ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH

ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH
ALL MATERIAL ON THIS SITE IS MY COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY IT FOR ANY PURPOSE WHATSOEVER WITHOUT OBTAINING MY PERMISSION! Webster Booth (tenor - 1902-1984) and Anne Ziegler (soprano - 1910-2003) were best known in Britain as duettists on the Variety circuit from 1940 to 1955. During that time they rose rapidly to fame and were frequently heard and seen on radio, records, television, film and stage. Besides this Variety Act, Webster Booth was one of the foremost tenors of his generation and continued to sing in numerous oratorios throughout his career on the Variety circuit. Join The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

JEAN BUCKLEY (26 May 1930 - 20 July 2017)

In 1943, Jean Buckley (née Newman) was thirteen years of age, living in wartime Manchester. Jean, an only child, was originally from London and the family had lived in Brighton for a time. When the war came her father decided that they might be safer living in Manchester. This did not prove to be the case. Jean spent many nights in a damp air raid shelter as German bombs fell on the city.

Jean had always loved Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth’s singing. She had a clear memory of hearing Webster singing Phil, the Fluter’s Ball with Fred Hartley and his quintet on the radio when she was a young child. As light relief from the sleepless nights in the damp air raid shelter, she and her mother attended many of their concerts and broadcasts in the city. They went backstage to see the couple and Jean saved her pocket money and collected coupons so that she could buy gifts to present to Anne when they went backstage. Anne and Webster saw Jean so often that they sent them complimentary tickets for broadcasts of Variety Bandbox and Variety Fanfare. She remembers Webster coming into the dressing room and greeting them with, “How are my two lovelies this evening?”

When Jean left school she went to work for Singer’s Sewing Machines and became a top sales woman with the company. Unknown to Anne and Webster she began to take singing lessons on a part time basis at the Northern School of Music and managed to obtain a few engagements. She told me that she did not mention this to the Booths in case they felt obliged to use their influence to advance her singing career.

Jean married Maurice Buckley in 1956 but was very upset when Anne and Webster decided to move to South Africa in the same year. They kept in touch with the Booths and she sent them copies of The Stage and other British newspapers while they were living there.
Maurice and Jean Buckley (1956)

When they returned to the UK in 1978 they lived near Jean and Maurice, and spent a lot of time with them. Jean said that Webster always enjoyed watching cricket on TV with Maurice.

Jean baked a cake for Anne and Webster’s fortieth wedding anniversary in 1978. 
                                                                             Jean and her poodle, Trixie

A few years later, Jean and Maurice celebrated their Silver wedding anniversary. Here is a lovely photograph of Anne and Webster on that happy occasion. I used this photo as a front cover to my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth  Anne and Webster (1981)

When Webster became ill and was admitted to a nursing home, Jean visited him regularly and took him out for a drive or for tea occasionally to give him a break from the nursing home. She put a tape recording of his records on the car radio. He disliked the nursing home and never wanted to return after his outing with Jean.

After his death, Jean did a great deal for Anne in one way and another. Jean was very hurt when Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson Hill introduced her to someone as “Anne’s greatest fan.” Jean replied, “I think I might be considered Anne’s greatest friend by now.”

The first time I heard of plans to establish a scholarship in Webster Booth’s name at the Royal Northern College of Music was in a letter from Anne Ziegler, dated 20 November 1985, just over a year after Webster Booth’s death on 21 June 1984. Anne mentioned that a coffee morning had been held in the local church hall in aid of the Webster Booth Memorial Fund. Jean had proposed the idea of providing a scholarship in Webster’s name for a tenor to attend the RNCM for a year’s post-graduate study. Jean and her husband, Maurice worked hard to raise money for the Fund and by the time Anne wrote to me £1,600 had been raised towards the initial goal of £3,500. Anne’s letter
continued:
:
November 20 1985 Anne to me.

 I wondered why the scholarship was to be awarded at the RNCM as Webster had studied singing with Dr Richard Wassall at the Midland Institute in Birmingham, fitting in lessons after he finished work at a firm of accountants. I knew that conductor Sir Charles Groves was chairman of the RNCM council at that time and Webster had often referred to him affectionately as “Charlie Groves” who had often conducted him in radio broadcasts, so I though that perhaps this was why Jean had chosen the RNCM for the Award. Many years later, Jean told me why she had chosen the RNCM. In her late teens, she had studied singing part-time at the Northern School of Music, Manchester. This school and the Royal Manchester College of Music amalgamated in 1975 to form the Royal Northern College of Music, which was producing singing graduates of a very high calibre. Manchester was not too far from North Wales where Anne, Jean and Maurice lived. The trip to the College for the annual competition would not be too onerous for Anne as she grew older and it would not be necessary to stay overnight in the city after the Award had been presented.

Jean’s friend, journalist and broadcaster Natalie Anglesey, interviewed her on the BBC about the Webster Booth Memorial Fund, bringing news of it to a wider radio audience. Jean's interview with Natalie

Jean continued to raise funds by making things to sell, doing clothing alterations for a small fee, organising raffles, and collecting donations to the Fund from friends, fans, relatives of Webster and Anne, and local neighbours. Donations were often as little as £1 or £2, but occasionally bigger donations were made by societies such as the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society. Webster’s older brother, Edwin Norman Booth, his wife Annie and daughter Margaret took great interest in the progress of the Fund and helped Jean with fund-raising. Annie made beautiful rag dolls to sell, and each member of the family made regular substantial donations. Jean’s early singing training at the Northern College also benefited the Fund in a round-about way. She and her accompanist, Maureen, began entertaining at hotels around Llandudno and all the money Jean earned in this way went towards the fund. To publicise the Award she gave talks to various societies and clubs about Anne and Webster’s career.

Anne and Jean in Penrhyn Bay before going to the Royal Northern College, Manchester for the prize winners' concert for the Webster Booth prize.

I did not meet Jean when I visited Anne in Penrhyn Bay in 1990, although Anne told me a great deal about her while I was there. Jean had even made a cake for our tea! Jean and I began our correspondence in 2007 and we often said how sorry we were that we had not met each other in 1990 as we could have become good friends.
After Webster’s death, Anne went on holiday with the Buckleys every year. They usually took self-catering accommodation and Jean did all the cooking.

Maurice and Jean on holiday with Anne and Bonnie in the 1990s

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Jean did a great deal to help Anne as she got older. She and Maurice created an en suite room in their home and would have been happy to have Anne to live there if ever she felt unable to continue living in her own home. Even when Maurice became ill, Jean still took Anne shopping, to doctor’s appointments and to the annual prize winners’ concert at the RNCM. When Anne’s gardener could not continue working Jean even helped Anne with the gardening!

Sadly, Anne and Jean fell out over a trivial matter several years before Anne’s death and they were never reconciled. I corresponded regularly with Jean for over ten years and I was sad when she lost her sight and had to move to a frail care home. She developed Alzheimer’s disease and I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to be in strange surroundings, unable to see and not remembering very much.

She was an only child and had no children of her own. I was sad to hear that she died on 20 July 2017 at the age of eighty-seven. I hope she is now at peace. I will treasure the letters and emails she wrote to me, and the photos and memorabilia she sent to me. She will be sadly missed, but fondly remembered by me and friends who loved her.

Jean Collen © 23 July 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

FANS

Webster as a young man.[/caption] Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler were very popular and attracted a legion of fans who followed them for a variety of reasons. Before he began working with Anne, Webster attracted many female fans who admired him, not only for his beautiful voice, but for his smouldering good looks. He told me that he often singled out the most attractive girl in the audience and sang for her alone. Invariably she would be waiting at the stage door after the show, either to ask shyly for his autograph, hoping for a few kind words from her hero, or hoping, better still, that he would ask her out for a drink! He had attractive photos made to hand out to his fans, such as this one, signed at Shanklin in 1931, and the same photo later signed to Elaine in 1933.
 His practised seduction technique led directly to his second marriage with soubrette, Paddy Prior. He had been singing at a Monday evening concert at the Concert Artistes Association when he noticed an attractive young woman sitting in the audience obviously enjoying his singing. When he sang One Alone he directed his attention to her alone. After the concert, he was introduced to her and they were married after his divorce from his first wife, Winifred Keey, was finalised. Sadly, his marriage to Paddy did not last very long after he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the Faust Fantasy at the end of 1934. In July 1934, Madeleine wrote a note to her friends, Lily and Phil, from Shanklin on the Isle of Wight where Webster was appearing in the Sunshine summer show there.
 He valued his fans and treated them with kindness and consideration.He answered fan mail himself, such as in these letters, dated September and December 1936: 1936

During the 1990s Anne wrote to me and told me that her very first fan had visited her recently in Penrhyn Bay. The girl had been fifteen years of age in 1935 and saw Anne in a summer show in Ryde when Anne herself was only twenty-five years of age. She had been a fan of Anne’s ever since and kept in touch with her over the years. Even before Webster’s divorce to Paddy Prior was finalised, he and Anne began singing together on the concert platform. They were an instant success. Both were very attractive with charming personalities. He wore an evening suit with a gardenia in his lapel; Anne was beautifully dressed. As their popularity grew, she had crinoline gowns designed for her, some by the Queen Mother’s dress-designer, Norman Hartnell. They attracted a legion of adoring fans. Many followed them ardently from one engagement to another and listened to all their broadcasts on the radio. One of their fans was Gladys Reed, seen below with Anne at the stage door of the London Palladium in 1942. You can see how delighted she was to have her photo taken with her idol! Anne wrote a letter to Gladys telling her to give their regards to the “gang” – probably referring to the devoted fans who followed them around from one engagement to the other. Letter to Gladys North British Station Hotel
Imagine how Anne and Webster's fairytale act must have lightened the lives of their fans during the difficult war years. No wonder they attracted so many people at that time.

In 1943, Jean Buckley (née Newman) was thirteen years of age, living in wartime Manchester and she and her mother spending many nights in an air raid shelter with bombs dropping around them, keeping them from sleep. She and her mother attended many of their concerts and broadcasts in the city for Jean was enchanted by their act. She and her mother always went backstage to see the couple and Jean saved her pocket money and collected coupons so that she could buy gifts to present to Anne whenever they went backstage after a show. Anne and Webster saw Jean so often that they often sent her complimentary tickets for their shows.

Jean was very upset when they decided to move to South Africa in 1956 but they kept in touch and she sent them copies of The Stage while they were living there. When they returned to the UK in 1978 they lived near Jean and her husband Maurice and spent a lot of time with them. Jean said that Webster enjoyed watching cricket on TV with Maurice.

When Webster became ill and was admitted to a nursing home, Jean visited him in the afternoon when she finished work and took him out occasionally to give him a break from the dull routine of the nursing home.

After his death, Jean did a great deal for Anne in one way and another. She and Maurice raised money to inaugurate a prize in Webster’s name at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Jean was very hurt when Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson Hill condescendingly introduced her as “Anne’s greatest fan.” Jean replied, “I think I might be considered Anne’s greatest friend.”

Sadly, Anne and Jean fell out over a trivial matter several years before Anne’s death and they were never reconciled. I corresponded with Jean for over ten years and I am sad that she has lost her sight and is now living in a frail care home at the age of eighty-seven. Anne and Jean in Penrhyn Bay before going to the Royal Northern College, Manchester for prize winners' concert for the Webster Booth prize.

Before attending  the RNCM concert (1990s)

Another fan was Pamela Davies (née James). She mentioned in her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? that she and her fellow teaching students gathered round the radio to listen to the Victory Royal Command Performance in November 1945 to hear Anne and Webster singing. She made extensive notes of all their radio appearances.      
When Anne and Webster returned to the UK in 1978 she wrote to them to say how pleased she was that they had returned to the country. Thus began a regular correspondence which resulted in Pam and her husband Walter taking Anne out to lunch whenever they went to North Wales.

Anne and Webster went on an extensive concert tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1948. Anne wrote in Duet: “I had an admirer in Christchurch who brought me flowers every day we were there. They were freesias, of the beautiful big New Zealand variety. Her name was Margaret Richardson, and she has since come over to England and obtained a job in New Zealand House.” Margaret Richardson returned to New Zealand and she and Anne kept in touch over the years. Unfortunately, Margaret died shortly before Anne, so she did not receive the photos Anne had allocated to her in her will.

  
John Bull 1952

I wonder where these children are now and what they thought of their mother’s choice of names for them!

When they returned to the UK in 1978, aged 68 and 76, they expected to lead a quiet life in semi-retirement. They had been doing very little work in South Africa for years so it came as a surprise to them to find that they were in great demand in the UK. Many of their fans from the good old days were still alive. Soon they were travelling around the country, singing in concerts, giving talks, appearing on TV and presenting radio programmes.

In 1975 they had given a farewell concert in Somerset West (South Africa) and they had not intended to sing again, but they gave in to public demand when they went back to the UK. Anne was still in fairly good voice but Webster’s voice had deteriorated and I thought it was very sad that he should have had to sing in public again when he was past his best. But they needed the money and their performances continued longer than they should have done. I don’t think their elderly fans were very critical – they were only too happy to see their favourites on stage once again.
 

Joan Tapper, a piano teacher, had been a life-long fan of the couple and when they sang in Mold, North Wales, she presented them with a gift after the concert. This led to a friendship which lasted until Anne's death in 2003.

. Anne and her fan and friend, the late Joan Tapper.

Webster’s health deteriorated and after a disastrous performance in Bridlington when he forgot the words of one of their most popular duets, Anne realised that this had been their swansong and they would never be able to sing together again. Webster died in 1984, and Anne lived alone in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales for another nineteen years. The bungalow was owned by Babs Wilson Hill, who had been Anne’s friend and admirer since they appeared in pantomime together in Liverpool in 1935, although by the end of their lives they were not as close as they had been in earlier times. They died within a few weeks of one another. Happier times - Jean, Anne and Babs
 Jean Collen © 22 June 2017