Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eugene Stratton (1861-1918)

 “Eugene Stratton”

Eugene Stratton was born Eugene Augustus Rühlmann on May 8, 1861, in Buffalo, New York. He began in Negro minstrelsy in 1871, age ten, in a duo known as The Two Wesleys. At fifteen he was traveling in a circus as ‘Master Jean’ until he became one of the Four Arnolds. In 1879 he was off to London as one of Haverly’s Original Mastodon Minstrels under manager Charles Frohman. In 1881 he joined the Moore and Burgess Minstrels (he married the daughter of Pony Moore), remaining with them until 1887. A year later he went solo, becoming one of the most popular music hall entertainers in Great Britain.

1879 advertisement – Mastodon Minstrels
Owing to his long residence in England Eugene Stratton was usually referred to as “the English coon singer,” or sometimes, “the colored Englishman.” He returned to New York in 1895 to perform a four week engagement at Koster and Bial’s:

“I am delighted to be back in New York, even for a few weeks. I have not recovered from my surprise at the changes in New York… I will sing ‘The Idler,’ my latest success; ‘Is Yer Mammy Always Wid Yer?’ and other songs.”

Songwriter Leslie Stuart
Eugene Stratton’s ineffable, plaintive, halting, and melancholy voice endeared him to the early record buying audience. In 1904 he recorded ‘Little Dolly Daydream, the Pride of Idaho’ (HERE) by Liverpudlian Leslie Stuart, composer of ‘Floradora,’ and ‘Tell me Pretty Maiden.’ Stuart recalled

“One of my ‘coon’ songs was called ‘Little Dolly Day Dream, Pride of Idaho.’ I have since learned that Idaho is not literally overrun with colored folk. I know as well as anybody else that the London Christy Minstrel type is nothing like the real thing. In fact, London is no longer deceived on this point. When we write ‘coon’ songs we idealize the colored man, just as Chevalier does the coster. Now, have you ever seen a coster going around Whitechapel making a nuisance of himself and weeping over ‘My Dear Old Dutch?’ Of course you haven’t.”

‘Lily of Laguna’ (HERE) was also a big hit. In 1911 he recorded ‘I May be a Millionaire,’ a song with no discernible Negro connotations at all. He died at Christchurch, Hampshire, on September 15, 1918, leaving £3100 in his will.

The following article, ‘The Song and Dance of the Coon’ by Robert Machray, was published in The Ludgate, Vol. IV (New Series), May-October 1897, pp.519-526.









‘Lily of Laguna,’  ‘Little Dolly Daydream' and  ‘I May be a Millionaire’ are available on ‘A Night at the Music Hall’ on JSP Records (UK) HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Other than his poor imitation of us, he really had no other talent...