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Frank Backus

July 6, 2013

Frank Backus (1848?-after 1901), English comedian, billed in 1874 as ‘The Voluble and Eccentric Negro Delineator’
(photo: unknown, probably UK, 1870s)

‘EAST OF ENGLAND MUSIC HALL, NORWICH.
‘MESSRS. J.C. MARSHALL and FRANK BACKUS beg most respectfully to thank Albert D. Lane, Esq., for his kindness in giving them an Engagement and Benefit, and also presented them with a handsome Silver Cup on their farewell benefit, January 10th, 1868. Yours most respectfully, J.C. MARSHALL and FRANK BACKUS, the Only American Flag Comedians in England. Present Engagement, ORIENTAL MUSIC HALL, GRAVESEND.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 2 February 1868, p. 1c, advertisement)

Bellamy’s Royal Model Gallery, Alford, Lincolnshire, December 1870.
‘BELLAMY’S ROYAL MODEL GALLERY has been located here during the past three weeks, and at this time of year is very acceptable. In addition there is a promenade concert every evening, in which some well-known artistes appear, including Miss Victorine Bellamy, an excellent juvenile pianist; Mrs. Pat Dennis, a good Irish comedian; and Mr. Frank Backus (Negro comedian) whose songs, dances, jokes, &c., create roars of laughter.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 1 January 1871, p. 5a)

‘MR. FRANK BACKUS, American comedian and Minstrel Corner Man, will be at Liberty June 12th and future dates for Troupe or Concert Hall Business. First-class Wardrobe. Address, 87, Cleveland-street, Doncaster.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 4 June 1871, p. 16b)

The Bedford Music Hall, London, February 1880
‘Mr Frank Backus (a Negro comedian) who next undertook the task of amusing the audience, thoroughly succeeded in accomplishing it. He sang of being ”Samuel the Great.” ”The Nigger Swell,” ”I’m going to Kentucky once more,” and ”There’s a funny little Nigger I know,” were also sung by him. His rendering of the last-named merry, laughing lay was preceded by facetious talk about being in gaol and about trades. While some of his sayings were familiar many were fresh. His manner is original and funny. He made the people laugh heartily.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 8 February 1880, p. 4a)

The People’s Palace of Varieties, London, October 1881
‘The name of Mr Alf. Rivers was in the bill, but he did not appear, owing, it was announced, to indisposition. His place was taken by Mr Frank Backus, who caused great amusement by his Negro eccentricities. He talked in fluent and humorous fashion about the disadvantages of being married, and sang of being a coloured boy aged twenty-one, who is fond of dancing. His second discourse was concerning various trades, and included smart puns and jokes. The titles of newspapers were ingeniously worked into a piece about what the newsboy sells, and might be, as he does. This facetious speech was followed by a song with the retrain ”I’m going to Kentucky once more.” He finished with a dance of an original and nimble kind, which, like his other doings, caused hearty applause.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 8 October 1881, p. 4b)

Robinson Crusoe, pantomime, with Amy Grundy in the title role, Theatre Royal, Nottingham, Christmas, 1881
‘… Mr. Frank Backus as King Cockalorum introduces some sprightly dancing, and makes much of the somewhat minor character.’
The Stage, London, Friday, 6 January 1882, p. 5a)

The Coliseum, Leeds, December 1885
‘THE SAN FRANCISCO MINSTRELS. – This band of sable minstrels have at present a brief engagement at the Coliseum, Leeds. They gave the second of a series of eight entertainments on Saturday evening, and the crowded state of the house indicated afresh how popular still is this class of amusement. The variety which the programme of such a band usually presents, and which is no doubt one of the chief attractions, is here found in full measure. There is a good display of vocal power, with the sentimental and comic happily blended, delightful choruses, in which the instrumentalists take no unimportant part, much laughter provoked by the end men, with burlesque, negro eccentricities, and ventriloquism to heighten the merriment. The comic business is not entirely new – it never is – but taken as a whole it is very amusing. Mr. Charles Wilson’s singing of ”Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” is irresistibly funny, as are also the joint performances of himself and his droll colleague, Mr. James Sanford, in ”Nic-nacs.” Mr. Frank Backus does the chief part of the dancing, and does it well. The ventriloquist is Mr. Frank Mordaunt, who also excites hilarity. Amongst the vocalists, none excel Mr. A. Clifford, who has a find baritone voice, and Mr. Fred Salcombe, one of the tenors. the entertainment is a capital one of its kind.’
(The Leeds Mercury, Leeds, Monday 28 December 1885, p. 5c)

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