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Gus Elen


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Ernest Augustus Elen (22 July 1862 – 17 February 1940) was an English music hall singer and comedian. He achieved success from 1891, performing cockney songs including “Arf a Pint of Ale”, “It’s a Great Big Shame”, “Down the Road” and “If It Wasn’t for the ‘Ouses in Between” in a career lasting over thirty years.

Born in Pimlico, London, Elen had worked as a barman and a draper’s assistant and had packed eggs for the Co-op before becoming a singer. He began busking at an early age and found a position singing in a minstrel troupe. His solo success began in 1891 when he started performing in public houses, singing songs in a manner similar to many cockney fruit sellers and ironmongers of the time, known as costermongers. Because of this, he became known as a “coster comedian”. For the stage persona he had created, Elen dressed in a coster uniform of striped jersey, peaked cap turned towards one ear and a short clay pipe in the side of his mouth. His characters adopted a persona of being constantly bad tempered and pugnacious. In 1907 he starred in a short film called Wait Till the Work Comes Round.

In his later years, Elen was offered work in the USA due to the English music hall strike which was taking place that year. Elen, along with other comic’s of the day, including Albert Chevalier, performed their acts in the same manner as they did previously in the uk.


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