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Alfred Peek Stevens was born in London in 1839, Stevens worked initially as a solicitor’s clerk before becoming a stage artist and touring the music halls. He was best known by his stage name Alfred Vance. He was also known as The Great Vance and Alfred Grenville.

His 1st solo performance was at South London Palace in 1864, but previously performed with his brother in a blackface act in 1860. His act initially as a cockney singer, evolved into comedy.

Alfred Vance 27 program

Throughout the 1860’s, Vance along with Arthur Lloyd and his great rival George Leybourne were instrumental in developing the modern music hall performer, known as the lion comique or swells. In this style performers relied less on copying burlesque and instead sought everyday characters of daily street life. George writer of “Champagne Charlie”. Vance wrote and performed Cliquot in response. Vance ended the feud between the pair with the song “Beautiful beer”.

Alfred Vance 27 Cliquot

Vance’s popular song “Walking in the zoo” has been cited as the earliest known use of the term “ok” in it’s current sense. It was previously used in America as a political slogan for Martub Van Buren , nicknamed Old Kinderhook or OK. The chorus of the song begins “Walking in the zoo is the O.K thing to do”. It is also the first time the word zoo was used instead of zoological.

Alfred Vance 27 walking in the zoo

Alfred took ill while performing one of his well-known songs “Are you guilty” in the Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge when it was observed that he staggered off the stage. He was taken to St. George’s hospital but was dead on arrival. Wednesday 26th December 1888. He is buried in Nunhead Cemetery, unfortunately his headstone no longer exists.

Alfred Vance Master Mason The Glasgow Saint Mungo Lodge No.27

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Initiated 10th February 1863

Passed 13th February 1863

Raised 20th February 1863

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Alfred Vance 27 caracature