Song and Sketch Transcripts of British Music Hall Performers Elsie and Doris Waters

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This is the first book, scholarly or popular, on Elsie and Doris Waters, the most successful female double-act in the history of British music hall and variety. They distinguished themselves in the male-dominated field and in the movement of female artists who, after WWI, elected not to marry, the better to pursue their careers. Elsie and Doris Waters wrote almost all their own comic songs and sketches, created an original gynocentric comedy, anticipating feminist movements, controlled their means of production in the male-dominated British stage, radio, and recording industries, and performed together in Britain and around the Commonwealth for half a century. This study shows them to be precursors of contemporary female double-acts and patter-based comedians such as French and Saunders, Flanders and Swann, Beyond the Fringe, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The study also contains fifty transcribed songs and sketches, their original compositions and arrangements, from recordings on 78rpm gramophone records made between 1929 and 1944. The words to their entire oeuvre of songs and sketches have never before been available in print.


“Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this project is that it preserves, for all time, the work of one of the most talented double-acts on the English music hall stage, making their work available to entire new generations of readers. Throughout this work, Paul Matthew St. Pierre continually places the works of Elsie and Doris Waters within the context of a large stage tradition during this period in Britain, and he does a masterful job of it. Not only are the transcripts scrupulously accurate, but they also capture the flavor of the period, and bring the English music hall to life. In this thorough and well-documented discussion of their work, he brings forth Elsie and Doris Waters as perhaps the most influential social satirists of the period, and gives telling examples of their work….St. Pierre has provided the reader with an invaluable link to the history of British humor, one that is well balanced, well-documented, and well argued…first class historical scholarship.” – Wheeler Winston Dixon, Chair, Film Studies Program, Professor of Film Studies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

“This is an invaluable resource for enthusiasts, researchers and students alike. Such a collection of sketches and songs opens out a field of performance, which although only in the relatively recent past, is in danger of being lost to us altogether, or only ever available in meager portions at any one time. The work of Elsie and Doris Waters spans a number of decades which saw great shifts in British culture and society and their work is important not only for its wit and pragmatic wisdom, but for the way in which it gives us insight not only into British popular theatre but also, to some extent, the inter-war British working class and lower middle class character and popular culture itself.” – Dr. Maggie B. Gale, Head, Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, University of Birmingham

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
Elsie and Doris Waters, Jack Warner, and the Female Double-Act in British Music Hall and Variety
Transcriptions of Elsie and Doris Waters’ Recordings – Gramophone Recordings, Selected Radio Broadcasts
Elsie and Doris Waters and Jack Warner Discographies
Elsie and Doris Waters on Radio, Film and Television
Bibliography; Index

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