Hippodrome – Albert Whelan

Albert Whelan (1875-1961), real name Albert Waxman, appeared at the Tivoli Theatre of Varieties during 1902. He was a singer and entertainer who was born in Melbourne, Australia but came to Britain in 1901- so he had not been in the country long when he arrived in Birmingham. He had made his debut in an eccentric dance act at the Empire, Leicester Square and he was destined to have a career in variety well into his 80s.

Albert was one of the first performers to have a signature tune, appearing on stage and exiting whistling Robert Volstead’s Waltz from “The Jolly Brothers”. According to Richard Anthony Baker in his book, “British Music Hall: An Illustrated History”, Albert was “immaculately dressed” in bow-tie and tails. “He spent three minutes making his stage entrance… During the three-minute entrance, he removed his gloves (they took a minute and a half in themselves), overcoat, scarf and hat. Once he had completed his act, he spent another three minutes putting his clothes back on again and strolling off, again whistling ‘The Jolly Brothers’.

His first recordings were on cylinders but by the time he was near the end of his career, he was making long-playing records “as The Beatles were about to have their first success”. That puts Albert’s long time in show business into perspective; he was still performing at the age of eighty-five. He put his longevity down to being able to adapt his voice to different styles and changing tastes: “so many old-timers cannot or will not adapt themselves to modern requirements and then resent it because modern managements won’t accept them. Because I have appreciated that new methods, faster and more expert, are used on the music hall today, I am able to go on where most of my famous contemporaries are now in retirement”. Quoted from “The Performer”, 7 April, 1938.

Albert made his American debut in 1908. On his last American tour in 1924 / 1925, in New York he introduced the song “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. He died in London in February, 1961, aged eighty-six.