When Edmund Caselli took his banjo playing talent into the music halls at the start of the 20th century it wasn't felt that he needed a stage name: his own name, thanks to his Italian ancestry, was obviously considered exotic enough. His great great grandfather, Ranieri Caselli, was described as a Yeoman of the parish of St Saviour Dartmouth in Devon, when he married Jenny Hingston in the church of St Clement Townstall in Dartmouth on the 20th May 1782. Their son Ranieri was baptised just over a month later in St Saviour. Ranieri Caselli junior next appears in Plymouth when he married Elizabeth Richards on the 28th January 1808, Ranieri was working as a Blockmaker - a skilled craftsman working in the shipyards making pulley blocks for ships' rigging - and the parish registers for St Andrew show that they had four children baptised in the parish (and three buried) before moving further west to Falmouth. Ranieri's wife Elizabeth, died in Falmouth in 1826 and he married Joanna Rowe in 1827 in Mylor in Cornwall and by 1851 they had moved to Liverpool; Ranieri, now 68, was still working as a blockmaker. Ranieri and Elizabeth’s son Edmund Hingston Caselli was born in Falmouth on the 11th of June 1818 and by 1851 he had moved to Deptford in Kent, where he is working as a blockmaker. Shortly after the 1851 census on the 11th May, Edmund married Jane Clymo in Southwark. Their son Edmund was born the following year in Deptford, and he married Jane Tanner in 1872. In keeping with the family tradition Edmund and Jane called their first son Edmund. He was born in Deptford in 1873, and was followed by Jane born in Box in Wiltshire, her mother's home village, in 1876. In 1901 Edmund and Jane's son Edmund is living in Battersea, with his widowed mother and younger siblings. Single and aged 27, he gives his occupation as Music Teacher, but he was already performing locally on the banjo and mandolin as he appears as Ted Caselli in a review of a Mitre Music Society special ladies' night variety show carried by the South London Chronicle in March 1900. By 1904 partnered with Charles (or William) James he is touring the UK in a double act as Caselli & James "banjo experts". In 1905 they are billed as "The Greatest Exponents of Banjo Playing", and by 1906 they had joined Harry Rickards company touring Australia, where they first appeared in Sydney in October before going across to Perth at the start of 1907, where according to the Perth Daily News they were "the principal stars of the present company". Romance broke up the partnership when James married a fellow performer, Malvena Moore. By August 1907 Edmund was back in the UK performing solo, and James was doing the same in Australia, with both of them seeming to be repeating their old repertoire: the parson's sermon had been considered the high point of their duetting in 1906 and both continued to perform it on opposite sides of the world. THE CENTRAL HALL [...] Caselli, an expert banjoist, pleased the well-filled house with his selections. His best efforts were the overture to "Poet and Peasant", and a representation of a church service, even to the parson's sermon, the latter being produced by clever manipulation of the strings. Sheffield Daily Telegraph December 31, 1907 ROYAL REVELLERS. Will C. James, billed as "England's, Greatest Banjoist", from the Alhambra, London, was the star new turn at the Royal last night, and what he can't make a banjo do, heaven only knows. He can make it speak anyway, and his imitation of a village church service was complete, even to a droning parson's sermon. Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954) Sun 9 Jun 1907 The adverts for Edmund's performances contain the usual hyperbole, referring to him as a "phenomenal banjo expert & comedian", reaching "the Limit in Scientific Banjo Playing. Also including Humorous Imitations". The reviews are more measured but he does seem to have been very popular and successful, touring the length and breadth of the country. In July 1911 Edmund Caselli "the phenomenal banjoist" was performing at the Kino in Jarrow and the Royal Kino in Hebburn as a musical interlude between the Kinematograph picture programmes. It must have been on this occasion that he met his future wife, Marie Elizabeth Scott; she appears as a Musician in the 1911 census living with her parents in Hebburn. Her father Richard is a Cinematograph Agent, one brother is a Cinematograph theatre manager, another brother and a sister are clerks in a Cinematograph box office, and adverts in the local papers make it clear her younger brothers are running both the Kinos in Hebburn and Jarrow. Edmund and Marie married on the 12th November 1911 in Hebburn, and their first child Marie was born in 1912 in South Shields. For the next few years Edmund continued to tour the provinces and their second child, Edmund Scott Caselli, was born in Southampton in 1915. If the lack of newspaper adverts and reviews for the second half of this decade is any indication, it would seem that Edmund was no longer touring which may suggest he had a permanent position in a jazz band. An advert in The Era from August 25th 1920 places Edmund as a member of the Syncopated Five along with Rube Cooper, violinist; Jack Seymour, pianist; Steve Le Roy, drummer; James Chambers, saxophonist. They spent the summer season 1920 at the Grand Hotel, Cliftonville, Margate and were “At liberty October 2nd for forthcoming winter season. Only first-class offers entertained for a first-class band.” In 1921 the family are living at 26 West Square in Southwark and Edmund describes himself as a banjoist employed by Mitchell & Booker (Palais de Danse Ltd, Hammersmith) with his place of employment the Rectors Club, Tottenham Court Road. Probably performing as a member of a jazz band it seems unlikely that this was the Syncopated Five as Rube Cooper - who seems to have been the leader of that group is living in Margate and performing at the Queens Highcliffe Hotel as a violinist while his employer is said to be D. De Groot, musical director. https://www.jazzageclub.com/dancing-world-magazine/5288/ Follow this link for more on Mitchell & Booker and the Rectors Club. By the end of the 1920s Edmund is advertising for work again and touring with venues in Surrey and Kent to Hertford and Huddersfield. 1931 finds him in Cleveleys in Lancashire performing with Claude Ewin’s Cabaret Revellers. His final adverts in The Stage appear in 1936, and Edmund died in Marylebone at the start of 1938 at the age of 64 - performing his “phenomenal” banjo routine to very nearly the end of his life. His wife Marie’s death was registered in Rochford in Essex also in the first quarter of 1938. Edmund had two of his compositions published by Clifford Essex & Son: Languid Blues in 1914 and Dainty Hussy in 1930.
Tales around the tree Some descendants of Hannah Clifford - Jane Tanner and the Casellis