A note, if any is needed, on Sam Cowell's adoption of 'Billy Barlow'. London-born Cowell(1820-1864) went to the USA with his actor father in 1822 and made his first appearance on the American stage in 1829. By the time he returned to Britain, appearing on the Edinburgh stage in the early 1840s with his father, he was an accomplished comic singer, having absorbed popular early minstrel songs like 'Jim along Josey', Yaller Busha Belle' and 'Sandy Holler'. He was inclined to claim some such songs as his own, but he certainly learned them in America. He must have heard'Billy Barlow' while still a child, later adapting it for a British audience.
He appeared as comic singer in the London pleasure gardens and Evans's Supper Room in Covent Garden in the late 40s and early 50s and became, arguably,the first real star of the emerging London music hall when he was engaged by Charles Morton to appear at Canterbury Hall, Lambeth in 1852. He enjoyed enormous success with character songs like 'Billy Barlow', 'The Ratcatcher's Daughter', 'Villikens and his Dinah' (inherited - or taken over - from Frederick Robson),'Old Dog Tray' and dramatic scenas like 'Alonzo the Brave', before meeting his premature death as an alcoholic.