Famous Blaceface Performers

Eugene Stratton & George H.Elliott

Eugene Stratton was “one of the best-known and popular coon singers”
(Mellor 1970: 73.) He originated from America but moved to Britain to stay in 1880. Eugene’s “most famous song ‘Lily of Laguna’ rocketed him to fame” and was written especially for him. The song contained lyrics such as "nigger" and "coon." This can be seen in the sheet music above.                  (12)

He performed ‘Lily of Laguna’ alongside another famous Blackface music hall star,

George H. Elliott. Elliott was one of the most famous Blackface actors and a very famous British music Hall singer and dancer. He was more commonly known as ‘the chocolate coloured coon,’ a name that now a days would be deemed inappropriate and frowned upon but during the 19th century the name would be seen as hilarious and accepted. He started his career in the ‘nineties and went on to work with the troupes at largs and Prestwick before working in Music Halls.  Since then he went on “the ‘halls’ as the ‘chocolate coloured coon’ and was a top-of-the-bill attraction for many years” (Mellor 1970: 73.)                                


Master Juba

Another well known Blackface performer was William Henry Lane or as he was better known, ‘Master Juba.' He became one of the first black performers to perform in blackface to a white audience. At the time “White audiences in the 19th Century wouldn't accept real black entertainers on stage unless they performed in blackface makeup”(Padgett) and therefore he had to ‘black up’ to appear like a white man made up to look black. Despite this ridiculous request Master Juba continued to perform and became the inventor of tap dancinga type of dance that is still practised today.

Chirgwin                                                                       (10)

Chirgwin was “a different type of black-faced entertainer” (Mellor 1970: 73.) and was known as the ‘White Eyed Kaffir’. He was well known throughout the country with a distinct look, with one eye painted white in the shape of a diamond. There are many reasons for why he has this trade mark, one is that “he got a fly in his eye, and rubbed off the burnt cork in his attempts to remove it, and, when he noted the sensation he made when he went on stage without repairing his make-up, he decided to keep the effect” (Mellor 1970: 73) A more realistic theory is that he “had a cast in the other eye,  and put the white patch round the good eye to draw attention” (Mellor 1970: 73.) Despite being well known his reception around the country differed from place to place, “at one well-known hall in the North, the manager used to bluntly say of him: ‘Not worth the money’, but at other halls he could do no wrong” ” (Mellor 1970: 73.) His two most famous songs were 'The Blind Boy ‘’ and ‘My Fiddle and My Sweetheart’. His act would also “impersonate a dancer by playing with two clay pipes on a ton tray – a trick used later by Charlie Chaplin with bread rolls” (Mellor 1970: 73.)