Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Billy Munro, COMPOSER, PIANIST, and MUSICAL DIRECTOR (1894-1969)


pauline garneau said...

pauline garneau said...

Billy Munro, COMPOSER, PIANIST, and MUSICAL DIRECTOR (1894-1969)

Billy Munro, circa 1923
Billy Munro was born in Grenada, in the West Indies, in March of 1894. As a youth, he lived with an uncle in London and studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music and University College School. He immigrated to the United States around 1910 and worked as a silent-movie pianist in a number of American cities before settling in Montréal in 1913. While he continued to play the piano in silent-movie theatres, Munro also performed at the Jardin de Danse in 1917. He lived in New York from 1918 to 1920, where he played in the celebrated Ted Lewis Orchestra. He composed several songs with this group, including "When My Baby Smiles at Me," written for the review Greenwich Village Follies of 1919. This song became a smash hit throughout North America and was featured in the films Hold That Ghost (1941) and Behind the Eight Ball (1942).
Billy Munro returned to Montréal in 1920 and joined the Melody Kings. The ensemble recorded a number of musical selections in 1923, for Herbert Berliner's Apex label. These recordings included Munro's own compositions "I'll Be Here When You Get Back" and "Music Makes the World Go Round." From 1925 to 1929, Munro played with the Melody Kings at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montréal. He later formed his own dance orchestra and inaugurated the cabaret Le Frolic (renamed the Faisan doré 15 years later). His orchestra held extended billings at various cabarets, including Chez Maurice, the Lido and the Gatineau Country Club. Billy Munro turned to freelancing in 1941. He hosted his own radio program on CKAC in 1944 and became the music director at CKVL, a new radio station that began broadcasting from Verdun in 1946. His program, "Les découvertes de Billy Munro," was one of the most popular on French-language radio for a dozen years. From 1947 to 1950, he held the post of music director for the program "Le fantôme au clavier" (CKVL), hosted by Jacques Normand. The artistic collaboration between the two men continued for 15 years, first at the Faisan doré (1948-1950) and then through most of Jacques Normand's cabaret shows, until the mid-1960s.
Billy Munro passed away in Montréal on October 16, 1969.
Unfortunately, the pianist made few solo recordings. Munro's Jardin de Danse Orchestra recorded "Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes" in 1922 (HMV 216357). As well, a recording of "When My Baby Smiles at Me" and "My Blue Heaven" (CH-505) was put out by the Quebec label Alouette in 1952.
For more information on Billy Munro's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.

Ted Lewis When my baby smiles at me

Abbott and Costello Hold that ghost

pauline garneau said...

'When My Baby Smiles at Me'. Pop song composed in 1919 by the Montreal pianist Billy Munro. Ted Lewis and Andrew B. Sterling were credited as lyricists, though their contribution was later disputed. Composed in New York while Munro was a member of Lewis' dance band, the song was inspired by an unsmiling patron who frequented Renton's, the club where Lewis worked. Lewis, who would take the song (published by Harry von Tilzer) as his theme, introduced it in The Greenwich Village Follies of 1919 and recorded it for Columbia in 1920. It was also recorded by several other artists (some listed in Roll Back the Years) and heard in the films Hold That Ghost (1941) and Behind The Eight Ball (1942). As sung by Dan Dailey, it was the title song of a Hollywood film in 1948.
Munro (b British West Indies 1893, d Montreal 16 Oct 1969) studied in London and in 1913 moved to Montreal. There he played at the Jardin de danse in 1917, was a member of Andy Tipaldi's Melody Kings and recorded some songs, including his hit, for Apex. After his New York years (1919-23?) he returned to Montreal, where he composed a few songs with Willie Eckstein - eg, 'Music (Makes the World Go 'Round)' - or Don Davis to lyrics by Sam Howard. In later years his radio show 'Les Talents de Billy Munro' was broadcast on CKVL.
MY blue heaven B Munro


when my baby smiles at me TL

Fats Domino

Plattters My Blue Heaven


Billy Munro returned to Montréal in 1920 and joined the Melody Kings.

he returned to Montreal, where he composed a few songs with Willie Eckstein - eg, 'Music (Makes the World Go 'Round)' - or Don Davis to lyrics by Sam Howard. In later years his radio show 'Les Talents de Billy Munro' was broadcast on CKVL.



Pianist and composer Billy Munro (1894-1969) at the piano for a CKVL broadcast.
Munro worked as a silent-movie pianist in the U.S. and in Montréal. He played with the Ted Lewis Orchestra in New York, with Montréal's Melody Kings, and later with his own orchestra. He was music director for CKVL, which began operations in Verdun in 1946; it became CNIF in 1999. Munro wrote many hit songs and he was a popular host on Montréal French-language radio for many years.
Circa 1946
Source : Concordia University Archives, P113-02-158.

Melody kings

john allison said...

Just amazing. We learn something every day. How wonderful it is to know something else about the people that made and make Verdun a great place. Oh the memories that we each have. Thsi is just another cherry on top of the cake. Thanks!!!!!!

Guy Billard said...

Billy Munroe played with his orchestra at the Verdun Pavillion as shown in the add of my album no. 53. Unfortunately I forget to note the date of the add but I beleive it was in the 30s. I will try to get the date.

Guy Billard said...

Having gone through all the Guardians in our archives from 1929 to 1967, I made the following list of many of the orchestras that played at the Verdun Pavilion in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Willie Eckstein, Melody Doctor*
Maynard Ferguson
Willie Short
Irving Laing
Russ Meredith
Rip Doucette
Billie Munroe
Len Howard

* Thats the way the add reads, he may have been a solo artist. There was a Billie Eckstein or was it Willie, that played at a Ste Rose bar for many years. I saw him play there once in the fifties.It must have been the same pianist.


Guy Billard said...

I have made a copy of Billy Munro's (I just noticed that there is no e at the end of his name) biography for our archives (SHGV). Thanks Pauline for the information.

pauline garneau said...

Billy Munro's talent program discovered so many of the French big name Artists .

I must have been 7 or 8 when a friend and I auditioned on the Saturday morning radio program (Verdun's got Talent) back in the day LOL.

pauline garneau said...

William Eckstein Mr. Fingers from Pointe St Charles started playing the piano at 3 years old .What a talent he was. He 's my next projest.Have a load of info about his accomplishments. Pauline

pauline garneau said...

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pauline garneau said...

Ron Manfield said...

Thank you for adding my profile to this site. I am very proud to be from 3rd Ave Verdun and truly appreciate all that is posted here. I know that Scotty Bowman was also happy to share memories with me about growing up in Verdun!
Sometime let me know where I can mail a CD to you as a thank you! My personal email is Be well

Ron Manfield said...

Forgot, maybe we will have to wait a little if we are to MAIL anything....................

pauline garneau said...

Hi Ron Thanks - I've been a struggling artist for the last 3 months trying to play my mini grand piano I really really appreciate your talent. I discovered my talent is putting in these little memory chips and my piano sounds marvelous. I may give the violin a try. Pauline

Ron Manfield said...

Hi Pauline.Sounds good. Appreciating music in anyway is very important and it is great to hear what you are doing.