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Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

A Chat With Arthur Lloyd

From The ERA Saturday, July 29th, 1893

A Real Photograph of Arthur Lloyd by W. H. Stephens of Newport, Mon. - From The Variety Theatre May12th 1905 - Kindly sent in by Jennifer Carnell .Reminiscences of Mr Sims Reeves were, perhaps, the last thing that the writer hereof expected from Mr Arthur Lloyd, (shown right) but he got them - very interesting reminiscences, too. Here is the peg on which they hang. It is well worth printing in full; - "Aberdeen, Theatre Royal. - Mr Lloyd, of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, begs most respectfully to inform the gentry, and the public of Aberdeen and vicinity, that, having entered into an arrangement with the proprietors of the above theatre, he will have the honour of opening it for two nights only, on which occasion the following ladies and gentlemen will appear: - Mr John Reeves, of the Theatre Royal, Drury-Lane, and the nobilities' concerts, London, and Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, his first appearance here; Mr Sam Cowell, Mr Leigh, Mr Lloyd, Miss Clara Lee, and Mrs Leigh, all of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, and first appearance here. On Monday evening, Sept.: 25th, 1843, the performance will commence with The Two Gregories, Mr Gregory, with song of 'The Cork Leg,' Mr S. Cowell; Gregory, with song of Cock Robin,' Mr Lloyd; John Bull, with song of "The Thorn,' Mr J. Reeves; La France, Mr Leigh; Mrs Gregory, Miss C. Lee; Fanchette, Mrs Leigh; Concert: - Ballad, 'My Pretty Jane,' Mr .J. Reeves; comic song, 'The Country Fair,' Mr Lloyd; ballad, `Lovely Night,' Mrs Leigh; song, 'Jenny Jones,' Mr Leigh; comic song, 'Lord Lovel,' Mr S. Cowell; ballad, 'I wish that young fellow,' Mrs Leigh; nautical scena, 'The White Squall,' Mr Reeves; comic song, 'Billy Barlow,' Mr Cowell. To conclude with the farce of The Young Widow."

Horatio Lloyd and his son Richard Delarue in 1889, the year Horatio died - Courtesy James Francis and Robert Cunningham. Click to enlarge.Here is liberal entertainment! Unfortunately, there was an irregularity about the dramatic licence, and so the party could only give a concert. Mr J. Reeves accompanied everybody on the piano; accompanied his own songs. In time he became Mr J. Sims Reeves; and then he shed the J. and became the greatest English tenor, but never greater than in those days, old Mr Lloyd was wont to say.

Left - Horatio Lloyd and his son Richard Delarue in 1889, the year Horatio died - Courtesy James Francis and Robert Cunningham. Click to enlarge.

Mr Leigh was the Leigh Murray of a later day. Sam Cowell was the greatest and best of music hall comedians. Mr Lloyd was Arthur Lloyd's father, a low comedian of rare talent, the idol of an Edinburgh pit, who acted during sixty years, resisted the most tempting offers to come to London, died quite recently in extreme old age, and never had a bigger salary than five pounds a-week. A father to be proud of; and Arthur Lloyd is proud of him.

Of course, Horatio Lloyd meant his children for other professions than the stage; and, equally of course, they took to the stage as ducks take to water. Arthur spent his novitiate with Mr Newcombe, at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, and then, thanks to his father's influence, got employment as second low comedian in Scotland. While he held this post at the Queen's Theatre, Edinburgh, his rival at the Theatre Royal was none other than John L. Toole, who was then combining the functions of low comedian and singer between the pieces.

Young Lloyd used to go across the road to hear the older and popular favourite. He thought Mr Toole - being it may be, a little prejudiced - a very poor vocalist, and in particular as compared with himself. Mr Lloyd's manager at this time was a queer fellow - a butter merchant who had invested his fortune in a theatre, being possessed by an ardour for dramatic reform. He came to utter grief, and very speedily; but in his penurious old age was rather fond of boasting that he had given the great "Arthur" Lloyd his start, at thirty shillings a-week. Thirty shillings a-week, and no regular engagement at that, was the trouble with young Lloyd, and began to discontent him with his chosen profession. Two pounds a-week was in those days the salary fixed by tradition and practice as the reward of a low comedian; and young Lloyd, although certain of occupation with his father's concert party during the off season, was not by any means so sure of an engagement as second low comedian when the theatres were at work again. He got many odd engagements to sing at concerts and such like for half-a guinea and even a guinea a time; and this at length led to the offer of an engagement at four pounds a week at the Whitebait Music Hall, Glasgow, which he determined to accept. When Horatio Lloyd heard the news he was horror-stricken. He had all the old-fashioned hatred of a music hall. "My lad," said he, "you'll die a drunkard." The fact was that in those days music hall singers were greatly tempted to drink. There was no charge for admission to the hall; but every kind of refreshment was sold at the then high rate of sixpence, while adjacent to the stage door was a room called the green - room, but actually a semi-private bar, through which the professionals had to pass, and wherein they usually spent the interval between their "turns," which were two or more in a night. A popular singer often had to oblige with a dozen songs in the evening. Arthur Lloyd remembered his father's unpleasant prophecy, and was never a patron of the green-room.

Postcard for The Grand Theatre, Islington, 1903He was a remarkable success. One of his songs was a Scotch edition, by permission, of Sam Cowell's "Railway Porter." Four pounds was the salary paid to young Lloyd, then hardly out of his teens, by Mr Sherer, the proprietor of the Whitebait, and within ten years the same manager engaged the meantime popular comedian for six nights at ten pounds a night. Arthur Lloyd was fortunate in securing an invitation to London very soon after his provincial debut. He will never forget the journey. One of his travelling companions was W. G. Ross, the historic singer in the Coal Hole of "Sam Hall." Ross had a bottle of whisky with him, to which he devoted himself with so much assiduity that he must needs remove the wig he wore, to the especial horror of an old lady in the carriage. Ross, Mr Lloyd says, had a truly magnificent voice. He used to be a popular singer of the long descriptive songs of that day - songs that took well nigh hall-an hour to execute, and detailed the entire plot of a novel or a drama. Ross was so devoted to these lugubrious compositions that he persistently sang them long after the public taste had rejected them, and he declined in public esteem to the point of becoming a chorus singer. Mr Lloyd came to London in 1862 to fulfill engagements at the Sun, Knightsbridge, Marylebone Music Hall, and the Philharmonic, Islington, where Sam Adams subsequently lost a fortune, and which is now replaced by the Grand Theatre, Islington (shown above right). Lloyd was met at the station when he arrived by his friend Harry Clifton, who advised him to take lodgings at Islington, where his last turn was. So at Islington he sought lodgings, and found them, by the strangest of coincidences, with the old lady whom Ross's bald head had scandalised in the train.

Mr Lloyd recalls in connection with his engagement at the Philharmonic a story that George Leybourne often told him in later years. Leybourne was among the audience one night, and was so delighted with Lloyd's singing that he drew an old silver watch from his pocket and bumped it on the table in the ardour of his applause. He returned to his home in the north, and astonished his old father with the announcement, "Father, I'm going to be a comic singer." "Thou a comic singer," said the old man, "and pray where does thou get thy comicality? It does not coom from thy mother, and I'm dammed if it cooms from me!"

The original London Pavilion Music Hall in 1880 - Click to enlarge.What a comic singer George Leybourne became we all know. But it seems incredible that his sun should have risen and set while Arthur Lloyd is still hale, vigorous, and popular. "You see, I was such a boy when I began," he says in the way of apology. After about two months at the three London halls above mentioned, Mr Lloyd gave up the Sun and the Marylebone engagements, appearing only at the Philharmonic and the Canterbury, then the property and under the management of Mr Charles Morton. Miss Russell, Miss Emily Soldene (then known as Miss Fitzhenry), Mr E. St. Aubyn, Mr R. Green, and Mr E. Jongmanns were then notable members of Mr Morton's company - for those were the days when the operatic selections at the Canterbury used to last forty-five minutes. Eventually Mr Morton established the Oxford, and Mr Lloyd recalls that the company was transported from one hall to the other in capacious omnibuses. Unsworth, the stump orator, was a great popular favourite at this time. Among the music halls at which Mr Lloyd appeared in his early days in London were Weston's, the Cambridge, the Regent at Westminster, and the Strand, now the Gaiety Theatre. But his reminiscences of the London Pavilion (shown left) are especially interesting, "It was," he tells you, "originally a public-house with a large stable yard. Messrs Loibl and Sounhammer, two foreigners, acquired the property, roofed the yard over, erected a gallery at the back, but at one side only - for the other was occupied by Dr. Kahn's delectable museum of anatomy - and opened the place as a music hall. "Here I was an enormous favourite; and I am sure Mr Loibl would be the first to acknowledge that my popularity contributed very largely to the prosperity of the place, though I got nothing like the salary that a star of equal magnitude can command to-day. Then the best seats in the place could be had for sixpence. I constantly tried to Persuade Loibl to increase the price, and he did so tentatively, till at length the whole floor, with the exception of a promenade, consisted of half-crown seats. The climax was reached when, at a great outlay, Mr Loibi bought Kahn's museum, and was able to utilise its site for the structural improvement of the Pavilion, From the time the Board of Works acquired the hall there is no need to trace its history.

Arthur Lloyd's 'Not For Joseph'.Meantime Mr Arthur Lloyd had found it convenient to write his own songs, having a happy knack that way. During the past thirty years he has written many more than a thousand songs. Almost his earliest effort was a medley called "'The Song of Songs," that started from the base of " I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls." It had an extraordinary career of popularity, but did not bring its author and composer the large fortune that one sometimes hears of as the guerdon of a comic song, for he sold the rights of publication for a mere trifle. Among the more popular successors of "The Song of Songs" were "Not for Joseph," " Constantinople," "Cruel Mary Holder," "The Roman Fall,' "Take it, Bob," "Going to the Derby " now inseparable from "Over Rowley" - "One More Polka," and "I Couldn't." Probably of this selection the most successful of all was "Not for Joseph," (shown right) which has a curious history. Mr Lloyd sat in a bus, and "Not for Joseph" was the driver's humorous way of declining suggestions from the conductor. "What a title for a comic song !" thought the alert passenger; and a comic song was the speedy result. Mr Lloyd declares, and, indeed, most of his confraternity agree, that in this way songs are mostly evolved. You cannot command the comic muse; she pops up here and there and everywhere, and is most successful when she is most promiscuous.

But Mr Lloyd is anxious to impress upon you that, loyal as he is to the music halls, they have not been the only sphere of his activity. For a few years, being compelled to rest his voice, he took the Queen's Theatre, Dublin, and, again, having written an Irish drama entitled Ballyvogan, he played with much success the part of a seated land agent in that piece. Then Mr Lloyd has for years made an annual excursion to the provinces, with a concert party, and in particular appeared at the Glasgow Abstainers concerts, in the City Hall, every year for twenty-five successive years. Recently his son and daughter, Mr Harry King Lloyd and Miss Katie King Lloyd (Actually Arthur's wife M.L.) - named after their maternal grandfather, the veteran tragedian T. C. King - have assisted him in this kind of entertainment, and will accompany him to America next week. Mr Lloyd is engaged to appear, during forty weeks, in the leading theatres of the United States, in his piece entitled Our Party. This is entirely after the popular American model, a slender dramatic frame-work, with liberal introductions of music, song, and mimicry. It has been played by Mr Lloyd upwards of 600 times in the English provinces.

A sketch which gives some idea of what Evans's was like, the person on stage - apparently number 22 on the bill - is struggling to hold the attention of an audience heavily engaged in eating, drinking and talking. From 'Lost Empires: the phenomenon of theatres past, present and future' by Nigel Fountain. Mr Lloyd may fitly be allowed to terminate his story with a most amusing reminiscence of his single appearance at Evans's.

Left - A sketch which gives some idea of what Evans's was like, the person on stage - apparently number 22 on the bill - is struggling to hold the attention of an audience heavily engaged in eating, drinking and talking. From 'Lost Empires: the phenomenon of theatres past, present and future' by Nigel Fountain.

Paddy Green had invited him to sing there for a fee of five guineas on the night of the boat-race, when Evans's, according to tradition, was turned into Pandemonium for the nonce by the young bloods. Mr Lloyd declined the engagement for many reasons; but allowed Paddy Green to think the fee was too small, which made the old man rather sarcastic at the expense of popular singers. When night came curiosity drew Mr Lloyd to Evans's, which he found was packed with undergraduates, even the stage, where a temporary chairman was established. With an eagle eye this gentleman descried the new corner. "Arthur Lloyd - hand him up," he said, peremptorily, and the poor comedian was "handed up" accordingly by a dozen strong arms. "Mr Arthur Lloyd will oblige with a song," said the chairman; and, vainly protesting, the singer had to give the pianist a hint to "vamp" an accompaniment for a song, which was noisily applauded. "Mr Arthur Lloyd will oblige again," said the chairman; and, yet a third time, " r Arthur Lloyd will sing one more song," said he. Then he made an appeal, "Now, gentlemen, Mr Lloyd does not sing for nothing, you know," and round he went with a hat. It was filled with coins, which were poured into the pockets of the singer until he was borne down. "How much I spent I do not know," he says ; "but I do know that when I got home I counted out over twelve pounds."

The above text was first published in The ERA, Saturday, July 29th, 1893.

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