Monday’s Music Moves Me: George Formby

A few years ago, I was banging around the Internet (as I am often wont to do) and found a website (that’s no longer there, sadly) called “The George Formby Jukebox.” I don’t know what it was that drew me to it, but I gave some of the music a listen, and I was hooked.

It’s hard to explain what I found so fascinating about Formby. Maybe it’s the fact that he was from Lancashire, England, the same part of the country that many of the British Invasion bands came from (Lancashire at the time included the cities of Liverpool and Manchester). Maybe it was his voice, or the way he played the ukulele and the banjo ukulele, or the silly grin he wore much of the time while playing and singing songs that were so risqué for the time that the BBC banned much of his music from the radio. He was a popular performer (perhaps England’s most popular) in the movies in the Thirties and Forties, and worked tirelessly for the Entertainnments National Service Association (ENSA) during the Second World War, entertaining the troops and the folks back home, as well as helping to raise money for charities. George Harrison considered him an influence, as did Peter Sellers.

Tell you what. Read all about George on the website of The George Formby Appereciation Society while I play you a few of his songs.

  1. When I’m Cleaning Windows From the 1936 film Keep Your Seats, Please!.
  2. Chinese Laundry Blues From 1932. The song introduces Mr. Wu, who makes an appearance in several other songs.
  3. Mr. Wu’s A Window Cleaner Now From 1940’s Let George Do It. Like I said, another song featuring Mr. Wu.
  4. I Don’t Like From 1937’s Keep Fit.
  5. My Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock From 1948. One of the songs that got him banned on the BBC.
  6. Our Sergeant Major From 1945’s I Didn’t Do It.
  7. It Serves Me Right (I Shouldn’t Have Joined) From 1944’s Bell-Bottom George.
  8. The Emperor of Lancashire From 1940’s Turned Out Nice Again “Turned out nice again” was one of George’s catchphrases.
  9. Fanlight Fanny Originally released on a 78 in 1935, it was featured in 1939’s Trouble Brewing with an extra verse.
  10. Leaning on a Lamppost from 1937’s Feather Your Nest, it’s his best-known song. It was covered by Herman’s Hermits in 1966.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of George’s death in 1961 at the age of 56. I had no idea. That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for March 5, 2018.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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23 thoughts on “Monday’s Music Moves Me: George Formby

  1. I know about him but have yet to see one of his films. I didn’t know he was censored which is quite funny when one considers how things are now. I think Jerry Lewis probably knew about him and used some of this man’s ..er..mannerisms. He died way too young.

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    1. Now it’s “anything goes,” (cue Cole Porter), but in those days they were really strict about what they’d play. The video I linked to gives some of the background. I think if you were part of “The Greatest Generation” in England during the Depression and the war, he would be most familiar.

      Not sure where you can see his movies. I’ve never seen them, either, except for the clips around the songs, and I’d really like to.

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  2. Nope, can’t say I ever heard of him either, but the ol’ girl seemed to like it!!! bwahahahaha Guess a nice spunky song like that was very welcome during the invasion too! Thanks for sharing my friend! Very interesting! Big hugs!

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    1. Kind of sounds like him, doesn’t he? I don’t know the exact origins of skiffle (what Lonnie played) but I’m sure George had some influence. He was the most popular entertainer in England in those days.

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  3. John,

    This feller is new-to-me. He sure did have a kinda goofy but infectious smile. Judging by it, I’d say he was probably a pretty happy guy. I don’t think I can listen to his mewsic too long. His vocals just don’t sit right in my ear. I can see some of those comic looks passed on to Peter Sellars. I don’t know if I would’ve made the connection had you not mentioned it, though. I read the section on the site that told about his life. He was only 56 (that’s how old I am) when he died of a heart attack, the same year I was born. It was sad that his wife passed only months prior to his death but interesting that he was ready to marry so soon after to a gal quite a bit younger which never happened. Thanks for sharing your discovery with me and for hitting the dance floor, my friend. Have an awesome week!

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    1. From what I read, George and Beryl really didn’t get along very well. Here’s what I mean… http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1366310/George-Formbys-misery-hands-frigid-domineering-wife-Beryl.html

      That would explain his abrupt decision to remarry so soon afterwards. I get the impression she wasn’t a very nice person, although I read another article that gives a different impression…. http://georgeformby.org/biography/george-beryl/

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    1. I haven’t seen any of his movies; I don’t know that they’re available in this country. I found a place online that allegedly has them, but it wanted to install a player, and I said “uh, no.” I don’t trust places like that.

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  4. Hi John,
    Thanks for introducing us to George Formby. I quite enjoyed “The Emperor of Lancashire” clip. I’d love to see the whole film and really want to know how the yarn scam ended up (hope that swindler got his in the end!). He’s very likable. And his smile is very catching.
    I also really liked “Mr Wu’s a Window Cleaner Now”.
    Fun stuff! Thanks for sharing…

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. I’ve never seen the movie, so I couldn’t tell you, but given it’s a comedy, he probably did, in the worst way possible.

      Mr. Wu makes a couple of other appearances, “Mr. Wu’s An Air Raid Warden Now” and “Mr. Wu’s in the Air Force Now.” Obviously those were written during World War II.

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  5. I hadn’t heard of George Formby and thank you for the intro; I spent about 30 minutes looking online, watching that BBC segment about him being censored, and even tried to look up the Hitler movie. Interesting talent – one that may not have gotten anywhere in our day and age. Amazing that 100,000 people came to his funeral. Thank you for another out of the ordinary musical Monday.

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    1. George was unique. They broke the mold after him. And you’re right, he would be ignored nowadays. There’s no longer a place for a “cheeky chappie” who plays the ukulele and sings suggestive songs.

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