Gus Elen

(1862—1940) music-hall singer

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(b. London, 22 July 1862; d. London, 17 Feb. 1940) music hall performer. A busker in the early 1880s, he joined a blackface minstrel troupe in 1883 and made his music hall debut, as part of a minstrel duo, in Hackney, east London the following year. In the 1890s he established himself as the -true- voice of the London costermongers (Cockney barrow traders). Unlike the more idealized coster songs of his rival Albert Chevalier, Elen's songs were full of finely observed, life-like characters. -It's a Great Big Shame-, -Don't Stop My 'Arf Pint o' Beer-, -Wait Till the Work Comes Round-, -If It Wasn't For the -Ouses in Between-, -'E Dunno Where 'E Are-, and -Down the Road- became standards. He toured the US in 1907, retired during the First World War and made a comeback in 1931. He returned to the London Palladium for the 1935 command performance and made a BBC broadcast in 1937. Recordings from the 1930s reveal a cracked voice full of pathos and irony.

From The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

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