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 Much of the material on this website is being released for the first time, coming from previously unpublished primary sources: interviews with Formby’s colleagues, plus five hours of recorded interviews with Eliza Formby – Formby’s mother, and widow of the great music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

George in gymnastic pose from the poster of his 1938 film, 'Keep Fit'

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.


GENERAL INFORMATION

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.

Comments

  1. wayne enticott says

    I;ve been a g//f fan since going to the Isle of Man T.T. in 1998.This site & info on U tube is fantastic.Would like to know what the book’”Troubled Genius”; is like????? Kind regards Wayne.

    • Lloyd Crowley says

      Hi Wayne, I am currently writing about George Formby for my dissertation, and am using Troubled Genius. It is a really great book that reveals a lot about Formby that people may not know. It is a little hard to come by, I suggest searching for it on bookfinder.com, thats how i found mine. Good luck :)

  2. says

    Just to let you know that my new book, “Ukulele Heroes” is published in July by Hal Leonard Books in both the USA ad in Britain. Michael–you were a great help in providing us with pictures of George and fact-checking my Formby chapter. I want to send you a copy but have no street address for you. Please let me know it–at ianwhitcomb1@aol.com. You might also enjoy our promo film–it’s on YouTube under “Ukulele Heroes”.
    Best, Ian Whitcomb

    • MARGARET SPARKS says

      Did your research reveal who the “other boy” was in the Glenray Brothers? It seems to be a mystery.

      Thanks,

      Margaret

      • Michael Daly says

        Hi Margaret, I’ve been in touch with the author of the recent Formby biography, Sue Smart; there are several versions of the Brothers Glenray story, and one version has the young James meeting one Barney Parsons, ‘and acted as the feed in his act’ as the book says. Together they became known initially as The Songbirds of the Music Halls, and were managed by a Mr. Brown. Whether this is the true version of events will probably never be known. At least you have a name, and there is some chance it is the ‘other boy’. Hope that helps.

        Best regards,

        Michael

  3. says

    Absolutely love this site and have been telling folk about it!

    Neil here from Wigan – uke player and George Fan, also co-runner of the “George Formby Film Club” (our first showing is “No Limit” on thursday in Wigan!

    Again – great site, loads of info. and very well put together!

    Regards!

    Neil.

  4. says

    Hi Michael
    I knew your dad in the 1960′s and we became close friends in the GFS. The society owes Kevin an awful lot and I treasure my memories of him. I Amos pleased that you are continuing his love for George Formby. He would be proud of you. Congratulations on your web site and if I can be of any help then please let me know.
    John Walley
    Founder and Honorary member GFS

    • Michael Daly says

      Thanks for your kind words, John, they are much appreciated. Likewise, I am more than happy to share any material I have with you and the GFS.

  5. A Richardson says

    hi reg i still think of you when i go to kevins , hope you are keeping well ? i am still in gloucester. it would be nice to meet you again . regards alan

    • Reg Thacker says

      Hi Alan Thanks for your reply, nice to hear from you. Like you, always thinking of the times we had together,You and Kevin coming along to my home and going to the theatre to see Alan Randall who sadly is not with us any longer. Alan, kindly forward me details of your phone number via my Email address which is: footydad@live.co.uk then we can talk and arrange a meeting. I’m now going to reply to Kevin and ask the same.
      Take Care Alan. Kindest Regards. Reg Thacker.

  6. donald kirkbride says

    as a ps to my previous post i meant to say that georges sister appeared at the broadway theatre in arthurstone terrace dundee when she was in hughie greens gang

  7. donald kirkbride says

    when i did my scotvec library and information science qualification many years ago one of the modules was a local history investigation and because of my interest in cinemas and theatres researched the history of the kings and hippodrome theatre 27 cowgate dundee.
    the theatre opened in march 1909 and was opened by lady dunedin of strathmore
    as i delved further into its history as i was covering its full life until its closing in 1981 when it was an oden cinems i discovered that george formby senior appeared there in 1920 i cant recall the exact month but think it was about a year before his death on 8 feb 1921
    i also found while going through newspapers that georges sister was a member of the hughie green gang and is listed in the advert as playing the ukelele this was around 1932
    iam now curious as to whether george jnr ever appeared at any scottish theatres or were his appearance confined to england and abroad
    i watched the george formby programme on bbc4 tonight and found it very interesting but they didnt put up a titles of films of early george formby films and was also the first time i had seen george playing and singing leaning on a lamppost and also the clip from keep your seats please which ive never seen as i dont think its ever been shown on tv
    it has also been a long number of years since george formby films have been shown on tv and think this is a shame
    i look forward to any of the info i have enquired about

    • Dave Barwick says

      Donald, I agree it is a pity that George’s films are rearely on TV (and when they are they are the same ones), but at least they are available on DVD except for Feather Your Nest – which I understand there are some copyright issues on.

  8. says

    Dear Michael,
    One other question: my uncle co-wrote “John Willie’s Jazz Band” but was it written for George Senior? Seem to be a follow-up to Willie’s Ragtime Band of 1914. By the way, the early Junior recordings sound acoustic which is odd because electric recording had arrived in 1925.
    Tunefully,
    Ian Whitcomb

  9. says

    Dear Michael,
    I wrote to you at another part of this site. Just to say that this is a great site, that I recorded an LP with your father at Argo, that I have adored GF since the mid-1950s, that I have been recording with my ukes an banjo-ukes for decades, and that my uncle Stanley Damerell co-wrote several of GF’s early songs. I’m in the middle of writing a book called “Ukulele Heroes” for Hal Leonard Publications. Hardly a soul here in America knows or cares about GF but we are trying to propagate. And finally–who really wrote “All Going Back”?
    Tunefully,
    Ian Whitcomb

  10. says

    Thanks for the reply Michael and yes, it would be an honour to be linked to this site. I was with Pasadena RO just last week in fact in Zürich.I have loads of LPs your Dad put together and they shaped my career in music…so…thanks Mr. Daly!
    all the best,
    Sean.

  11. says

    Michael, this is a brilliant bit of work and opens up many otherwise hidden facets of George’s life. Thanks so very much for all your hard work.
    Sean Moyses.

    • Michael Daly says

      Thanks so much Sean. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. I guess you must be a fellow Frank Crumit and Cliff Edwards fan! I see you used to play with the Pasadena RO – I think my father produced something of theirs, together with EMI’s Chris Ellis. Did you know him? I’ll put a link to your site on the Links page if you’d like.
      Michael

      • Margaret Sparks says

        Why is the other half of The Brothers Glenray always referred to as “another boy”? Doesn’t anyone know who he was?
        This is bugging me!
        Regards, Margaret

  12. Randy Skretvedt says

    This California-based Formby fan thanks you profusely, Michael. I’m also an admirer of your dad’s work, having many of the reissue LPs he produced for Living Era and other labels. I look forward to exploring this site and learning more about the Formby family.

    • Michael Daly says

      Thanks very much Randy, and nice to know you’re an admirer of my father’s work. I put together a website about him, including Decca, Argo Living Era, and Conifer discographies: http://www.kevindaly.org.uk
      Keep coming back, I’ll be adding new stuff. Michael

  13. says

    Michael -
    I discovered your website today, and promptly dropped what I was doing to read it from end to end.
    Having spent much of my life researching both George Formbys, I have to say that this site ranks amongst the most exciting publications ever for Formby fans, right up there with the all too few decent books, TV and radio documentaries…
    I will be adding it to my links page straightaway, and look forward to more info as it is added.
    A superb piece of work – thanks for producing it.
    Yours – Andy

    • Michael Daly says

      Andy – thank you so much for your comment. Coming from such an esteemed Formby aficionado, it’s a compliment I really value. I hoped that true Formby fans would enjoy the material I’m posting, so it’s gratifying to hear such appreciative words. Thanks again.

    • Reg Thacker says

      Hello Alan. It’s Reg Thacker here, do you remember me?. You and Kevin Bridgewater used to visit me at my home in Edgbaston, do you remember the night we went and saw Alan Randall in Cannock in his George Formby show?. Was browsing through here and came across your name and was wondering if you were the same person I used to know?!
      It’s been more than 10 years since I last saw you, get intouch if you can it would be nice to hear from you. Still a George Formby fan. Take Care Reg

        • Reg Thacker says

          Hi Kevin, How nice to hear from you after all these years,I often think of you and Alan,who I have just replied to. If you forward your reply to my Email address which is: footydad@live.co.uk with a phone number,I’ll ring so we can chat and perhaps meet up once more.
          Thanks for getting in touch.
          Take Care Kindest Regards. Reg Thacker

  14. A Richardson says

    what can i say , a very good site with a lot of information . i spent many hours at the news paper library , looking for the formby`s , and here thanks for the internet we can find sites like yours . many thank , alan

    • Michael Daly says

      Thanks Alan, I appreciate your comments. Re a George Formby Senior book in your previous comment: I hear rumours of a new biography coming out about both GFs later this year. I became captivated by GF1 as I worked on the site. listened to many of his recordings and read contemporary reviews. Listening to his widow talking to my father about their life together was the highlight of the research for me personally. I will be posting more material on GF1 very soon.

  15. James says

    Hello – I’m not the usual GF fan (he having died 30 years before i was born) but i love the music and was wondering if anyone knew of any impersonators, etc that may appear in London or surrounding areas in the future? Many thanks – James

  16. TREVOR WESTON says

    Good luck with the website Michael, what I’ve seen so far has made for interesting reading. I met your dad quite a few years ago when the National Film Theatre was showing Keep Your Seats Please. He already knew my father in law Alex Barrett who I see has left a comment as well

  17. says

    I forgot to mention you might like to consider adding a forum to the website so us Formby fans could chat and exchange information. Also, perhaps a free membership registration for the website allowing users to sign up for newsletters etc.

    • Michael Daly says

      Hi Mark, thanks for your kind words. I loved your tweet re No Limit – George Formby as ‘unlikely posh babe magnet’ – brilliant. My favourite, and surreal, film babe moment is I think in I See Ice, with Kay Walsh munching on a pig’s trotter; well, it could happen…

  18. Theo says

    I look forward to seeing more. Well done Michael. Your father sounds like a great chap – I loved his story of how he came to appreciate George. Glad you provided your collection for the JSP sets!

    • Michael Daly says

      Cheers Theo. I will be posting more soon. I’d like to get the Decca recording session sheets up in large format soon, they are very interesting. Do you know, I found that story of how dad encountered George scribbled in the back of one of his many notebooks. I’m even finding out things about him I didn’t know before!

  19. Alex Barrett says

    Hi Michael,
    Kevin would be proud of your site,and nice to see Peter helped I have Kevin with John Guy on old reel tapes ( good queen Elizabeth etc ) somewhere, he was a good friend and source of information to me back in the early 60s.
    Good Luck with the site. Alex

    • Michael Daly says

      Thanks so much Peter, your recent support and generosity have made all the difference. It’s hard starting a new GF site when there’s already an excellent one online (thanks to your good self). Here’s to George and the GFS!

  20. Steve Evans says

    Ive just taken a quick look at this site. As an avid George Formby fan I cant wait to see the site grow. Good luck with this site.

    Regards

    Steve

  21. John Bramall says

    Kevin,

    This looks very interesting. We are just off to Germany for the weekend so time is a bit short at the moment. I will have a leisurely look next week. Being a George Formby fan, this should be great fun.

    best wishes

    John

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