OK, listening to a bloke singing George Formby songs is not most people under 60’s idea of an evening out. (And not mine either, I should add quickly, oh the stories I could tell you…)
But one of the more striking performances I watched at Green Man last week, was a feller I’d not heard of called Benjamin Weatherill, who seemed to specialise in reclaiming old music hall songs. By the time I got round to the Green Man Café stage, he’d already started his set, and I was struck by this very tall chap in a white shirt and tie playing a guitar which he quickly switched for a ukulele. He had a distinctive unsteady delivery and it had the effect of making his songs sound rather moving.
And yes, he was singing a George Formby song but because he had no cheeky-chappy-type style, it made what I’d always thought was quite a cheesy song sound rather simple and innocent. At a number of places he whistled accompaniment, too.
(I realise I’m not making this sound any better, but stick with me on this; he was really impressive.)
He has a website with a number of demos (here) and a number of proper releases available, plus a couple of videos. The songs sampled there are mixture of traditional folk songs and rescued music hall songs. To be honest none of these recordings really quite do him justice, and I would urge you to try and see him if he plays somewhere nearby (he seems to base himself around the North of England - unfortunately for me).
Both of the tracks I’m posting are (I believe) George Formby songs, the second of which is a short video, but there are a few others for the taking from his site...
I haven’t told her
Leaning on a lamp post