Sheet music for Walking in the Zoo
|Born||Alfred Peek Stevens
|Died||26 December 1888
Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge
|Other names||The Great Vance
|Occupation||Music hall vocalist|
Alfred Peek Stevens (1839 – 26 December 1888), best known by his stage name of Alfred Vance, was a 19th-century English music hall singer.
Early life and family
Vance was born in London in 1839. He worked initially as a solicitor's clerk, before appearing in music halls.
His first solo appearance was at the South London Palace in 1864, but he had earlier performed in a blackface act with his brother in 1860. His act, initially as a Cockney singer, evolved into comedy. He was also known as The Great Vance, and Alfred Grenville.
Vance was a great rival of George Leybourne, writer of "Champagne Charlie". Vance wrote and performed Cliquot in response. Vance ended the feud with the song "Beautiful Beer". Their style introduced a new genre to the music hall, known as lion comique.
Vance's popular song "Walking in the Zoo" has been cited by Desmond Morris (in Gestures: Their Origin and Distribution) as the earliest known use in the UK of the term "O.K." in its current sense. (It was previously used in America as a political slogan for Martin Van Buren, nicknamed Old Kinderhook or O.K.) The chorus of Vance's song begins with the line "Walking in the zoo is the O.K. thing to do." It is also one of the first uses of the term "zoo" in place of the full name of "zoological garden". The song refers specifically to the Zoological Gardens at Regent's Park, London.
Another song of the 1860s was "The King of Trumps". The cover depicts a playing card for the King of Trumps in colour with parts of other cards in each corner, around a picture of Alfred Vance in a top hat.
- "The Chickaleery Cove"
- "Jolly Dogs"
- "Walking in the Zoo"
- "Cliquot, Cliquot"
- "Act in the Square, Boys"
- "The Young Man of the Day"
- Alfred Vance makes a cameo appearance in the novel Lestrade and the Brother of Death by M. J. Trow
- He was played by Stanley Holloway in the 1944 Ealing Comedy, Champagne Charlie, opposite Tommy Trinder, who played George Leybourne, and Betty Warren, who played Bessie Bellwood.
- Oxford Companion to Popular Music by Peter Grimmond - ISBN 0-19-280004-3
- , Webpage for WYNC's Radiolab podcast on Zoos.