The Black Sheep of the Family

Christopher’s new show is about the outrageous Fred Barnes.  It will be developed in collaboration with Wilton’s Music Hall throughout 2017.

Fred Barnes (1885-1938) was a British Music Hall singer.  He was known as the “wavy-haired, blue-eyed Adonis” and the purveyor of “the Greek Style”.  This was code in the first part of the 20th Century for “flamboyant homosexual”.  He wrote a smash hit song about his predicament, The Black Sheep of The Family which was full of coded messages about being a social outcast.  It was this and his outrageous tailoring that made him a star and was to prove his downfall.  He wrote about it in a series of articles called “How Success Ruined Me”

His father was a butcher who became increasingly appalled as his only son’s carrying ons.  Thwarted from attempting to kill Fred with a meat cleaver, he killed himself instead and almost severed his own head clean off.  Fred responded by spending the inheritance on lavish living and the start of an assiduous desire to drink himself to death.  He was banned from any gathering of the military because of importuning young guardsmen and by the 1930s was willing to sing his greatest hits to anyone in a pub in return for a drink.  At the height of his fame and sophistication he had a pet marmoset who would sit on his shoulder while he sang. Before he died, he had a chicken on his shoulder.

Christopher Green played Fred Barnes in the summer of 2016.  In this radio drama he gets to grips with Fred through his extraordinary biography, through his songs and through the unspoken tragedies of his life, in that he was way ahead of his time.  Political liberation came far too late for Fred but his indomitable spirit does shine through his songs and his story.