George Formby

George was born on 26th May, 1904 in Wigan. His real name was George Hoy Booth. George had four sisters and two brothers. His father James was a famous stage actor using the name George Formby. James didn't want any of his children to enter show business and so George became an apprentice jockey when seven years old. His father died in 1921 and being too heavy for horse racing he decided to try his luck in show business. He began using his father's material and called himself George Hoy, after his mother, whose maiden name was Hoy. He was very unsuccessful but he was learning the business. It was around this time that he married Beryl. After about two years of getting nowhere he purchased a banjo ukulele from a fellow performer for £2.50 and quickly learned a couple of songs. A friend dared him to use it in his act and so he played it at the Alhambra Theatre in Barnsley. This was a great success, it was very popular with the audience and so from that time on George continued to use it in his act.

In 1932 George released a record called 'Do De O Do' with 'Chinese Blues' on the back. 'Chinese Blues' was an instant success and large numbers of records were sold. It became known as 'Chinese Laundry Blues' which along with 'Mr. Wu' became his signature tune. George made over 230 records and became one of the most successful recording artists of his day. Some of the most popular were 'The Window Cleaner', 'Leaning On A Lamp Post', 'Riding In The T.T. Races' and 'Fanlight Fanny', all of which were featured in his films.

George's first film 'Boots! Boots!' was released in 1934 and was the first of the 21 hit films that he appeared in. By 1939 he was the highest paid entertainer in the country, allegedly earning over £100,000 a year. He made hundreds of performances on stage and appeared in two Royal Command Performances. During World War 2 he entertained many of the troups with ENSA, both in Europe and the Middle East.

George's Manager was his wife Beryl and in 1951 he played Percy Piggott in the musical show, 'Zip Goes A Million'. It opened in the West End and was a great success. After the show had been running for six months George suffered a heart attack and so had to leave the show and recuperate for 18 months. When he returned to work he did one-night stands, summer shows at the seaside and pantomime.

George's last record 'Happy Go Lucky Me' was made in 1960. In the same year Beryl fell ill, suffering from leukemia. She died on Christmas Eve, 1960. In a television programme called 'The Friday Show', which was broadcast in 1960, George admitted that Beryl was the driving force behind his success and that he couldn't read or write properly and didn't understand music.

Early in 1961 George announced his engagement to Pat Howson. She was a 36 year old schoolteacher who met George when he was buying a car from her father's garage. They planned to marry the following year but George had another heart attack and died whilst recovering in hospital. He died on 6th March, 1961 aged 56 and was buried in the family grave at Warrington Cemetery.