Alfred Vance

Alfred Vance

Sheet music for Walking in the Zoo
Born Alfred Peek Stevens
Died 26 December 1888(1888-12-26)
Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge
Other names The Great Vance
Alfred Grenville
Occupation Music hall vocalist

Alfred Peek Stevens (1839 – 26 December 1888), best known by his stage name of Alfred Vance, was a 19th-century English music hall singer.

Early life and family

Vance was born in London in 1839. He worked initially as a solicitor's clerk, before appearing in music halls.


His first solo appearance was at the South London Palace in 1864, but he had earlier performed in a blackface act with his brother in 1860. His act, initially as a Cockney singer, evolved into comedy. He was also known as The Great Vance, and Alfred Grenville.

Vance was a great rival of George Leybourne, writer of "Champagne Charlie". Vance wrote and performed Cliquot in response. Vance ended the feud with the song "Beautiful Beer". Their style introduced a new genre to the music hall, known as lion comique.

Vance's popular song "Walking in the Zoo" has been cited by Desmond Morris (in Gestures: Their Origin and Distribution) as the earliest known use in the UK of the term "O.K." in its current sense. (It was previously used in America as a political slogan for Martin Van Buren, nicknamed Old Kinderhook or O.K.) The chorus of Vance's song begins with the line "Walking in the zoo is the O.K. thing to do." It is also one of the first uses of the term "zoo" in place of the full name of "zoological garden".[1] The song refers specifically to the Zoological Gardens at Regent's Park, London.

Another song of the 1860s was "The King of Trumps". The cover depicts a playing card for the King of Trumps in colour with parts of other cards in each corner, around a picture of Alfred Vance in a top hat.

Vance died on 26 December 1888 while performing on the stage of the Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge. He is buried in Nunhead Cemetery, although his headstone no longer exists.




Wikisource has original text related to this article:
  1. , Webpage for WYNC's Radiolab podcast on Zoos.
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