most frantic bottleneck guitar on record in his "Paddlin' Madeline Blues".

These singers came from Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio,... in fact from virtually every state in the Union; from towns, rural areas, and the cities. Whether these Blues singers, of every shade, learnt from strictly oral transmission, from recordings by English artists made in New York, or even indirectly from Mayhew's 'purl-men' on the River Thames, the English music hall connection is obviously a major link and constitutes yet another non-African root of the Blues. 


At the time of original copy (1992), "Girl In Blue" (Vo unissued) was listed in "Blues & Gospel Records" (3rd. Ed.) as by Leroy Carr with matrix no. c-2225-B and recorded on 14th. Aug. 1928. The 4th. (revised) edition of B. & G.R. (1997) lists this title with the same matrix no. and recording date under "Charlie Moore and Scrapper Blackwell". It also remains as an unissued Vocalion item. But given Blackwell's musical partnership with Carr and his connection with "Sally In Our Alley" (see p. 30.), my comments still stand re "Girl In Blue" (see p. 22.).

Max Haymes 1999. 


1.Busby. ibid. p.6.
2.Bentley. C.
3.Ba.xter. ibid. p.49.
4.Hatch.D. & S. Millward. p.13.
5.Calt. S. & J. Miller.


1.Stewart-Baxter Derrick. "Ma Rainey And The Classic Blues Singers". Studio Vista. 1970.
2------ "-------------- "Ma Rainey And The Classic Blues Singers". L.P. Notes. C.B.S. 52795. 1970.
3.Sidran Ben."Black Talk". Holt, Rhinehart & Winston. New York. 1971.
4.Busby Roy. "British Music Hall--An Illustrated Who's Who from 1850 to the Present Day." Paul Elek. 1976.
5.Newton Hope Chance. "Idols Of The Halls".
E.P. Pub.Ltd. 1975. First pub. 1928.
6.Vicinus Martha. "The Industrial Muse." Croom Helm. London. 1974.
7.Mander Raymond & Joe Mitchenson. "British Music Hall". Studio Vista. 1965. Foreword by John Betjeman.
8.Cheshire David F. "Music Hall In Britain." David & Charles. Newton Abbot. 1974.
9.Mayhew Henry. "Mayhew's London". Ed. Peter Quennell. Spring Books. London. 1887? First pub. 1851.
10."Encyclopedia. Americana VOW." Grolier Inc. New York. 1986. First pub. 1829.
11.Lee Edward. "Folk Song And Music Hall." Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1982.
12.Lloyd A.L. "Folk Song In England." Paladin. 1967.
13.Bogan L. "Tired As I Can Be." Lucille Bogan (vo.), prob. Bob Campbell( gtr.), Walter Roland (gtr.). 1/8/34. New York City.
14.Henry L. "Low Doom Despondent Blues." Lena Henry (vo.), John Montagu (pno.),
unk. cl. 22/8/24. New York City.
15.Russell Tony. "Blacks, Whites And Blues." Studio Vista. 1970.
16.Pulling Christopher. "They Were Singing". George C. Harrap & Co, Ltd. 1952.
17.Amis Kingsley & James Cochrane. "The Great British ,Songbook." Faber & Faber. London. 1988.
18.0liver Paul. "The Story Of The Blues." Barrie &
Rockliff. London. 1969.
"---- "Songsters & Saints". Cambridge University Press. 1984.
20.Calt Stephen & Mike Stewart. Notes to "Naptown Blues 1929-34". L.P. Yazoo L-1036.
21.Cannon G. "Can You Blame The Colored Man?" Banjo Joe: Gus Cannon (vo.bjo.), Blind Blake (gtr.). c.-/II/27. Chicago, Ill.
22.Carter B. "My Baby". Bo Carter (vo.gtr.,speech). 12/2/40. Atlanta, Ga.
23.Dictionary. "The Penguin English Dictionary." Penguin. 1973. First pub. 1965.
24.Roget Peter Mark. "Roget's Thesaurus." Penguin. 1965. First pub. 1852.
25.Hugill Stan. "Shanties from the Seven Seas". Routledge & Kegan
Paul. 1984.1st.pub1961.
Paul. "The Devil's Son-in-Law". Studio Vista. 1971.
27.Davis W. "Can't See Your Face". Walter Davis (vo.pno.). 12/7/40. Chicago, Ill.
28.Slim C. "Your Picture Done Faded". Carolina Slim (vo.gtr.). 1950-51. Cincinatti?
29.Jordan C. "Twee Twee Twa". Charlie Jordan (vo.gtr.), prob.Peetie Wheastraw (pno.),
unk. bs. 29/3/37. Chicago, Ill.
30.Jackson C. "Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues". Papa Charlie Jackson (vo.bjo.). c.-/8/24. Chicago, Ill.
31.Rainey M. "Ma And Pa Poorhouse Blues". Ma Rainey (vo.,speech), Papa Charlie Jackson(vo.bjo.,speech). c.-/IO/28. Chicago, Ill.
32.Minnie M."Grandpa And Grandma Blues". Memphis Minnie(vo.gtr.), unk, gtr.,hca., jug. Prob. Jed Davenport Jug Band. 9/9/30 Chicago,Ill.
33.Bastin Bruce. "Red River Blues". University of Illinois Press. 1986.
34.Florence N. "Jacksonville Blues". Nellie Florence (vo.,speech), Barbecue Bob (gtr.), Charlie Lincoln (laughing). 21/4/28. Atlanta, Ga.
35.Smith B. "Preachin' The Blues". Bessie Smith (vo.), James P. Johnson (pno.). 17/2/27. New York City.
36.Mellers Wilfrid. "Music In A New Found Land". Barrie &
Rockliff. London. 1964.
Sam. Notes to "The Rural Blues". 203.'s. RBF 202X. 1964.
38.------"----- Notes to "The Atlanta Blues". L.P. RBF. RF15. 1966.
39.Partridge Eric. "Dictionary Of Historical Slang". Penguin. 1986. First pub. 1937.
40.Calt Stephen & Gayle Wardlow. "King of the Delta Blues The Life and Music of Charlie Patton". Rock Chapel Press. 1988.
41.Ferris William. "Blues From The Delta". Studio Vista. 1970.
42.Groom Bob. "Standing at the Crossroads. Pt.I". From "Blues Unlimited"
No.118. Mar/ April, 1976.
43.MacInnes Colin. "Sweet Saturday Night". MacGibbon & Kee. 1967.
44-Marshall Michael. Ed. "The Book Of Comic And Dramatic Monologues". Elm Tree. 1981.
45.Odum Howard W. & Guy B. Johnson. "The Negro And His Songs". Folklore Associates Inc. Pennsylvania. 1964. First pub. 1925.
46.Patton C. "Revenue Man Blues". Charlie Patton (vo.gtr.,speech). 32/2/34. New York.
47.Johnson R. "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom". Robert Johnson (vo.gtr.). 23/21/36. San Antonio, Tex.
48.Harrowven Jean. "Origins and Tales of London Town"'. Kaye & Ward. 1983.
49.Blake B. "Champagne Charlie Is My Name". Blind Blake (vo.gtr.). c.-/6/32. Grafton, Wisconsin.
50.Kennedy Michael P. Notes to "Laughter And Song". L.P. World
Records. SHOO. 1987.
G. "Sally". Gracie Fields (vo.), Ferbie Dawson (org.). 25/10/34. London?
52.Broonzy B. "How You Want It Done?" Big Bill (vo.gtr.). 29/3/32. New York City.
53.Lasky L. "How You Want Your Rollin' Done." Louie Lasky (vo.gtr.). 2/4/35. Chicago.
54.Calt Stephen. Nick Perls. Michael Stewart. Notes to "The Young Big Bill Broonzy, 1928-35". L.P. Yazoo L-1011. c.I967.
55.Bogan. L. "Pig Iron Sally". Lucille Bogan (vo), Walter Roland (pno.,speech). 31/7,/34. New York City.
56.Blackwell S. "Alley Sally Blues". Scrapper Blackwell (vo.gtr.), Dot Rice (pno.). 7/7/35. Chicago, Ill.
57.Tom G. "Where Did You-Stay Last Night". Georgia Tom (vo.pno.,speech), Jane Lucas (vo.,speech), Big Bill Broonzy (gtr.). I9/II/30. Richmond, Ind.
58.Johnson M. "Second-Handed Blues". Margaret Johnson (vo.), prob. Phil Worde or Mike Jackson(pno.), Robert Cooksey (hca.). 14/2_,/27. New York City.
59.Bentley Chris. Notes to "Crazy Blues 1920-2I". L.P. Official
6037. Jan.1989.
David & Stephen Millward. "From Blues To Rock". Manchester University Press. 1987.
61.Calt Stephen & John Miller. Notes to "Bottleneck Guitar Trendsetters of the 1930's." L.P. Yazoo L-1049, c.1973.
62.Details of English music hall records (except Gracie Fields item), "British Music Hall On Record". Brian Rust. General Gramophone Publications Ltd. 1979.
63.Details of "Sally" by Gracie Fields. Michael P. Kenned. ibid.
64.British Music Hall 1840-1923. Laurence Senelick. David F.Cheshire. Ulrich Schneider. Archon Books. 1981.
65."Sally" transcription by Max Haymes.
66.All Blues transcriptions (unless otherwise stated) by Max Haymes.
67.Details of pre-war Blues records from "Blues & Gospel Records 1902-1943". R.M.W. Dixon & J.Godrich. Storyville. Third Ed. Fully revised. 1982.

Transcription to the website by Alan White

Back to the Introduction

Addendum (October 2008)

Website Copyright 2001-2008 Alan  White. All Rights Reserved.
Text (this page) Copyright 1992 Max Haymes. All Rights Reserved.
For further information please email: alan.white@earlyblues.com