The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook has acquired most of the recordings made by Webster and Anne. Until we come across some of the missing recordings (only about 10 sides to go now) I am creating medleys for the group. Most of them last about half-an-hour and feature AZ-WB recordings and recordings by related artists
I did an interview about Webster and Anne with Clare Marshall on Radio Today on 28 April 2013. You can listen to it here.
The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook has acquired most of the recordings made by Webster and Anne. Until we come across some of the missing recordings (only about 10 sides to go now) I have been creating medleys for the group. Most of them last about half-an-hour and feature AZ-WB recordings and recordings by artists associated with them. Click on the links to listen to them and please let me know what you think of them.
Going through these medleys I see that not many people have listened to them. Although I enjoy compiling the medleys, just as I enjoy listening to them myself, it seems that I am fighting an increasingly losing battle in trying to promote the recordings of Webster, Anne and related artists. I will add more medleys if any interest is shown in the ones I have uploaded here.
Broadcast 4 December 1927 Some of the songs featured – most by Webster Booth, one by Jan Peerce (A Dream) https://clyp.it/a5lii3hg
A Good Friday selection Webster Booth sings “Abide With Me”, two arias from “Messiah” and “There is no Death”. He sang his first Good Friday “Messiah” at the Albert Hall on Good Friday, 10 April 1936https://clyp.it/2pjvsgv3
Four songs for St George’s Day. I Leave My Heart in an English Garden, England, Mother England, There’s a Land, The English Rose. Each song has been shared before.https://clyp.it/2rcg0qyo
Alfredo Campoli and Webster Booth combine in a medley for violin and voice. Tell me tonight/Ah sweet mystery of life https://clyp.it/ssuybzfn
Beneath Her Window – a Serenade Medley Webster Booth (Voice), Herbert Dawson (organ), orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr. Recorded in 1938 HMV C3051 https://clyp.it/5try4jji
July Medley: All the world is waiting for the sunrise (Seitz), played by P. Sears from YouTube, Castles in the air (WB), Dance of the Wooden Dolls, Side by Side (Melville Gideon from the Co-optimists), Always (WB), Poor Butterfly (Hugo Rignold), Drinking song (WB). https://clyp.it/hct1upr2
June medley: Gypsy Moon, Still as the night, Loch Lomond, We’ll Gather Lilacs, Ivor Novello medley, Waltz Medley, ‘Tis the Day, featuring Alfredo Campoli, Anne and Webster, Fred Hartley, Rawicz and Landauer, Kathryn Rudge. https://clyp.it/olllrro1
Medley to celebrate the eightieth wedding anniversary of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler. 5 November 1938 Anniversary Medley
Campoli, Webster Booth, Rawicz and Landauer, Harold Williams, Malcolm McEachern in a selection for December December Medley
A few romantic songs recorded in the 1930s and 1940s sung by Webster Booth. Restored from 78rpm records by Mike Taylor. My Love and I Stand Alone, Pale Moon, Come Back My Love to Me, Sweet Melody of Night. Romantic Songs sung by Webster Booth
Anne and Webster playing with pets, Smokey and Woofenpoof in their garden (1953)
Christmas 2018 medley: When Big Ben Chimes, The Holy City, The Little Road to Bethlehem, Silent Night (with Anne Ziegler), The Star of Bethlehem, O, Come All Ye Faithful. Christmas Medley (2018)
January Medley – 2019: Webster Booth, Alfredo Campoli, and Rawicz and Landauer perform the January medley. Eric Coates selection, Everywhere I go (WB), Poeme (Fibich), Sylvia (WB), Fledermaus (R&L), I Bless the Day (WB) January Medley – 2019
Serenade (Frasquita) WB, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (Japie Human), Just for Today (WB), Fascination (JH), Show Me the Way (WB), Dreaming (Salon Orchestra)
Webster and Japie Human.
My Star (Bassett Silver) BBC Home Service broadcast. My Star (Bassett Silver) sung by Webster Booth on Music Hall (BBC Home Service broadcast) 26 April 1949. https://clyp.it/a5esqa5h
March Medley – Alfredo Campoli, Anne, Webster, Fred Hartley Poupée Valse Alfredo Campoli, Slumber Song (Schumann) AZ, Arioso (Bach) Campoli, I love thee (Grieg) WB, My Star (Bassett Silver) WB, Mystic Beauty (Fred Hartley): https://clyp.it/ezoipuro
Medley featuring Alfredo Campoli, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler. Softly awakes my heart (AC), Bless this house (WB), The Poplar Tree (AZ), Gypsy Moon (AC), You are my heart’s delight (WB), Tell Me Tonight (AC). https://clyp.it/3xfdjwvd
Songs I Like, by Webster Booth. 14 September 1938. Broadcast. Not all the songs from the broadcast have been located. https://clyp.it/zhlyqgut
Morgen (Strauss)/Come into the Garden, Maud (Balfe) Recorded in January 1945 HMV C3418. Webster Booth, accompanied by Ernest Lush and Alfredo Campoli. Both records restored by Mike Taylor. https://clyp.it/2sfecfdh
Song of the Vagabonds (WB), Smilin’ Through (WB), Laat Ons nie van Liefde Weer Praat nie (WB/AZ), Showboat medley (Billy Mayerl), Just a Little Love, a Little Kiss (WB), Shine Through My Dreams, Love is My Reason (WB) https://clyp.it/giydvsrz
April 2019 medley: Scipio march (Mortimer), Let Me Dream in Your Arms Again (WB), Love is My Song (WB), Demande et Reponse (Albert Sandler), Stay with Me Forever (WB) (If You are There) Scottish medley (Debroy Somers) https://clyp.it/4utgof3k
May 2019 Loch Lomond medley (Debroy Somers) Love is the key to all glory (AZ/WB) Greensleeves (WB), Gay Vienna (Robert Naylor) Sweethearts/One Day When We Were Young (WB) Dear Miss Phoebe selection ( Parr-Davies) I am grateful to Mike Taylor for several of these fine restorations. https://clyp.it/yv0yjszk
https://clyp.it/3tt4axbh May 2019 Waltz Time medley (Hans May) Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (1945/1947) Albert Sandler on Violin.
Mid-May Medley: Musette (Hartley), Come Back My Love (WB), Lehar medley (WB/AZ), Pomone Waltz (Albert Sandler), Show Me the Way (WB), Fledermaus fantasy (Rawicz and Landauer)
Leslie Webster Booth was born on 21 January 1902 in a three storey home above his father’s ladies hairdressing business at 157 Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. He was the youngest son of Edwin Booth and his wife Sarah (née Webster) in a family of three sons and three daughters. Edwin was a hairdresser, who had served in the Royal Staffordshire Regiment as a Barber Surgeon. Sarah was from Chilvers Coton, Nuneaton, where her parents and later she and her sister, Hannah, had been handloom silk weavers. Her brother, William Thomas Webster was a partner in Foster and Webster, a successful gentlemen’s outfitters with branches throughout the Midlands. Sarah’s brother eventually left the firm, but it continues to this day under the name of Foster Brothers.
Leslie was the youngest of six children and his eldest sister, Doris, (known as Nellie), played as big a part in his upbringing as his mother. All three sisters doted on their young brother, who, from an early age, possessed a singing voice of outstanding quality. The family held musical evenings at home and delighted in their father’s robust rendition of The Veteran’s Song, while his mother and sisters were moved to tears when young Leslie sang the mournful ballad, Valé in his beautiful treble voice.
At nine years of age Leslie’s voice elevated him from St James’ Church choir in Edwardian Handsworth to the choir stalls of Lincoln Cathedral as a chorister under the direction of Dr George Bennett. Dr Bennett was a fine musician, but a stern taskmaster, who insisted that choristers sang with flat tongues: he was not averse to flattening an errant tongue with his ever-ready broken baton. Just as today’s Cathedral choristers are disciplined hard-working musicians of the highest order, so they were in the first decades of the twentieth century also. Christmas holidays for the choristers commenced only after they had completed the Christmas Eve services to Dr Bennett’s satisfaction.
Lincoln was a good training ground for young Leslie Booth. Although he did not make great progress on the piano and thus did not advance to learning the organ, an instrument he longed to play. The Willis organ at Lincoln Cathedral had been opened in 1898, eleven years before Leslie went to Lincoln, and is still considered as one of the finest organs in England. Leslie did, however, learn to sight-read vocal lines with ease. This ability stood him in good stead as a professional singer, especially at recording sessions.
When he went to HMV studios for a recording session he would be given six to eight songs to record at a time. These he would sight-read and record in one or two takes. After the session the songs would soon be forgotten: a different approach to recording from today’s pop singers who seem to spend months recording their new “album”! Years later, people often appeared before him clutching one of his old records, assuring him of their great attachment to the particular song, but he often had no recollection of making it in the first place.
After his voice broke at the age of thirteen, he returned to the family home in Birmingham to study accountancy at Aston Commercial School. He was set for the steady job of accountant like Uncle Jim, his father’s brother, but at fifteen, when his voice had settled, he began his vocal studies as a tenor with Dr Richard Wassall, the musical director at the Midland Institute in Birmingham. Leslie was an avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion football team and was goalie in the Aston Commercial School team. He was a promising enough goalie to be offered a place with the Aston Villa Colts, but this idea did not meet with his headmaster’s approval. Despite his accountancy studies, he secretly dreamed of the more glamorous callings of football and singing. Luckily for the world, singing eventually won.
With his great natural vocal gifts, his striking good looks and winning personality, performing came easily to him. He sang duets with Uncle Jim’s daughter, his cousin Lily Booth, a promising mezzo-soprano, and soon he was also singing at concerts and oratorio performances all over the Midlands and Wales. By this time he was a tall, imposing young man, who realised that appearance and stage presence were nearly as important to a professional singer as an exceptional voice. Although he had perfect diction in song, he felt it necessary to take elocution lessons with the Shakespearian actor Sir Robert Atkins, the founder of the Open Air Theatre at Regents Park, to smooth the Brummy intonation from his speech.
His adult voice was a distinctive lyric tenor, with an exceptionally wide range and a baritonal quality on the lower notes. His diction was clear and lacked the idiosyncratic pronunciation and bleating quality of many of his contemporaries, which marked them as refined English singers, not quite able to compete with their more virile Italian and German counterparts. In my opinion, Heddle Nash and David Lloyd were the only two British tenors of Webster Booth’s generation who had comparable voices.
At twenty-one, Leslie auditioned for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and was immediately accepted after a London audition. Although he had been doing well in accountancy, he abandoned his job with little regret to become a professional singer, making his debut with the company in The Yeomen of the Guard at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 9 September 1923. He stayed with the company for four years, but made no great advancement from the chorus and small parts. In Duet, his joint autobiography, with Anne Ziegler, he complained that the only way one could advance in the company was to wait to fill “dead men’s shoes”. Despite this observation, he was one of the few singers allowed to record individual songs from the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire without the prior approval of the D’Oyly Carte family.
His recordings of Take a pair of sparkling eyes and A Wand’ring Minstrel under the baton of the gifted conductor Leslie Heward, who died tragically young, remain unsurpassed and are now available on CD. He went with the D’Oyly Carte Company on a memorable and successful tour of Canada. Winifred Lawson, the principal soprano, heard him singing Your Tiny Hand is Frozen from La Bohème at the ship’s concert and was deeply impressed with the beauty of his voice. She was not surprised when he left the company soon after its return to England, to eventually become a deserved success in his own right.
In 1924 he had married Winifred Keey, the daughter of Edgar Keey, his headmaster at Aston Commercial School. Winifred borrowed £100 from a relative, with no intention of repaying it, and used the money to follow Leslie to London against her parents’ wishes, or possibly without their knowledge. They might have approved of the match had Leslie remained a respectable accountant like his elder brother, Norman, but they were against her taking up with a chorus boy in the D’Oyly Carte. Her family would have no more to do with her, annoyed at her, partly because of her defiance of their wishes and partly because she had borrowed such a large sum of money under false pretences from a member of the family. Because they disowned her they never knew that she and Leslie had married or that she gave birth to a son and imagined that she and Leslie were living together in sin.
Winifred and Leslie’s son, Keith was born the year after their marriage on 12 June 1925, and his birth was registered in Birmingham North. Leslie was on tour for fifty weeks of the year and Winifred, left alone with her small son, was estranged from her parents although living in the suburb of Moseley in the same city. After several years she suddenly deserted Leslie and his son. He had suspicions that all was not well at home when he came home from a tour with D’Oyly Carte to find Keith sitting by himself on the doorstep. Winifred had left her small son to his own devices while she went dancing.
Leslie searched for Winifred in every town where he was singing, but despite his desperate attempts to trace her, he never found her, and eventually divorced her in 1931, citing Trevor Davey as co-respondent. Leslie was granted custody of Keith, who never saw his mother again after his sixth birthday.
After the stability of a regular – if small – salary from D’Oyly Carte, he was now a freelance performer with a small son to support and no regular money to his name. In the D’Oyly Carte Company he was known as Leslie W. Booth, but now he adopted his middle name, and became Webster Booth on stage, although his family and close friends continued to call him Leslie for the rest of his life. One of his boyhood nicknames was Jammy and he once signed a photograph “Yours sincerely, Kingy“!
During this precarious period of his life before he achieved fame and stability in the profession, Webster joined Tom Howell’s Opieros, a concert party with a difference, as some of its members sang operatic excerpts while others were comedians and light entertainers found in the usual concert party. Tom Howell was a baritone from Swansea and he and Webster often sang duets together in the shows. For several years Webster toured all over the country with the Opieros during the summer season, performing on piers and in municipal parks. H Baynton-Power was the Opieros’ excellent accompanist.
In winter Webster sang in cabaret at various large Lyons’ restaurants and cafés, at many Masonic concerts and staff dinners, often with the pianist Gladys Vernon as his accompanist. Gladys Vernon was to marry another well-known tenor, Walter Midgeley.
During the winter seasons of 1927 and 1928, he and Tom Howell appeared in Fred Melville pantomimes at Brixton. The first pantomime in 1927 was St George and the Dragon. St George was played by principal boy, Vera Wright, while Webster played King Arthur. 1928’s pantomime at the Brixton Theatre was a freely adapted version of Babes in the Wood. Once again Vera Wright played principal boy, this time in the role of Robin Hood.
Webster made his West End debut as the Duke of Buckingham in Rudolph Friml’s The Three Musketeers at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1930. The leading role of D’Artagnan was taken by Dennis King, an actor and singer Webster greatly admired for his great energy. Other distinguished cast members were Lilian Davies, Marie Ney, Adrienne Brune and Raymond Newell. Unfortunately, Webster could only appear in this show for three months as he had already signed a contract for a Blackpool summer show for Ernest Butcher. Despite Sir Alfred Butt’s best efforts to get him released from this contract, Ernest Butcher would not budge. Webster’s part was taken over by the well-known Yorkshire tenor, Robert Naylor. When Webster set off sadly and reluctantly to fulfill his engagement on the Central Pier, Blackpool, his one consolation was that he could continue singing Queen of My Heart, one of the hits from The Three Musketeers with which he had scored such a success on the West End.
Webster met his second wife, Dorothy Annie Alice Prior (stage name Paddy Prior) in the early nineteen-thirties. He was singing One Alone at a Concert Artistes Association concert and happened to notice her sitting in the audience. Paddy Prior was born in Fulham in 1905, the daughter of Hubert Prior, an ironmonger, and his wife, Annie Jane (née Henderson). Paddy went on the professional stage while still in her teens. She was a light comedienne, dancer, and a soubrette with a charming mezzo-soprano voice and appeared on television in its early days in The Ridgeway Revue with Philip Ridgeway and Hermione Gingold. By the time she met Webster she was a veteran of many concert parties, musicals and pantomimes, and always received good reviews for her work. Despite her talent she had periods of unemployment and placed occasional advertisements in The Stage, such as this one in April 1926, which read as follows:
In 1931 Webster divorced Winifred, citing her affair with Trevor Davey and on 10 October 1932, he married Paddy at Fulham Registry Office, where he had married Winifred Keey in 1924. Around the same time, Winifred married James L. Haig at the Lambeth Registry Office. Webster and Paddy went to Newquay for their honeymoon.
Webster sang for several seasons in Papa Pinder’s Sunshine concert party at the Sunshine Theatre, Shanklin on the Isle of Wight.
In 1933 he and Paddy appeared together for the summer season in The Piccadilly Revels Concert Party at Scarborough. The following year, Webster managed to arrange for Paddy to obtain an engagement with him in the Sunshine show. Appearing on the same bill with them was Arthur Askey, and he and Webster became great friends. After hearing Webster sing To Anthea by J L Hatton at one of the shows, the Askeys decided to name their baby daughter Anthea…