George Formby, Sr. (4 October 1875 8 February 1921) was the father of George Formby, Jr., and a star in his own right. He performed in the Edwardian music halls. Singing in a sardonic, naive but somehow knowing style, plagued by ill-health (he made light of his tuberculosis) he was one of the highest paid entertainers of his day.

 

George Formby, Jr., OBE (26 May 1904 6 March 1961) was an English singer and comedian, famous for playing the ukulele and performing a variety of light, comical songs. He would eventually become a popular star of stage and screen.

 

Formby endeared himself to his audiences with his cheeky Lancashire humour and folksy north of England persona. In film and on stage, he generally adopted the character of an honest, good-hearted but accident-prone innocent who used the phrases: "It's turned out nice again!" as an opening line; "Ooh, mother!" when escaping from trouble; and a timid "Never touched me!" after losing a fistfight.
 

What made him stand out, however, was his unique and often mimicked musical style. He sang comic songs, full of double entendre, to his own accompaniment on the banjolele, for which he developed a catchy musical syncopated style that became his trademark. Some of his best-known songs were written by Noel Gay. Some of his songs were considered too rude for broadcasting. His 1937 song, "With my little stick of Blackpool Rock" was banned by the BBC because of the lyrics. Formby's songs are rife with sly humour, as in 1932's "Chinese Laundry Blues," where Formby is about to sing "ladies' knickers" and suddenly changes it to "ladies' blouses"; and in 1940's "On the Wigan Boat Express," in which a lady passenger "was feeling shocks in her signal box." Formby's cheerful, innocent demeanor and nasal, high-pitched Lancashire accent neutralized the shock value of the lyrics; a more aggressive comedian like Max Miller would have delivered the same lyrics with a bawdy leer.
 

Formby's trademark was playing the ukulele-banjo in a highly syncopated style, collectively referred to as the 'Formby style'.
 

Among the several syncopation techniques that he used, the most commonly emulated stroke of Formby's is a clever rhythmic technique, called the "Split stroke", a technique which produces a musical rhythm, that is easily recognised as Formby. He sang in his own Lancashire accent. Other strokes that are included in Formby's repertoire include the triple, the circle, the fan, and the shake. He was not however a virtuoso of the instrument such as Billy "Uke" Scott. Formby used the instrument only as rhythm accompaniment, not for playing melody, and would use several instruments tuned to different keys so that he could use the same fingering on each.
 

It is ironic that mimics always play him as the traditional Lancashire cloth-cap comic (which his father had been), whereas Formby always dressed in well-tailored suits, a smart collar and tie and polished shoes.