Adelaide & George
Adelaide and George.

Photograph courtesy of Iain Cameron Williams

Adelaide Hall, the American jazz singer and Broadway star, arrived in Britain in 1938 to co-star­along with fellow actors Edna Best, Leslie Banks and Todd Duncan­at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in C.B. Cochran's lavish west-end musical adaptation of Edgar Wallace's "The Sun Never Sets." Such was the warm reception she received from the British public that Adelaide adopted Britain and in return, the British people adopted her. In no time at all she became one of Britain's best-loved entertainers and her stay lasted over 50 years, up until her death on 7 November 1993.

Adelaide was the first black star to be given a long-term contract with the B.B.C., which resulted in her own radio series. She also became an exclusive Decca recording artist, cutting over 70 discs for the label, many of which were released during World War Two. It's fair to say her voice was heard almost everywhere: across the radio airwaves, in night clubs, in movies and on the stage.

With her husband Bert Hicks, who acted as her manager, they owned and resided above the chic Florida Night Club in London's Mayfair. As well as her regular stage concert performances, Adelaide frequently starred in the Florida club's late-night revues. In 1940, the Florida Club received a direct hit by a land mine and was totally demolished, forcing Adelaide to move her home to the relatively quieter surrounds of the Surrey countryside. It was here during long summer afternoons that Adelaide could regularly be seen giving a helping hand on her neighbour's farms.

During the 40's, Adelaide was one of Britain's highest earning entertainers­indeed, during 1941 she was reported to be the highest. Throughout the war years she worked endlessly and tirelessly, performing at practically every theatre, concert and music hall in the land, entertaining both civilians and members of the armed forces.

In September 1941, Adelaide headlined at Manchester's Palace Theater in a variety show titled "Time To Smile." The show was a huge success and attracted great reviews and sell-out audiences. Just prior to the show's opening, Miss Hall's regular stage piano accompanist Gerry Moore was taken seriously ill with suspected pleurisy and, at the last minute was replaced by the equally talented pianist George Elrick. Mr. Elrick, who was known to BBC radio audiences as "the smiling voice of the radio", also had his own spot on the bill with his regular band.

During the show's run in Manchester, Miss Hall and her new accompanist George Elrick were sent an invitation to visit Belle Vue Amusement Park at the request of its owners. With the invitation came the news that they were also invited to a special surprise christening to be held at the zoo. After receiving the red carpet treatment and a full guided tour of the Amusement Park the owners announced that they should like to introduce Adelaide and George to the most recent arrivals at the zoo ... a pair of new lion cubs. The cubs parents, Peter and Ada, had reared the 3-month old cubs after they had been born in captivity and they were the pride of Belle Vue.

After being allowed to hold them, Adelaide immediately fell in love with the playful bundles of fur. What Adelaide and George didn't know at the time was that the owners of Belle Vue had decided to name the cubs in their honour and had invited the city's press along to capture the occasion. During a short christening service at which Adelaide and George officiated, the female and male cubs were respectively named Adelaide and George.

Adelaide became very attached to the lion cubs and over the following years whenever she was appearing in Manchester made a point of visiting Belle Vue to see how her two new friends were growing up. If her schedule was too busy, as an adopted parent Adelaide was known to have sent them the occasional postcard to apologize for not being able to visit.


Above text and photographs © Iain Cameron Williams 2002.
A biography of Adelaide Hall by Iain Cameron Williams titled:
"Underneath A Harlem Moon the Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall"
will be published by Continuum International Publishing Group in the summer, 2002.


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