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George Leybourne

February 10, 2013

George Leybourne (1842-1884),
English music hall ‘Lion Comique’ and originator of ‘Champagne Charlie’
(photo: unknown, probably London, late 1870s)

”’Champagne Charlie.”
‘(London Letter.)
George Leybourne has just gone over to the majority, and his life well illustrates the ups and downs of a professional career. George Leybourne, the ”Lion Comique,” as he was called, was well known as the originator of the famous ”Champagne Charlie” song, as well as a hots of other of a similar type. Commencing life in a factory, he developed at an early age a taste for ”sing-song” and ”free-and-easy” entertainments. This led him on to the Music hall stage, until, step by step, he got to London, where ”Champagne Charlie” made him famous, as much to his own as to others’ surprise, probably.
‘The song was about as silly a song as ever was sung; but as rendred [sic] by the ”Lion Comique” it produced quite a furor [sic] among the many-headed, and the singer was in great request directly at all the leading music halls. He had so many ”engagements” every evening that he had to arrange his ”turns” with the nicety of a time-table, driving from one hall to another in his brougham, and singing at seven or eight different places every night. At one time he made 120 pounds sterling every week merely by singing his inane ditties; but he was a swell off as well as on the stage, and, lightly as the money came, it went still more lightly. He made no provision for a rainy day; and when he began to grown stale, when the Music hall public turned to newer and brighter stars, he soon fell into pecuniary difficulties. He managed to obtain engagements now and then, but his popularity diminished, and it is said that his last few months of life were passed in abject poverty. He died at last of consumption, and all the public of the future will know of him can be summed up in a line: ”He sang of Champagne Charlie.”’
(Newark Daily Advocate, Newark, Ohio, Monday, 27 October 1884, p. 3c)

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