1890 Sheet music
|Born||George Dryden Wheeler
June 6, 1863
|Died||April 21, 1939
|Occupation||Music hall vocal comic|
|Spouse(s)||Hannah Chaplin 1892-3|
Life and career
In 1892, he met music hall performer Hannah Chaplin (stage name Lily Harley), whose young son Charlie would become a leading actor, comedian, and director. They had an affair and a son, George Dryden Wheeler, leading to the breakdown of her marriage to Charles Chaplin, Sr. The couple split up and Dryden kept his son, leading to Hannah's bouts of mental illness and admission to the Cane Hill Asylum at Coulsdon. This also marked the end of Hannah's career and the start of a long decline. She was not reunited with her son until the 1920s.
Leo Dryden was best known as the Kipling of the Halls, noted for his patriotic and colonial songs including "The Miner's Dream of Home" (1891). He also performed parodies, including "Shopmates"  and one on "Feniculi Fenicula". He dressed to fit the songs, as a Canadian Indian for "The Great Mother", as an Indian soldier for "India's Reply", and "How India Kept Her Word" (1898). Even America did not escape, with "America Looking On", about the Boer War.
These examples of colonial fealty were well received by British audiences, and were parodied in Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads. He also was known for tear-jerking ballads such as "Don't Go Down the Mine, Dad" (1910), possibly inspired by the great 1907 mining disaster at St. Genard in South Wales, and "Good-bye, Mary!" (1911).
At the start of World War I, he returned to patriotic songs with "Call Us and We’ll Soon Be There" (1914).
Dryden also appeared in The Lady of the Lake (1925), an early sound film inspired by the Walter Scott poem.
With the music halls in decline by the 1930s, and his son joining his own half-brothers in America, Leo Dryden was reduced to busking in the streets. He died in London 21 April 1939.
- Popular Music in England, 1840-1914: A Social History Dave Russell (1987 McGill-Queen's Press) ISBN 0-7735-0541-5 accessed 17 Oct 2007
- "Shopmates" a parody on the popular song, "Shipwrecked",
- My Great and Only (Kipling, notes by David Page) accessed 17 Oct 2007
- New British War Songs 14 October 1900, New York Times accessed 17 Oct 2007
- The Miner's Dream of Home, Leo Dryden