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George Formby was named after our wonderful town - New book called ‘Northerners’ by Brian Groom

George Formby senior (1875-1921) was among the best-known of Lancashire's rich seam of music hall comedians, born into poverty in Ashton-under-Lyne. A music-hall owner in Birkenhead, who booked him early in his career, thought that his real name, James Booth, was unsuitable for the stage and suggested ‘George Formby’ - George after comedian George Robey and Formby after the Merseyside town.

He played characters including "John Willie", an archetypical gormless Lancashire lad, accident-prone but muddling through, whose cane twirl and ducklike walk allegedly inspired Charlie Chaplin. For years Formby battled against consumption, making light of it by muttering asides such as "coughing better tonight, coughing summat champion". He was billed as the Wigan Nightingale, a reference to his croaky voice. .

After Formby died in 1921, his son used parts of his father’s act when starting his stage career and, when established, also changed his name to George Formby. Formby junior went on to be the ukulele-playing star of successful British comedy films in the 1930s and 1940s.

(From my new book ‘Northerners: A History, from the Ice Age to the Present Day’.) Buy it on Amazon HERE

Story from Brian Groom to the Facebook page The Liverpool of Yesterday



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