Harry Champion,1865-1942; I Am, I Am

The  top-selling pop act in the US in 1965 was not the Beatles, not the Rolling Stones, not Elvis, Frank, or Liberace, but Herman’s Hermits.  Make of that whatever you will, but if you were alive at that time, you will have the have ear-worm of I’m Henry VIII, I Am.

Not one of Peter Noone’s own compositions, of course.  It was Harry Champion’s signature song (written by Fred Murray and R.P. Weston in 1910).  He was also famous for light classics like “Any Old Iron” (see also David Jones before he was a Monkee, and Peter Sellers while he was a Goon).

Born William Henry Crump, Champion started out as apprentice to a boot clicker, but, well, Art was calling for him. 

He started out as a standup comic under the stage name Will Conray.  He was indeed the real deal, a child of Bethnal Green and debut at age fifteen (they grew up faster back then). With a face like that, how could he fail?

Early on, in fact, he did.  His agent, however, was a never-say-die sort.  The story was that the manager of the Marlyebone Theatre was unimpressed by his first appearance.  So the agent pitched a new act, a certain Harry Champion.

The new act was quick paced, upbeat and bawdy, just the way the punters liked it. The authorities – not so much.   “A Little Bit of Cucumber”?  In 1915, that was pushing it just a bit too far. It cost him fifteen pounds.

The First War put an end to his kind of music hall acts as it did so many other good things and he retired in 1920, but managed to keep busy with a  second career in the motor carriage business.

And if the great Depression ruined a lot of other good things, it did see a brief resurgence in music hall in general and Henery in particular.  He filled the airwaves until 1942, just five years before Peter Noone was born.

To the best of my knowledge, Peter Noone was never fined for indecency.

Oh, and Champion’s version of Henery has been saved for posterity

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