Bert Lee

Last updated

Bert Lee
Birth nameWilliam Herbert Lee
Born(1880-06-11)11 June 1880
Ravensthorpe, Yorkshire, England
Died23 January 1946(1946-01-23) (aged 65)
Llandudno, Caernarfonshire, Wales
Genres Music hall
Years active1910–c.1940

William Herbert Lee (11 June 1880 – 23 January 1946) was an English songwriter. He wrote for music hall and the musical stage, often in partnership with R. P. Weston.


Life and career

Lee was born in Ravensthorpe, Yorkshire, England. [1] [2] He played organ in his local chapel as a child, and initially worked as a piano tuner in Manchester, before joining a travelling concert party as a pianist. [3] [4] His first successful song as a writer was "Joshu-ah!", co-written with George Arthurs and performed by Clarice Mayne in 1910. He found further success in 1913 with "Hello! Hello! Who's Your Lady Friend?", written with Worton David and the song's performer, Harry Fragson. [4]

In 1915, music publisher David Day, of Francis, Day and Hunter, introduced Lee to R. P. Weston, the collaborator with whom Lee had the most lasting relationship. [1] They immediately found success together with "Lloyd George's Beer Song" (1915), "Good-bye-ee!" (1917, made popular by Florrie Forde), [1] and "Paddy McGinty's Goat", revived by Val Doonican in 1964. They worked together over the next twenty years on some 3000 songs and monologues, 75 stage shows and musicals, and 17 films, as well as for pantomimes and radio shows. [4] As well as songs for revues, notably those produced by Lupino Lane, they wrote sketches for such stars as Fred Karno, Robb Wilton and Wee Georgie Wood. [4] Their collaborations were conducted in Weston's house in Twickenham. They kept office hours, met every day and aimed to write at least one song each day. [5] Both Lee and Weston wrote both words and music, [4] but according to Lee: "Bob [Weston] has the brains. I put the laughs in." [1] [6]

In the 1920s, Weston and Lee wrote for many theatre productions, and adapted many American productions for the British stage. In 1926, they started working with theatre producers Jack Waller and Joe Tunbridge, and wrote several musical comedies together, mostly featuring the comedian Bobby Howes. They also worked with Gracie Fields and the Crazy Gang. They wrote the popular monologue "My Word, You Do Look Queer", first recorded by Ernest Hastings in 1922 and later popularised by Stanley Holloway. [4] Weston and Lee wrote several of Holloway's monologues in the 1930s. Together with Weston's son Harris Weston (born Robert Edgar Harris, 1901–1978), [7] they wrote Holloway's 1934 monologue "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm", about the ghost of Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London, seeking revenge on Henry VIII for having her beheaded. [1] [8]

The duo also wrote music for film, including the book and lyrics for O-kay for Sound, a 1937 film. [9] Much of their music was written specifically for actors Sydney Howard and Stanley Holloway, both noted comedians of the 1920s and 1930s. These included "Splinters in the Air" for Howard and "Squibs" for Holloway. [10] Among Lee's most enduring tunes is "Knees Up Mother Brown", which is traditionally associated with Cockney culture. This was written in 1938 in collaboration with R. P. Weston's son, Harris Weston. In 1938, Lee and Harris Weston co-wrote the hit stage revue These Foolish Things which starred The Crazy Gang and the Sherman Fisher Girls. The same year Lee contributed to the musical The Fleet's Lit Up .

In 1939, Lee and his wife went on holiday to Llandudno in north Wales, and at the outbreak of the Second World War decided to settle in the town. [3] He died there in January 1946, aged 65. [11]

Select filmography (as writer)

Selected stage works

Songs (partial list)

Related Research Articles

Stanley Holloway British actor, singer and comedian

Stanley Augustus Holloway was an English actor, comedian, singer and monologist. He was famous for his comic and character roles on stage and screen, especially that of Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady. He was also renowned for his comic monologues and songs, which he performed and recorded throughout most of his 70-year career.

1917 in music Overview of the events of 1917 in music

This is a list of notable events in music that took place in the year 1917.

Music hall Type of British theatrical entertainment popular between 1850 and 1960

Music hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment that was popular from the early Victorian era, beginning around 1850. It faded away after 1918 as the halls rebranded their entertainment as variety. Perceptions of a distinction in Britain between bold and scandalous Victorian Music Hall and subsequent, more respectable Variety differ. Music hall involved a mixture of popular songs, comedy, speciality acts, and variety entertainment. The term is derived from a type of theatre or venue in which such entertainment took place. In North America vaudeville was in some ways analogous to British music hall, featuring rousing songs and comic acts.

Harry Warren American composer and lyricist (1893–1981)

Harry Warren was an American composer and lyricist. Warren was the first major American songwriter to write primarily for film. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing "Lullaby of Broadway", "You'll Never Know" and "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe". He wrote the music for the first blockbuster film musical, 42nd Street, choreographed by Busby Berkeley, with whom he would collaborate on many musical films.

Alex James (footballer) Scottish footballer

Alexander Wilson James was a Scottish international footballer. He is mostly noted as a playmaking lynchpin at Arsenal with whom he won six trophies from 1930 to the 1936 season. James featured as a deep-lying creative midfielder who provided a link between defence and attack. He was famed for his high level of footballing intelligence, outstanding ball control and supreme passing.

Billy Bennett (comedian)

William Robertson Russell Bennett DCM MM was a British comedian who specialised in parodies of dramatic monologues and was billed as "Almost a Gentleman".

Sam M. Lewis Musical artist

Sam M. Lewis was an American singer and lyricist.

Robert Patrick Weston was an English songwriter. He was responsible for many successful songs and comic monologues between the 1900s and 1930s, mostly written in collaboration with other writers, notably Fred J. Barnes and Bert Lee, and performed successfully by Harry Champion, Stanley Holloway, and Gracie Fields, among others.

"With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm" is a darkly humorous song, written in 1934 with lyrics by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee and music by Harris Weston. It was originally performed by Stanley Holloway. It tells of how the ghost of Anne Boleyn haunts the Tower of London, seeking revenge on Henry VIII for having her beheaded.

Charles William Murphy was a prolific British composer of music hall and musical theatre tunes.

Music hall songs were sung in the music halls by a variety of artistes. Most of them were comic in nature. There are a very large number of music hall songs, and most of them have been forgotten. In London between 1900 and 1910, a single publishing company, Francis, Day and Hunter, published between forty and fifty songs a month.

<i>Sold Out</i> (The Kingston Trio album) 1960 studio album by The Kingston Trio

Sold Out is an album by American folk music group the Kingston Trio, released in 1960. It was their third LP to reach #1, stayed there for twelve weeks, and received an RIAA gold certification the same year. "El Matador" b/w "Home From the Hill" was its lead-off single, though it just made the Top 40. Sold Out remained in the Top 40 for 54 weeks, longer than any other Trio album.

<i>Havin a Ball at the Village Gate</i> 1963 live album by Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan

Havin' a Ball at the Village Gate is the last album by the reformed jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, of Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks with Yolande Bavan. The group was formed after Annie Ross left the vocal group in 1962. The album was recorded live at the Village Gate club in New York City on December 20 and 21, 1963.

George Barbier (actor) American actor

George W. Barbier was an American stage and film actor who appeared in 88 films.

This is a summary of 1934 in music in the United Kingdom.

Ernest Worton David was an English songwriter and music publisher.

He Wanted Adventure is a 1933 musical by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee. Music was written by Jack Waller and Joseph Tunbridge, with additional lyrics provided by Clifford Grey. It is based on Walter C. Hackett's 1921 hit play Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure.

Ernest Hastings

Ernest Walter Hastings was an English singer, pianist, composer and performer of comic monologues. He was popular from the 1900s to the 1930s, when he was described as "England's Greatest Entertainer at the Piano".

My Word, You Do Look Queer 2021 song by Ernest Hastings

"My Word, You Do Look Queer" is a comic monologue written by Bert Lee and R. P. Weston. It was first performed and recorded in 1922 by English entertainer Ernest Hastings, and revived by Stanley Holloway who recorded it in 1938 and again in 1959.

Hello! Hello! Whos Your Lady Friend?

"Hello! Hello! Who's Your Lady Friend?" is an English music hall song from 1913, with music by Harry Fragson and words by Worton David and Bert Lee.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Richard Anthony Baker, British Music Hall: an illustrated history, Pen & Sword, 2014, ISBN   978-1-78383-118-0, pp.145–146
  2. "Bert Lee". IMDb. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  3. 1 2 Roy Hudd, "R. P. Weston and Bert Lee, 'A Song a Day'", Theatrephile, vol. 2 no.6, 1985, pp.55–58
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 White, Mark (1983). "You Must Remember This...": Popular Songwriters 1900–1980. London: Frederick Warne. pp. 238–242. ISBN   0-7232-3177-X.
  5. Russell, Dave. Popular Music in England, 1840–1914: A Social History, Manchester University Press, 1997, p 109. ISBN   0-7190-5261-0
  6. "Weston and Lee", Folk Song and Music Hall. Retrieved 15 January 2021
  7. Harris, World Composers. Retrieved 16 January 2021
  8. With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm Archived 4 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. "BFI Screenonline: O-Kay For Sound (1937)". Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  10. Halliwell, Leslie. Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies, 15th edition, HarperCollins, 2003. ISBN   0-06-053423-0
  11. "Music Hall and Variety Artistes Burial Places". Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  12. 1 2 Parker, Bernard S. (2007). World War I Sheet Music – Volume 1. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 53. ISBN   978-0-7864-2798-7.