Surely everyone’s favourite banjolele-playing singer? It’s often (erroneously) stated – even in George Formby’s song lyrics - that he played a ukulele, what he actually played was a banjolele; as the name suggests it’s a banjo-ukulele hybrid.
A singer, stage performer and, hard though it may be to believe, film star George Formby’s fame was at its height in the 1930s and 40s, when Britain was struggling through World War 2 and humour was a vital pick-me-up. His cheeky Northern persona coupled with the ability to sing frankly filthy double entrendres – some of which are still pretty near the knuckle today – made him a superstar. Don’t believe me? Well, in the 1930s Associated Talking Pictures were paying him a staggering £100k a year to make movies for them. During 1934-45 he was a bigger draw at the UK box office than any other star, and when you consider that these were the days of Cary Grant and Clark Gable you start to realise the magnitude of his appeal.
I admit that his vocals are probably an acquired taste; not everyone is going to love the slightly whiney, high pitched Lancashire singing voice but it you do like it then boy are there some great tracks! His comic timing and skilful playing are so effortless that it’s easy to dismiss just how talented George Formby was. Not all of the material works in today’s politically correct world but it’s never nasty – more gentle leg pulling, and more often than not the humour is self-deprecating.
George Formby’s songs fall into two camps really: there’s the truly lovely songs such as “Leaning on a lamppost” and then the end-of-the-pier style comedy numbers. Of the latter group “In my little snapshot album” has always been one of my favourites. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
Now I’ve got a picture of the vicar’s wife, in my little snapshot album.
Eeeee, it’s turned out nice again!