George Robey

Sir George Edward Wade, CBE (20 September 1869 – 29 November 1954), known professionally as George Robey, was an English comedian, singer and actor in musical theatre, who became known as one of the greatest music hall performers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a comedian, he mixed everyday situations and observations with comic absurdity. Apart from his music hall acts, he was a popular Christmas pantomime performer in the English provinces, where he excelled in the dame roles. He scored notable successes in musical revues during and after the First World War, particularly with the song "If You Were the Only Girl (In the World)", which he performed with Violet Loraine in the revue The Bing Boys Are Here (1916). One of his best-known original characters in his six-decade long career was the Prime Minister of Mirth.

Born in London, Robey came from a middle-class family. After schooling in England and Germany, and a series of office jobs, he made his debut on the London stage, at the age of 21, as the straight man to a comic hypnotist. Robey soon developed his own act and appeared at the Oxford Music Hall in 1890, where he earned favourable notices singing "The Simple Pimple" and "He'll Get It Where He's Gone to Now". In 1892, he appeared in his first pantomime, Whittington Up-to-date in Brighton, which brought him to a wider audience. More provincial engagements followed in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, and he became a mainstay of the popular Christmas pantomime scene.

Robey's music hall act matured in the first decade of the 1900s, and he undertook several foreign tours. He starred in the Royal Command Performance in 1912 and regularly entertained before aristocracy. He was an avid sportsman, playing cricket and football at a semi-professional level. During the First World War, in addition to his performances in revues, he raised money for many war charities and was appointed a CBE in 1919. From 1918, he created sketches based on his Prime Minister of Mirth character and used a costume he had designed in the 1890s as a basis for the character's attire. He made a successful transition from music hall to variety shows and starred in the revue Round in Fifty in 1922, which earned him still wider notice. With the exception of his performances in revue and pantomime, he appeared as his Prime Minister of Mirth character in all the other entertainment media including variety, music hall and radio.

In 1913 Robey made his film debut, but he had only modest success in the medium. He continued to perform in variety theatre in the inter-war years and, in 1932, starred in Helen!, his first straight theatre role. His appearance brought him to the attention of many influential directors, including Sydney Carroll, who signed him to appear on stage as Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1 in 1935, a role that he later repeated in Laurence Olivier's 1944 film, Henry V. During the Second World War, Robey raised money for charities and promoted recruitment into the forces. By the 1950s, his health had deteriorated, and he entered into semi-retirement. He was knighted a few months before his death in 1954.

Birth and Death Data: Born September 20, 1869 (Herne Hill), Died November 29, 1954 (Saltdean)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1915 - 1923

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist

Notes: Sometimes sub-credited as The Prime Minister of Mirth.

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 46 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Columbia 6658 12-in. approximately 1915 The family ghost George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6659 12-in. approximately 1915 What was there was good George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6660 12-in. approximately 1915 Where's the butler George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6661 12-in. approximately 1915 The best man at the wedding George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6664 12-in. approximately 1915 You cad! George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6665 12-in. approximately 1915 He was right George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6803 12-in. approximately 1916 Another little drink wouldn't do us any harm Alhambra Theatre Orchestra ; Alfred Lester ; Violet Loraine ; George Robey Vocal trio with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6804 12-in. approximately 1916 I stopped, I looked, I listened Alhambra Theatre Orchestra ; George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6805 12-in. approximately 1916 If you were the only boy in the world, and I were the onlyl girl Alhambra Theatre Orchestra ; Violet Loraine ; George Robey Vocal duet, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 6806 12-in. approximately 1916 In other words Alhambra Theatre Orchestra ; George Robey Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 35908 10-in. approximately 1916 Hey how, what might have been George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 35909 10-in. approximately 1916 You've a very nice day for it, too George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 35910 10-in. approximately 1916 The barrister George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 35911 10-in. approximately 1916 The pro's landlady George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 69983 10-in. approximately 1920 Archibald, certainly not! George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 69984 10-in. approximately 1920 And very nice too George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 69985 10-in. approximately 1920 More than sorrow than in anger George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 69986 10-in. approximately 1920 The manager of the Splitz Hotel George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 71641 10-in. approximately 1922 Round in 50 : Sing song George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 71642 10-in. 03/30/1922 Round in 50 : Nerves George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 71643 10-in. 03/30/1922 Round in 50 : See what I mean? Why, of course George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 71644 10-in. 03/30/1922 Round in 50 : A prison soliloquy George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 73285 10-in. 03/08/1923 You'd be surprised : The green fly on the little yellow dog George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 73286 10-in. 03/08/1923 You'd be surprised : All for the best George Robey vocalist  
Columbia 73287 10-in. approximately 1923 You'd be surprised : I haven't the faintest idea George Robey vocalist  
(Results 1-25 of 46 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Robey, George," accessed May 30, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/353496.

Robey, George. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/353496.

"Robey, George." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 30 May 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/353496

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