Vesta Tilley

Matilda Alice Powles, Lady de Frece (13 May 1864 – 16 September 1952) was an English music hall performer. She adopted the stage name Vesta Tilley and became one of the best-known male impersonators of her era. Her career lasted from 1869 until 1920. Starting in provincial theatres with her father as manager, she performed her first season in London in 1874. She typically performed as a dandy or fop, also playing other roles. She found additional success as a principal boy in pantomime.

By the 1890s, Tilley was England's highest earning woman. She was also a star in the vaudeville circuit in the United States, touring a total of six times. She married Walter de Frece, a theatre impresario who became her new manager and songwriter. At a Royal Command Performance in 1912, she scandalised Queen Mary because she was wearing trousers. During the First World War she was known as "England’s greatest recruiting sergeant" since she sang patriotic songs dressed in khaki fatigues like a soldier and promoted enlistment drives.

Becoming Lady de Frece in 1919, she decided to retire and made a year-long farewell tour from which all profits went to children's hospitals. Her last performance was in 1920 at the Coliseum Theatre, London. She then supported her husband when he became a Member of Parliament and later retired with him to Monte Carlo. She died in 1952 on a visit to London and is buried at Putney Vale Cemetery. Her life story was commemorated in the 1957 film After the Ball.

Birth and Death Data: Born May 13, 1864 (Worcester), Died September 16, 1952 (London)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1915 - 1919

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist

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

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Columbia 29751 10-in. approximately 1915 Jolly good luck the girl who loves a soldier Vesta Tilley vocalist  
Columbia 29752 10-in. approximately 1915 The army of today’s all right Vesta Tilley vocalist  
Columbia 35755 10-in. approximately 1915 There's a good time coming for the ladies Vesta Tilley vocalist  
Columbia 35756 10-in. approximately 1915 What a nut Vesta Tilley vocalist  
Columbia 75367 12-in. approximately 1917 Where are the girls of the old brigade Vesta Tilley Female vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 75368 12-in. approximately 1917 It's a fine time for a soldier Vesta Tilley Female vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 76384 12-in. approximately 1919 I've a bit of a blighty one Vesta Tilley Female vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
Columbia 76385 12-in. approximately 1919 Sidney's in civvies again Vesta Tilley Female vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Tilley, Vesta," accessed July 17, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/353577.

Tilley, Vesta. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/353577.

"Tilley, Vesta." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 17 July 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/353577

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