R. G. KNOWLES
The popular music hall comedian R. G. KNOWLES, billed as The Very Peculiar American” was born Richard George Knowles on 7th October 1858 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
His parents Richard Knowles and Ann Walker (Laird) brought him up in the USA.
When R.G. was only ten years old, his father died and upon leaving school at the age of 12, R.G started work in a general store until finding a job in large department store where he trained to become a chief window dresser.
After being diagnosed with consumption, R.G. left Chicago for Colorado with the hope that his health would improve from the clear mountain air and it was whilst he was there, living in a log cabin with just a donkey for a companion, that he met the local town folk and discovered that he had talent for story-telling.
After a week’s stint in a primitive gambling saloon in Leadville, he knew from that moment on, that a life on the stage was for him.
R.G. made his very first professional vaudeville appearance as a speciality artist at the Olympic Theatre, Chicago in 1878.
His first appearance in New York came a year later in 1879 at the National Theatre, NY and he went on to tour the United States for many years, subsequently touring in the musical comedy “Mam’zelle.”
For a while he appeared with Haverley’s Minstrel troupe and during 1888-89 he appeared with Augustin Daly’s company at Daly’s Theatre, NY appearing in plays like “As You Like It and “A Pair of Jacks.”
R.G Knowles made his first appearance in England at the Trocadero Music Hall on 15 June 1891. He was not an instant success, as the audience was slow to take to his brash America drollery, but after ten minutes or so, he managed to win the audience over and left them applauding for more. R.G. remained at the Trocadero for sixty eight consecutive weeks at the Empire Leicester Square and ten months consecutive weeks at the Tivoli Music Hall, breaking ALL records as a solo artist.
He appeared at Toole’s Theatre on 29th September 1894 as Mr Welland Strong in “A Trip to Chinatown.”
Knowles went on to tour South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Palestine, India, China and Japan.
R.G’s stage appearance was distinctive; a battered top hat, shabby frock coat, white trousers and large boots. His ‘very peculiar’ style of comedy would amounted to a verbal assault on the audience. Describing his style of comedy in his 1916 autobiography R.G. wrote:
I told a joke, and if the audience laughed at it I ridiculed them for being entertained with such consummate ease. If they did not laugh I jeered at their lack of appreciation and inability to observe real humour. When their mirth was not spontaneous I feigned anger at their dilatoriness. Did they anticipate me, I was equally annoyed because they were too quick. Summing up, I pointed out that if they did not laugh, well, they were losing money, on the other hand, if they indulged too hilariously, they were getting more than they were entitled to get so I invited them to go to the box office and pay up the difference.
In 1886 R.G. appeared at Charles Cole’s Parlour Opera House, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
He sang well over fifty songs during his lifetime, his most successful being ‘Girly, Girly’ which was written by fellow vaudevillian Jerry Cohan.
R.G. married the banjo playing vocalist Winifred E. Johnson and made his home in England.
He retired from the stage in October 1918 giving a farewell performance at the Victoria Palace, London and died on 1st January 1919 following a throat operation at the Memorial Hospital, New York.
THE SONGS THAT R.G. KNOWLES SANG:
ADAM MISSED IT
ALL THE GIRLS ARE LOVERLY OVERLY
BANG WENT HIS CHANCES OF PARADISE
THE BREACH OF PROMISE CASE
BRIGHTON (THE BOWERY)
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS UP TO DATE
EVERY LITTLE BIT ADDED TO WHAT YOU'VE GOT MAKES JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE
GET IT OVER!
THE GIRL, THE WOMAN AND THE WIDOW
GOODBYE OMNIBUS: THE TUPPENNY TUBE FOR ME
HEY UP! IT'S COMING
A HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT
THE HOUSE, THE FLAT AND THE BUNGALOW
I COUNTED FORTY FIRST!
IF THATS YOUR GAME, IM GOING
IF YOU WANT TO CHOOSE A WIFE
IN THE BROAD DAYLIGHT
IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT GOTS TO BE DONE
I WANT YOU TO BE MY ONLY ONLY
JUST TO TAKE THE CHILL OFF
LOVE, MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
MAN V WOMAN
OH! DEAR NO
OH THE DAYLIGHT BILL
ONCE UPON A TIME
ONLY TO SEE
ON THE BENCHES IN THE PARK
PERHAPS - P'RAPS NOT!
SILENCE REIGNED SUPREME
SINCE 'TRILBY' CAME TO TOWN
SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT UNSAID
THAT IS LOVE
THERE'S AN EXHIBITION
TIME IS MONEY
A TOUR ROUND LONDON
A TRIP TO PARIS
WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES?