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Billy Merson

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DesdemonaThe Photo of the Girl I Left BehindThe Spaniard That Blighted My Life
Billy Merson (born William Henry Thompson; 29 March 1879–25 June 1947) was an English music hall performer and songwriter.
He was born in Nottingham. He began his career while working in a lace-making factory, and doing shows in the evenings. It took some time until he could make a living from his stage work. "For five or six years on the stage, I survived on a salary hardly enough to keep body and soul together", he said. He was initially an acrobat and clown, and first played in London in 1905 under the character name "Ping-Pong".
He wrote songs and sold some of his compositions to other performers, including Wilkie Bard and Harry Ford, before finding success in 1909 with a song that he performed himself in pantomime, "The Spaniard That Blighted My Life", sung in a pseudo-operatic style. The song also became one of Al Jolson's first hits, in 1913, and a hit again when Jolson re-recorded it with Bing Crosby in 1947. Merson took Jolson to court over performing the song without authorisation; he lost on a technicality, and the costs of the legal action left him bankrupt. Other songs that Merson wrote include "The Photo of the Girl I Left Behind", and "Desdemona".
With fellow music hall performer Charles Austin, he set up Homeland Films, and made several silent short films, including Billy's Spanish Love Spasm (1915), directed by W. P. Kellino. He also appeared in three films made in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process, Billy Merson Sings Desdemona, Billy Merson Sings Scotland's Whiskey (a satire on Sir Harry Lauder), and Billy Merson in a Russian Opera (all 1926-1927).
As a comedian he was often paired with George Formby Senior. He performed in revues, including Whirled into Happiness (1922), musical comedy, and plays, until 1941. He was chairman of the music hall at the Players Theatre in London.
He died in Nottingham in 1947, aged 68.