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
George Dryden Wheeler was born in London, the son of Sarah Ann (Frost) and George Kingman Wheeler. 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 Jnr., 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.
Wheeler married singer Marie Tyler (real name Marian Louise Crutchlow) in London in 1897.
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.
The Miner's Dream of Home
Will Godwin and Leo Dryden wrote The Miner's Dream of Home in 1891. Leo Dryden sang it in the music halls for many years and recorded it on August 27, 1898 on a Berliner cylinder E2013
It is ten weary years since I left England's shore
In a far distant country to roam.
How I long to return to my own native land,
To my friends and the old folks at home.
Last night, as a slumbered, I had a strange dream.
One that seemed to bring distant friends near.
I dreamt of Old England, the land of my birth,
To the heart of her sons ever dear.
I saw the old homestead and faces I love
I saw England's valleys and dells.
I listen'd with joy, as I did when a boy
To the sound of the old village bells
The log was burning brightly
'Twas a night that should banish all sin
For the bells were ringing the old year out
And the new year in.
- 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
- "Mainly Norfolk (with full lyrics)". Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- The Miner's Dream of Home, Leo Dryden