A HIDDEN ARCHIVE, REDISCOVERED
Welcome to this website, which celebrates the life and career of the great ukulele-playing entertainer and film star, George Formby. Much of the material on this website is being released for the first time, coming from previously unpublished primary sources: interviews with Formby’s colleagues, plus five hours of recorded interviews with Eliza Formby – Formby’s mother, and widow of the great music hall star George Formby Senior – which were made between 1962-67 and have never before been made public.
WHAT’S ON THE SITE
For those wanting to read George’s life story, there is a short biography, divided into sections. Please take the time to read the story of his father’s life too, there is much new information about him on this site, most significantly his bigamy, which seems to have been kept quiet for 112 years, until reading between the lines of various documents led to a fascinating story. There is less newsworthy, but equally interesting information relating to old George Senior – his reunion with his mother, and a harrowing account of his final days in February 1921.
Formby Senior’s act was, by all accounts, subtle and delicate, with a sad beauty and dark shading entirely lacking in his son’s work – there, all is poster colours and bright lights, saucy words and knowing winks. But they are perhaps two sides of the same Lancashire coin, giants as artists, and perhaps even greater as men, both showing superhuman endurance and courage in their often difficult lives.
There is the the definitive chronological list of George Formby’s recorded works, and the individual film sections will be expanded to include contemporary reviews and photographs.
For those interested, there is a short section on the background to the project, which also gives details of the main sources used.
There are also a significant amount of original news cuttings, trade reviews, recording session details, interviews and photographs which will be posted on the site over the coming months, again, much of which has never before been released. Much of this material was part of the collected archive of Decca record producer and George Formby aficionado Kevin Daly. His almost fifty-year-old tapes, found buried in cardboard boxes have been newly transferred and remastered; hundreds of photographs have been scanned, a ton of typed-up and hand-written (and often scribbled) notes have been deciphered, and on these sources the text of this website has been based. It is an attempt – in a multi-media way – to tell the life stories of the two great George Formbys, father and son, based as far as possible on these primary sources.
Many, many thanks to airbrush legend Philip Castle who painted the wonderful header image especially for the site.
It is interesting, when quoting sums of money from the past, to have an idea what they equate to now; this is a difficult task, and no method is fool-proof. After various words of advice, We have chosen to use the Retail Price Index, which gives a conservative estimate. It shows for instance that at the end of his life, Formby Senior was earning the equivalent of £14,000 per week, and Formby Junior’s Columbia film contract was worth, in today’s money, £18m.
All material on this site is under copyright unless otherwise stated. If you wish to quote from the text, or use it as a reference, please make sure you credit us (georgeformby.org), and email us to inform us where it’s being used. If you wish to reproduce any photographs, again, please contact us.
It is very satisfying to see this material – much of it the result of Kevin Daly’s many years of dedication to the Formby cause – making its way slowly into the world. He had a generous spirit, and would have been thrilled to see his work made freely available on the Internet – something he never lived to experience himself. With that in mind, we hope it is received in a similar spirit of good will.