“Of the stars of music hall’s heyday, less has probably been written about Gus Elen than any other. Peter Norris, a relative of the famous performer has now researched at length the public and private personality, to at last give us what has before been so elusive; the real Gus Elen.The narrative eloquently weaves Elen into the developing music hall and provides a unique commentary on how his songs reflected aspects of the wider Victorian and Edwardian society. In much more than a well-crafted ‘rags to riches’ story, Norris explodes myths, and offers thoughtful opinion on his subject, that is illustrated with many previously unpublished images. This vastly entertaining book has been well worth waiting for.”
Max Tyler. Historian. British Music Hall Society (May 2014)
“Earnest students are often a little too ready to brand old time music hall material as ‘social comment’. But when we turn to Gus Elen we need have no misgivings. If any music hall artist is to be associated with the notion of ‘social comment’ it must be Gus Elen in that all his many songs exactly picture a certain type in a certain place at a certain time.
A warm welcome, then, to Peter Norris’s detailed study of the life and particularly the work of Gus Elen, along with a CD with twenty five of the great performer’s songs as a pleasing extra. It is a necessary as well as informative text, a full and well-written account that will most likely come to be accepted as the standard work on this important theatrical figure.
…it is essential this thoughtful scrutiny endures as a major contribution to music hall history. Its central thread, lucidly delineating and thoughtfully analysing the Gus Elen canon, is quite masterly and deserving of the utmost praise.”
Eric Midwinter. MA. DPhil. OBE. (The Call Boy, Summer 2014, Vol.51 – No.2)
I was born, and grew up in Watford, where I attended Knutsford Primary School and Watford Grammar School for Boys.
My aspiration to become a jounalist was cast aside when I realised how long it would be before the columns of the most respected national newspapers were filled with my efforts. Instead, I began my working life in the building industry, and largely, in one form or another, this held my attention thereafter in various parts of the country. I now live in Lincolnshire.
Shortly before her death, my mother revealed that a close relative had been a music hall star. Reflecting upon that revelation, it seems more like a guilty confession than a proud statement, but the seed was sown. Five years after making time for research, the story was completed. I hope you will choose to share my passion for A Cockney at Work.
The Gus Elen Archive CD
So that the reader can better appreciate Gus Elen’s incomparable performances, a CD of his original recordings has been produced to accompany the book, with twenty-six tracks arranged in the same order as they are referred to in the story.
The CD is an integral element, and will be included with book orders from this website, for UK delivery. For other delivery options, and to order the CD separately, please refer to the website’s ‘Buy’ page.