Relative of Gus Elen - the story....
Researching your family tree sometimes releases skeletons from cupboards, or sometimes reveals a villain or hero from the past, but rarely does it lead to the publication of an acclaimed book.
Peter Norris is known to many in Burgh as the predecessor to the current Clerk to the Town Council, and his book evolved from a chance remark made by his mother, shortly before her death.
“You know one of your relatives was the music hall star, Gus Elen” was all that was said, and at the time the matter was not pursued. (Incidentally, 'Elen' is pronounced 'Eelen') A few years later however, with a little more time available, Peter was able to find out that indeed Gus Elen was a big star, at the peak of his forty-year singing career in the late 1800s. It also became clear that no substantial work on the performer's life had been undertaken, despite his popularity, and contribution to music hall history. So began five years of research and writing.
“I was fortunate enough to acquire Gus Elen's own press cuttings books, and to have the support of the British Music Hall Society
but as well as tracing genealogy on the internet, many days of research in London were also necessary”,
Peter explained. “I wanted not only to produce a biography, but to ensure that readers could understand the music hall world in which Gus Elen performed, and that they could appreciate his comic songs, and the characters of London's east end, that he famously portrayed. The result is an illustrated 450 page hardback book including a specially produced CD of the artiste's original recordings, with the tracks arranged in the order that they are dealt with in the story.
"A Cockney at Work. The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs" can be bought from the author's website,www.guselen.co.uk, where more details and reviews can be found.
For anyone living in, or near Burgh Le Marsh, Peter has agreed to deliver the book and CD to them, for just £25, a saving of £5 on the internet price. Just phone Peter on 01754 890499.
But the story doesn't end there.
I spoke to Peter as he was in the midst of producing a Gus Elen show, to be held at The Southview Park Hotel, Skegness, at 7.30pm on 3rd April 2016, and he told me what had led to this.
“During my research, I accumulated numerous pieces of sheet music for songs that Gus Elen failed to record, and was keen that some of these should be brought back to life after a lapse of over a century. The songs will be performed live by two first class singers, accompanied by the Spirit of Variety Orchestra.”
Again, more information can be found on the News/Contact page of the www.guselen.co.uk website, or on the back of fliers. (In Burgh Library, TD Motors, Tastee Farm Shop, Embassy Theatre, and at the Southview Hotel) Tickets are available at £12 from the venue, and on the door, or again, you can phone Peter to get them before the night.