- Billy Murray (singer)
William Thomas "Billy" Murray (
25 May, 1877– 17 August, 1954) was one of the most popular singers in the United Statesin the early decades of the 20th century. While he received star billings on Vaudeville, he was best known for his prolific work in the recording studio, making records for almost every record labelof the era. He was probably the best selling recording artist of the first quarter of the 20th century.
filename=Bill Murray - In My Merry Oldsmobile.ogg
title=In My Merry Oldsmobile
description=performed by Billy Murray (Recorded
01 February 1909)
OggBilly Murray was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of immigrants from Ireland. He became fascinated with the theaterand joined a traveling vaudeville troupe in 1893. He also performed in minstrel shows early in his career. He made his first recordings for a local phonograph cylindercompany in San Francisco, Californiain 1897. He started recording regularly in the New York Cityand New Jerseyarea in 1903, when the nation's major record companies as well as the Tin Pan Alleymusic industry were concentrated there.
In 1906 he waxed the first of his popular duets with
Ada Jones. He also performed with Aileen Stanley, the Haydn Quartet, and the American Quartet (also known as the Premier Quartet), in addition to his solo work.
He had a strong
tenorvoice with excellent enunciation and a more conversational delivery than common with bel cantosingers of the era. On comic songs he often deliberately sang slightly flat, which he felt helped the comic effect.
While he often performed romantic numbers and ballads which sold well at the time, his
comedyand novelty songrecordings continue to be popular with later generations of record collectors.
Murray was a devoted baseball fan, and is said to have played with the New York Highlanders (Yankees) in exhibition games. He was also said to have sometimes called in sick to recording sessions in order to go to the ballpark. Ironically, he never recorded baseball's "anthem", "
Take Me Out to the Ball Game". A Victor Record catalog once listed him as having performed it with the Haydn Quartet. The mistake was corrected in later versions of the catalog. Aural and discographical evidence rule out Murray's presence at the recording session (see "Billy Murray: the Phonograph Industry's First Great Recording Artist", by Frank Hoffmann–Scarecrow Press, 1997, and http://www.archeophone.com/features/spotlights/ball_game/index.php). Murray did record "Tessie, You Are the Only, Only, Only", which became the unofficial theme of the 1903 World Serieswhen the words were changed from "Tessie, you know I love you madly," to "Honus, why do you hit so badly?"
Murray's popularity faded with changes in public taste and recording technology; the rise of the electric
microphonein the mid 1920s coincided with the rise of the crooners. His "hammering" style, as he called it, essentially yelling the song into the recording horn, did not work in the electronic era, and it took him some time to learn how to soften his voice.
While his singing style was considered "dated" and was less in demand, he continued to find recording work. By the late 1920s and early 1930s, the music from his salad days was considered nostalgic (the modern term would be "oldies") and Murray was in demand again. He did voices for
animated cartoons, especially the popular "follow the bouncing ball" sing-along cartoons. He also did radiowork.
A subtlety in the evolution of American English pronunciation can be detected in Murray's career. The word "record" was once pronounced with the last syllable rhyming with "cord", as evidenced on the spoken introductions to some of his early work. Example: "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis — sung by Billy Murray, Edison Records". Murray also signed his autographed photos with the play on words, "re-cordially yours". In modern times, the final syllable of "record" is typically pronounced to rhyme with "curd" rather than "cord".
Murray made his last recordings in 1943 and retired to Freeport,
Long Island, New Yorkin 1944. He died in nearby Jones Beach.
Murray recorded hundreds of songs: solos, duets, quartets and other musical groupings. This list is confined, initially, to songs which also have separate wikipedia articles:
Ain't It Funny What a Difference Just a Few Hours Make
Alexander's Ragtime Band
Always Leave Them Laughing When You Say Goodbye
Any Little Girl, That's a Nice Little Girl, is the Right Little Girl For Me
At the Moving Picture Ball
Because I'm Married Now
Bon Bon Buddy
Charley, My Boy
Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley!
Daddy, Come Home
Dear Sing Sing
*Dixie with Frank Stanley and Ada Jones
Give My Regards to Broadway
He'd Have to Get Under — Get Out and Get Under (to Fix Up His Automobile)
He Goes to Church on Sunday
He May Be Old, But He's Got Young Ideas
I Want to Go Back to Michigan
I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark
In My Merry Oldsmobile
In the Land of the Buffalo
In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
It's a Long Way to Tipperarywith quartet
It's the Same Old Shillelaghwith Harry's Tavern Band
*On Moonlight Bay with quartet
* with quartet
*School Days with Ada Jones
Some Sunday Morningwith Ada Jones
The Yankee Doodle Boy
Under the Anheuser Bush
You'd Be Surprised
*The Grand Old Rag (Flag)
Tiny Tim (musician)
* [http://www.denvernightingale.com Billy Murray: The Legendary Denver Nightingale by Ryan Barna]
* [http://www.redhotjazz.com/billymurray.html Biography with sound samples]
* [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.100010366/default.html Billy Murray recording of "The Grand Old Rag" (later retitled "The Grand Old Flag"]
* [http://www.turtleserviceslimited.org/hedhave.htm Billy Murray recording of "He'd Have to Get Out and Get Under to Fix up His Automobile"]
* [http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/search.php?query=billy+murray&queryType=%40attr+1%3D1 Billy Murray cylinder recordings] , from the
Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Projectat the University of California, Santa BarbaraLibrary.
* [http://www.archeophone.com/product_info.php?products_id=46 Billy Murray, Anthology: The Denver Nightingale (
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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