Practitioners [B]

Babicci to Bluett & Mo ……. p.1
Borradale to Busch ……. p.2

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HARRY BORRADALE

(1883-1957)  Elocutionist, manager, director, speech teacher.

Harry Borradale was a star performer with several of Edward Branscombe‘s Dandies companies between 1914 and 1919. He later established his own troupes, notably the Sparklers, before settling more or less permanently in Brisbane. He was well-known there as a teacher, theatre director, recitals and radio personality for more than 30 years.

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BOVIS BROTHERS

(Charles and Billy Bovis) Comedians, singers, entrepreneurs, managers, writers.

The Bovis Brothers started performing in the early to mid-1880s and toured not only the Antipodes but also America and Great Britain (they were original London cast members of The Belle of New York). During their time together, the brothers worked for most of the leading variety organisations and entrepreneurs operating in Australia. They also worked as managers in several theatrical partnerships. Charles died in 1928, while Billy’s last known appearance was in 1941.

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ROSIE BOWIE

Dancer, choreographer, actress/singer

A student of Sydney-based teacher Blanche Moody during the late-1900s/early 1910s, Rosie Bowie likely joined the Fullers‘ organisation as a chorus girl prior to 1915. She was given her big break with Bletsoes’ Tabloid Musical Comedy Company, touring as chorus member and choreographer. When troupe folded in mid-1916 Bowie and fellow-member Roy Rene were invited to joined Nat Phillips‘ newly formed Stiffy and Mo Revue Company. She remained with Stiffy and Mo until the end of 1922. During the remainder of the decade Bowie was associated with the Town Topics, Billy Maloney (Scandals and New Ideas), Con Moreni (Silk Stockings), Kate Howarde (Dramatic Co), Fullers’ Frivols, and the K’Nuts.

No details regarding Rosie Bowie’s career after April 1929 have been located to date.
Image source: Fuller News 15 July (1922), 11.

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LOUIS BRAHAM

(-1894) Tenor, actor, stage manager, troupe proprietor.

Considered one of Australia’s premiere minstrel tenors, Louis Braham came to prominence with the Court Minstrels in 1863, and later appeared with numerous high profile companies including the United States Minstrels, Hiscocks and Hayman’s Mammoth Minstrels, Campbell’s Minstrels, Christy’s Minstrels (1865), Johnny Cowan’s Minstrels, Rainer, Christy and Western’s Minstrels, and Hiscocks and Friedman’s Minstrels. His performances with Beaumont Read and Edwin Amery during their time with Hiscocks Federal Minstrels (1883-1886) were considered by some critics to be the pinnacle of his success, however. Braham’s fame was such that many of the songs he performed were published using his name. He also toured internationally during the years 1871-1875, 1877-1883 and 1889-1890. Known destinations were India, South Africa, Britain and the USA. His final professional engagement was possibly with F.E. Hiscocks‘ Royal Court Minstrels in 1892.

1. In reporting his death several newspapers record that Braham first came to Australia with the Court Minstrels. There is evidence to suggest, however, that he was either born and/or raised in this country. His billing for Maguire’s Opera House in San Francisco in 1871, for example, announces him as “the Australian tenor” (Daily Alta 16 Jan. 1871, 1). Advertising in the Argus (Melbourne) a few years earlier has him billed as the “Australian Sims Reeves” (31 Aug. 1869, 8). Braham is also reported to have tried his hand (unsuccessfully) at gold digging at some stage.
2. The companies Braham appeared with overseas included: Harvey, Dougherty, Leslie and Braham Minstrels (South Africa), Mammoth Minstrels, and Moore and Burgess Minstrels (Britain), San Francisco Minstrels (USA).
3. During the late-1870s Braham’s wife was hostess at the Nelson Hotel in Bourke Street Melbourne.
4. Braham died at St Alfred’s Hospital, Sydney, on 3 December 1894.

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BRIDGES TRIO

(ca. 1928-1950) Musicians, entertainers (stage, radio and television).

The New Zealand-born Bridges siblings, Clifford (piano), Nancye (violin) and Francis (aka Babe, harp), began their careers in New Zealand during the early 1930s as a musical ensemble and appeared both in vaudeville and on radio. They later established themselves in Australia (where Nancye at one stage had her own radio show in Brisbane). When Cliff enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (R.A.A.F.) during WWII he was replaced by Rosemary Faiella. Nancye and Babe moved to the United Kingdom in 1951 (also playing shows in Europe) and after returning home in 1957 worked the Tivoli and club circuits and on television well into the 1960s.

Cliff Bridges joined the ABC as a radio producer ca. 1945. Nancye Bridges established herself as an entrepreneur in the 1970s and continued performing up until 1988. She also wrote two books with journalist Frank Crook – Curtain Call (1980) and Wonderful Wireless (1983).

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PETER BROOKS

aka Peter J. Brooks

(ca. 1891-1952) Singer (tenor), entertainer, actor, businessman, entrepreneur.

During his four decade-long career, Peter Brooks was linked to many leading firms, performers and troupes, among them Stiffy and MoHarry Clay, Elton Black Revue Co, Fullers TheatresGeorge Ward, Bert le Blanc, George Wallace, Gladys Moncrieff, Edgley and Dawe, Will Mahoney and Evie Hayes, Les Shipp and Barton’s Follies. His name has first been identified on the bill of a 1912 Newbury’s Pops show in Sydney, while his final stage appearance occurred in Brisbane a few months before his death. In between he also made numerous radio broadcasts, worked in New Zealand and South Africa, and in 1920 founded the Brooks Amusement Company to run variety our of Perth’s Shaftesbury Theatre.

1: One of several Australian vaudeville performers to be routinely billed as “fashion plate,” Brooks’ surname was given different spellings throughout his career – namely Brook, Brooke and Brookes. He was also sometimes referred to as a baritone.
2: An original member of Nat Phillips’ Tabloid Musical Comedy Company (aka Stiffy and Mo) from 1916 to 1919, Brooks returned to the fold twice more, these being 1924-1925 and 1928.
3. Brooks is believed to have settled in Brisbane by the late-1940s. During his later years he worked alongside such performers as Charles Norman, Buster Fiddess, and Slim De Grey. His final performance was in Roy Rene‘s Olympic Games appeal show Helsinki Bound at the city’s Town Hall in April 1952. He died on 17 June, aged 61.
Image source: Australian Variety 30 Aug. 1916, n. pag.

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BILLIE C. BROWN

African-American comedian.

Brown, Billie C [MA 19 June 1915, 9]Billie C. Brown started his career at 14 in a piccanninny foursome managed by Ernest Hogan, before spending three years as a boxer. He returned to tour for Hogan in 1901 and in 1910 joined the Era Comedy Four. They came to Australia in 1912 with the Hugo Minstrels but soon afterwards joined the Brennan-Fuller circuit. In September 1914 Brown and George Sorlie began a partnership that continued until December 1916. Forced to leave Australia in early 1917 under the Alien Restriction Act Brown toured New Zealand before heading home later in the year.

See also: Era Comedy Four • Sorlie & Brown

This artist is not to be confused with American Irish comedian Billy Brown (“the Fellow with the Fiddle”),who was in Australia around 1917-18 touring with Kitty Clinton.
Image source: Mail (Adelaide) 19 June (1915), 9.

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LESTER BROWN

Brown, Lester [GR Jan 1919, 9]American performer/revue writer and producer.

American actor/writer/director Lester Brown was involved in the Australian variety industry between 1913 and 1925. During that time he produced pantomimes, revues, revusicals and musical comedies for George Willoughby, the Tivoli circuit, Fullers’ Theatres, George Marlow and Harry Clay, while also working at times as an actor and comedian. After appearing in the film The Adventures of Algy (1925) he returned to the USA to work as a publicist for Fox Films.

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BROWN & SORLIE

(1914-1916) Comedy patter and song and dance act.

Sorlie and Brown 2 [AV 29 Dec 1916]Once described as the “finest pair of coloured performers since the days of Pope and Sayles,” George Sorlie and American comedian Billie C. Brown (formerly with the Era Comedy Four) made their debut in New Zealand on 7 September 1914 under the Fullers‘ management. By early 1915 their popularity was such that Australian Variety featured them on the cover of its 10 February issue. Both men also contributed a number of articles to various industry magazines during their time together. The partnership ended in December 1916 when Brown’s future became uncertain due to being targeted by the Australian government to return to the USA under the Alien Restriction Act.

Sorlie and Brown possibly met for the first time in November 1913 when Sorlie and the Era Comedy Four were on the same bill at Fullers’ Bijou Theatre (Melbourne). Although contracted solely to the Fullers the pair was occasionally leased out to other firms, including Holland and St John, Birch and Carroll and Dix-Baker. Brown managed to remain in Australia until March 1917.
Image source: Australian Variety 29 Dec. (1916), n. pag.

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DOT BROWNE

browne-dot-call-26-may-1922-4Singer (soprano), soubrette, actress, business proprietor.

During almost forty years as a professional entertainer Dot Browne worked in pantomime, vaudeville, revusical/revue, musical comedy and even grand opera. Her name has first been connected with William Andersons’ Lilliputian company in early 1912, appearing as Angelina in Little Red Riding Hood. Rarely out of work from the late-1910s onwards, she secured engagements as a singer/actress with many prominent managers and companies, including Harry Clay, Andy Kerr, Ike Beck, T.A. Shafto, Fullers’ Theatres, Graham Mitchell, Frank Neil and Cole’s Varieties. From 1930 until the early 1940s Browne also worked extensively in radio. She retired in the mid-1940s, having settled in Brisbane. In 1948 she and her husband opened a garage in the suburb of Mayne.

Browne’s surname was often spelled with the ‘e.’ Her married name was Davies.
Image: Call (Perth) 26 May 1922, 4.

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AL BRUCE

Bruce-Dinkumflater - EoL [DSB 13 Dec. 1919, 2][Aust: 1918-1920] American producer/writer and “Hebrew” musical comedy comedian Al Bruce came to Australasia for Fullers’ Theatres in 1918, bringing with him a number of revusicals. With his largely Australian ensemble (The Rosebuds), Bruce gave his debut performance at Sydney’s National Theatre on 24 May with The Elixir of Love. Although some shows were set in the US, they invariably contained local references, topicalities, and impromptu “biz” that was local in origin. The inclusion of Australian references can be seen in some characters (e.g. Hank Dinkumflater in The Elixir of Love, 1918) and situations (the photographic representative for the Sydney Truth in The King of Patagonia, 1919). His last appearance in Australia was at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle in March 1920.

Other shows from the Bruce repertoire were The Back to Nature Club, The New M.P., Lulu, The Candy Shop, Hello Papa, Two Peas in a Pod, and The New Adam (aka The Second Adam)
Image source: Daily Standard (Brisbane) 13 Dec. (1919), 2.

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BRULL & HEMSLEY

Brull & Hemsley [AV 13 June 1917](1916- ca. 1930s) English sketch artists, comedians.

Pioneers of the Lancashire type of humour in Australia, dude impressionist/comedian Arthur Hemsley and soubrette Elsa Brull (1879-1961, aka Elsa May) came to the Antipodes in 1916 for Fullers’ Theatres having established themselves in the UK as musical comedy specialists. They toured New Zealand at least three times for the company, and also secured engagements with John N. McCallum, J.C. Williamson’s, Harry Clay and Humphrey Bishop among others. Although their last known stage appearances were in Brisbane in 1927 the couple continued to maintain a regular presence on radio together up until the late-1930s.

Arthur Hemsley’s surname was sometimes incorrectly spelled Helmsley.
Image: Australian Variety 13 June (1917)

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CHARLES BRYANT

(-1911) American-born actor, ventriloquist, monologist, troupe proprietor, publican [Born: James Charles O’Brien]

Charles Bryant has first been identified touring New Zealand with Craydon and Woods’ Surprise Party in 1895 and made his first Australian engagement with Jones and Lawrence in Perth in 1900. His last professional appearance was at Bella Sutherland‘s Tivoli Gardens (Hamilton, Brisbane) in 1907. Although Bryant’s name disappears from newspaper coverage for extended periods over the next 16 years, he likely remained in the region. During those years he was mostly engaged by lower level firms and companies but also toured his own troupes on occasion. After retiring from the stage ca. 1907/08, he ran the Royal Hotel in Nukualofa, New Zealand. By then a chronic alcoholic he committed suicide in Auckland on 8 May 1911.

1: Bryant’s birth name and US heritage were reported widely in New Zealand following his death. See for example Evening Post (Wellington) 9 May (1911), 8. and Auckland Star 9 May (1911), 5.
2: Invariably described as a “clever ventriloquist” Bryant’s most successful act saw him doing multiple voices for his “dolls from all nations.” One paper also called them his “wooden-headed family.”
3: Described as an actor in most reports following his death Bryant was certainly involved in a number of theatrical productions while working as ventriloquist/ entertainer in New Zealand during the late-1890s (including for example Hans the Boatman, 1897/98) and likely undertook occasional acting engagements in later years. Although he has not yet been confirmed as the Charles Bryant who toured with Alfred Woods and Maud Williamson’s dramatic company (1901-02 and 1904), it is not beyond possibility.

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JACK BRYANT

Boxer, ball puncher, boxing and sports promoter

Based in North Queensland during the first few years of the twentieth century Jack Bryant made a name for himself as boxer and gymnasium instructor (Charters Towers and Mackay). It was his prowess as a ball punching exhibitionist, however, that led to him dabbling in various aspects of the entertainment industry. He travelled through Queensland (and possibly New South Wales) in 1904 with Harry Clay, and with wife May operated a touring boxing and variety troupe (ca. 1905). The pair later toured with Kemp’s Wild Australian Buckjumpers and briefly managed Mudgee’s Pastime Club before establishing the Moving National Sporting Club (ca. 1909). Bryant so managed his wife during her brief career as Madame Flaro (ca. 1906-07).

  • See also: May Bryant [below]
During his time with Kemp’s Buckjumpers (ca. 1906) Bryant also acted as tour manager. He has also been referred to at least once in publicity as Mr J. Flaro.

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MAY BRYANT

aka Madame Flaro

Charters Towers athlete May Bryant is first known to have performed Indian club and ball-punching routines with her husband’s boxing and variety troupe (ca. 1905). Following tour with Kemp’s Wild Australian Buckjumpers in 1906 the Bryants originated an act known as “Madame Flaro the Human Comet” (aka “The Human Firefly.” Protected only by a thick canvas suit, Bryant performed novel tricks while on fire before sliding down a 600 ft (180m) wire totally enveloped in flames. The act appears to have only been worked during 1906 and 1907 – largely with the Princess Court (Melbourne) and Wonderland City (Sydney) amusement parks.

  • See also: Jack Bryant [above]
During her non-Madame Flaro career Bryant was typically billed as either “Miss May Bryant” or “Little May Bryant.” In an interview published in Melbourne’s Punch newspaper “Madame Flaro” confirms that she and Jack Bryant were husband and wife (24 Jan. 1907, 34).

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MAGGIE BUCKLEY

(1896-1971) Singer (soprano), dancer

Often referred to as Australia’s Sophie Tucker from 1933 onwards, Maggie Buckley established her reputation as the country’s “Queen of Ragtime” during World War I, appearing with Cahill’s Vaudeville Players (New South Wales), Harry Clay, and Harry Sadler (Sydney), Bert Corrie (Hobart), Paddy King (Newcastle), Percy Dennis (Perth) and Fullers’ Theatres (1919-). The 1920s saw her mostly associated with Harry Clay’s company, while also working for manager such as Ike Beck (Hunter Valley) and T.A. Shafto (Perth). From 1933 much of Buckley’s career is linked to Ike Delavale (as both solo artist and partner). In this respect she too was a prominent entertainer with Stanley McKay’s Gaieties, Les Shipp, Graham Mitchell, Bert Lennon, Barton’s Follies, Bruce Carroll, and Mack and Testro.

1: The earliest recorded performance by Buckley located to date was on 7 May 1917 when she appeared at a social evening put on by the Leichhardt branch of the Catholic Federation. The other performers engaged were Messrs King and Bert Howard. Her last recorded stage appearance was in the Celebrity Club show, Surprise Packet (Sydney) in October 1950.
2: Buckley’s association with Sophie Tucker appears to have been a combination of factors, not the least being her voice and similar appearance (see Tucker’s Wikipedia entry for a comparison).
3: Although Buckley and Ike Delavale became off-stage partners from around 1935, the couple never married as Delavale remained married to Elvie Stagpoole.
4: Prior to her relationship with Delavale, Buckey was married to John Stanley Saunders (1891-1957), better known as Tilton in the song and dance team, Tilton & West. The couple had one daughter, Joan. An entertainer herself, Joan married well-known comedian/juggler, entrepreneur and businessman Rex Testro in the mid-1940s.
Thanks to Warren Maloney for details relating to Buckley’s personal history.
Image source: West Australian (Perth) 19 Nov. (1937), 19.

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TOM BUCKLEY

Buckley, Tom [TBT 26 Mar 1914, 35](1841-1937) Irish-born musician, dancer, singer, actor, troupe proprietor/manager.

Tom Buckley moved to America as a youth and during the Civil War served as a drummer boy with the 11 Massachusetts Regiment. After the war he established himself as a dancer and multi-instrumentalist on the US minstrel stage before coming to Australia for Frank Weston in 1869. He formed a highly popular stage and business partnership with Charles Holly in 1871, and together they toured with various companies around Australasia off and on until the late-1880s. Buckley also toured his own troupes during the late-1880s and early 1890s before turning to acting. Long associated with J.C. Williamson and Allan Doone, he often appeared on radio and was still acting past his 90th birthday.

1: Buckley’s birthplace is recorded in several newspaper reports as Athlone (Roscommon), Ireland. The Australian Civil War Veterans website records it as being Erin (Castleisland, Kerry) Ireland, The site also indicates that his real surname may have been Coughlan.
2: From the 1920s onwards Buckley’s arrival in Australia is usually reported as being 1862 or 1865. He records in the 1914 Table Talk interview, however, that he arrived under contract to Frank Weston (which makes ot 1869). Supporting this is an article published in the 5 April 1869 edition of the South Australian Register which notes his recent arrival from New York for Weston, along with Messrs Hammond and Peel (3).
3: A number of Buckley’s obituaries erroneously to him as George Buckley (another Civil war veteran who is buried in the Ipswich Cemetery, Queensland) .
Details regarding the George Buckley error sourced from the Australian Civil War Veterans website. Image source: Table Talk 26 Mar. (1914), 35.

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BUCKLEY & HOLLY

(1871-1890) Specialty dance and comedy act, troupe managers/proprietors.

Tom Buckley and Charles Holly both came to Australia in 1869, Buckley under contract to Frank Weston and Holly for Frank Hussey. A few years later they joined forces as both stage and business partnership, touring various companies around Australasia and the East off and on until the late-1880s. Their first known performance as a duo was with Weston and La Feuillade’s Minstrels at Melbourne’s Haymarket Theatre on 10 April 1871. As performers the pair presented a comedy song and dance act. Throughout their 17 years together the two men occasionally worked apart from each other, briefly touring either with other companies or in partnership with other artists/showmen.

Other companies and firms Buckley and Holly have been linked to also include: The Royal Magnet Variety Troupe (1872-73), Emerson’s California Minstrels (1873), Gracie Anglo-American Combination (1874), US Minstrels (1875-77), Nightingale Serenaders (1881), Walsh & King’s Minstrels (1887), Frank Smith (1888) and Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels (1889).

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SID BURCHELL

burchell-sydney-wa-4-july-1936-23English singer (baritone), actor. [Born in Manchester]

“Romantic baritone,” Sydney Burchell came to Australia in 1920 with Oscar Asche‘s company and remained for some 16 years. He later toured with Huxham’s Serenaders and Hugh J. Ward‘s Company of London Comedians and by 1927 was a prominent recording artist. He also began his radio career in 1927. From 1929 until his return to Britain in 1936 Burchell was a feature performer with J.C. Williamson’s, appearing in such shows as The Desert Song, Miss Hook of Holland and The White Horse Inn. Regarded as one of Australia’s most popular radio singers he was contracted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ca. 1935) to appear in community singing events and radio musicals (often opposite Gladys Moncrieff).

1: His given and family names are often spelled “Sydney” and “Burchall” in primary and secondary sources. It is presently unclear which spelling is correct (in both cases).
2: After returning to Britain in 1936 (under contract to the BBC), Burchell quickly established himself as a star of radio and the stage (playing vaudeville, revue and musical comedy). He also appeared in two films during the 1940s.
Image: West Australian 4 July (1936), 23.

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HARRY BURGESS

(ca. 1877- 1935)  American-born comedian, songwriter, troupe leader.

Burgess, Harry - cu [SLSA]Harry Burgess came to Australia in 1913 with the American Burlesque Company, and as with several other members of that troupe remained in the country for the rest of his life. Regarded by his peers as an excellent character comedian, the 6ft plus comedian was a long time star on the Fullers’ circuit, touring with the Jim Gerald, Ward and Sherman companies, as well as his own troupe. He also appeared in pantomimes, musical comedies like Betty Lee (1926) and Rio Rita (1929) and in Roy Rene’s 1934 film Strike Me Lucky.

Image source: State Library of South Australia.

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MAE BUSCH

(1891-1946) Singer, dancer, stage and film actress.

Busch, Mae [fanshare.com]Born in Melbourne on 18 June 1891, Mae Busch went on to become a major Hollywood film star, in both the silent and sound eras. She moved to the USA with her parents in 1896 and was educated at New Jersey convent, living there when her parents, Dora and William Busch were on tour. Between 1903 and 1912 she joined them in an act billed as  the Busch Devere Trio. Busch then went on to work in musical comedy and as a solo vaudeville performer before beginning her film career in the Keystone comedies. Known as the “versatile vamp” at the height of her career she later appeared in more than 128 films, including 13 Laurel and Hardie comedies.

  • See also: Dora De Vere (aka Dora Busch) • William Busch [below]
  • For further details see: David R. Noakes. May Busch Facts. [sighted 11/12/2014] • “Mae Busch.” Wikipedia • Christopherbkk “Mae Busch.” Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Busch’s career is acknowledged with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although it is unlikely that she ever performed on the Australasian stage it was not unusual for the young children of variety performers to make feature appearances, typically with one of their parents. Whether this occurred is yet to be determined.
Details sourced from David R. Noakes. Image source: http://www.fanshare.com

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WILLIAM (BILLY) BUSCH

aka F. W. Busch

(1867-) Multi-instrumentalist (incl. violin, cornet, trumpet, xylophone). [Born: Frederick William Busch in Collingwood, Melbourne]

William Busch started out his career in Melbourne and while touring with F.M. Clark in 1887 met Dora De Vere. The pair married the following year. Over the next nine years they worked throughout Australasia for Clark, Charles and Harry Cogill, Tommy Hudson, Burton’s Circus and the Montague-Fredo Co among others – Dora as a solo performer and William initially as pit-band musician. From 1893 until 1903 he largely worked with the Paragon Trio. After moving to the USA in 1896 they became known as Lelliott, Busch and Lelliott. He performed with his wife and their daughter, Mae, as the Busch-Devere Trio between 1903 and 1912 and later managed several vaudeville acts.

1: Busch’s involvement with the Paragon Trio also included tours with the Paragon Bellringers, Abell and Klaer’s European Circus (doubling as orchestra leader), Percy St John’s Cambridge Specialty Co, and the Montague-Fredo Co.
2: Mae Busch (1891-1946) was born in Melbourne and went on to become a major Hollywood film star, in both the silent and sound eras.
Sourced from David R. Noakes.

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Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on February 6, 2011 at 2:21 am  Comments Off on Practitioners [B]