W V Robinson (1869-1926), a Canadian raconteur and mouth organ exponent, spent nearly a year ‘Down Under’ late 1924 into 1925 performing on the Tivoli circuit with J C Williamson Limited. He was on the undercard for popular Scottish comedian and singer Harry Lauder.
W V was born in Quebec and lived in London opposite the Coliseum theater where he was on staff and call. He died suddenly in 1926 aged sixty seven having gone to a London hospital for an operation.
William Valentine preferred to travel under the guise of his initials. Accompanying him was his wife and young daughter, Anne. They loved Australia and especially Bondi beach. W V felt the climate was beneficial for the health of his wife and baby. His stage act consisted of a three bears routine with his variety of different sized mouth organs. Robbo’s little chap was probably the Hohner Miniature (C39) that began production the previous year. Measuring around one and half inches and having four cavities, W V tied a ribbon around it so he could retrieve the little chap from his esophagus if he managed to swallow it.
Although a little typo with William’s initial I loved the promotional line, melody through one inch of punctured steel. It was reported in the Perth Mirror on Saturday 24th January 1925 that William was an artist, “trilling and double stopping cleverly.” They concluded with the observation, “a few droll stories complete his time on the boards.” In another reference made on his mimicry in Sydney’s The World’s News (Saturday 13th December 1924), “he makes them all do funny stunts from imitating a festive gentlemen returning from a party, followed by an appreciative chorus of cats, to a regimental drum and fife band on their way to a church parade.” One of Robbo’s favourite gags was a reference to Hen Whiskey the latest drink available in America. “You lay where you take it.”
William had an interesting promotional relationship with mouth organ manufacturers where he had exclusive deals to play their brand. He performed on stage with not one, not two, but at least three different brands of harp (well at least advertised). Ch. Weiss, Boomerang and Crackajacks were three examples where this practice was in operation. How did he manage that? A reliable informant suggested there may have been another one, F. A. Bohm’s Bluebird when on stage in England.
Even Harry was aboard the Crackajack promotion. His Roamin in the Gloamin sounds best on a Crackajack mouth organ.
William was known to tell a tale or two and not let facts get in the way of a good story. He loved to blow his own St. Louis Trumpet (mouth organ) and could talk the leg off a donkey. I’ve tried to outline his life here in a listed format from the age of fourteen.
Ran away from home
Started life as a coal jumper
Joined travelling circus handling elephants
Little flutter at sea
Commercial Traveller-plate glass
Bugler with North West Canadian Police
Purser on the Ward line of Steamships
Financier Wall Street (made a fortune in three years and lost it in twenty minutes)
Fire Insurance business in New York
Journalist-Cub reporter on a daily
Commercial man on a magazine
Shooting in Canada 1913, back in England 1914
Member of Lena Ashwell’s Concert Party (wartime musical)-after turned down by army
Sir Oswald Stoll’s circuit
W V recorded four mouth organ solo’s for Regal Records which were available in Australia at the time of his tour. You can hear Darkies Dances and The Regimental Passes on Pat Missin’s site. Hear here Pat. Would love to hear Freaks On The Mouth Organ and Battery Dan, the Magistrate as well. Anyone out there in cyberspace have a copy?
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