Well, well, well! This is a surprise! A record on ventriloquism! What on earth is it doing in my record collection?
As anyone can see the cover picture is a pastiche of Peter Blake‘s and Jann Haworth‘s “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover, but that’s not why I bought it. I really love the “drum” with the title “Constable O’Rourke’s Wooden Hearts Club Band“! That adds something extra that is not often found on other pastiches. And there, just right of centre is Jack himself; in front of just over forty ventriloquists’ dummies.
The story begins with Chris Jagger‘s 1974 album “The Adventures if Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist“.
I started doing some research on Peter Blake‘s record covers and mailed Chris Jagger for details about how this LP cover came about. He told me that he had come across the book “The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox”, by Henry Cockton (1807-1853). The book was originally published in 1840 in installments and in 1842 in a single volume with sixty illustrations by Onwhyn) and Jagger liked the title and decided to use it for his second album. Peter Blake apparently supplied the ventriloquist’s dummy. So, I got hold of a late 19th Century copy of the book, unfortunately though not the illustrated version.
Then curiosity took hold. I found out that there is (or was) a ventriloquist by the name of Valentine Vox and started to search for information about him, but turned up little. But my searches did find a museum of ventriloquism at Vent Haven, Kentucky, and I contacted the curator Lisa Sweasy for information. She told be that at least six ventriloquists have used the stage name Valentine Vox, or variations on it, such as Valentine Fox or Valentine Faux and wondered which I was interested in. Of course I had no idea! So I suggested the most recent. She informed me of a Jack Riley that used the used the Valentine Vox alias and told me that he had written a book on ventriloquism called “I Can See Your Lips Moving–the History and Art of Ventriloquism“, published in 1993 under that name. However, Riley had also appeared using the stage name Jack O’Reilly and had recorded the LP entitled “You Can Be a Ventriloquist“, in 1969. It has since been re-issued as a CD.
Now to find out more about the mysterious Jack Riley. Apparently, he was born in England in 1939. He moved to America and–at some point–to Toronto, Canada, where the “You Can Be a Ventriloquist” was released. In 2003 he married fellow ventriloquist Eyvonne Carter. That’s what I have been able to find out so far.
And, before anyone starts to ask–No, I’m not going to learn to be a ventriloquist. But researching a record cover can turn up some weird and wonderful stuff.