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2-min read

The Tippling Point | A Toast to 2 British Singers Who Gave Their Lives for Cause of Champagne

Champagne Charlie and the Great Vance began their duel warming up the London music halls. Sales of champagne splurged with each performance. But the fight didn’t last for long.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:July 22, 2018, 1:09 PM IST
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The Tippling Point | A Toast to 2 British Singers Who Gave Their Lives for Cause of Champagne
Image only for representation (Reuters)
News18 Tippling Point George Leybourne, born in Newcastle, was just like any other garden variety singer of the 19th century until he took a few decisions. He had two assets — good looks and a fine baritone voice. He decided to take them to London in 1866 and rechristen himself to ‘Champagne Charlie’. He also decided, he would henceforth sing only for those who could sponsor him.

That was a new concept in the music ‘industry’.

Charlie sang aloud:

“A noise all night, in bed all day, and swimming in Champagne
For Champagne charlie is my name, Champagne charlie is mu name
Some epicures like Burgundy, Hock, Claret, and Moselle,
But Moet’s Vintage only satisfies this Champagne swell”


The song became an instant hit. Charlie became the superstar of London music halls, a sex symbol, and people were asking where they could get hold of the drink he was mentioning.

Sales swelled. The makers of Moets and Chandon couldn’t now pretend the sudden spurge of inquiries made after their name. They finally got to the singer. They commissioned Charlie in 1871 to make a sequel to the hit he had made. Charlie sang this time:

“Champagne Charlie was my name
Champagne drinking gain’d my fame
So as of old, when on the spree,
Moet and Chandon’s the wine for me.”


To amp it up, the new sex symbol of the music world travelled around the town in a four-horse carriage. Moet and Chandon had already instructed Charlie not to drink anything in public other than what they make. It was the first time the maker of an alcoholic beverage was getting a taste of what would later evolve into the concept of celebrity endorsement.

But for Charlie, though he had struck goldmine by finding a hitherto unknown route in the music world soon found people closely following him.

His greatest rival was ‘The Great Vance’ (Alfred Peek Stevens) who stormed into the scene with his phenomenal song: ‘Walking in to the zoo.’ He was not new with this kind of music. On his way to the duelling ground to meet Charlie, he had already earned his suits for free after singing about his tailor. The maker of Clicquot champagne saw immense potential in the Great Vance and pitched in to sponsor the new sensation.

Champagne Charlie and the Great Vance began their duel warming up the London music halls. Sales of champagne splurged with each performance. But the fight didn’t last for long.

The bad-boy lifestyle that both the performers were sponsored to follow eventually took their lives. The great Vance collapsed on stage and died in 1889. Charlie died on alcoholism in 1884 at the age of 42.

But not before doing what their sponsors wanted them to do. Seven million bottles of champagne were sold in 1844. It sky-rocketed to 28 million in 1899. Champagne had finally arrived. Though not the singers.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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