Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Billy Murray, the biggest selling sensation of the pioneer era, dies: August 17, 1954

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He was born in Philadelphia, Pennysylvania on May 25, 1877 and raised in Denver, Colorado. His death on August 17, 1954, marked a last hurrah for the pre-1920s pioneer era of music. He has been called the most sensational record seller of that time. At a time before radio ruled the waves and recording technology remained primitive, Billy Murray’s success gave the fledgling recording industry the credibility to develop into a popular form of entertainment. “In an era dominated by the operatically-influenced singing style, he helped to popularize a more natural approach. He was an incredibly versatile artist” JL whose “records serve as excellent representatives of the music and events of American culture.” DN The recording careers of other 20th century musical giants such as Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles pale in comparison.

He charted more than 200 hits and 30 number ones are songs as a solo artist and as lead with the Haydn Quartet, the American Quartet, the Columbia Comedy Trio, and the Heidelberg Quintet. He also recorded numerous duets with Ada Jones. Among those songs are a number of classics which make the Dave’s Music Database list of the top 1000 songs of the 20th century. These include “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis” (1904), “In My Merry Oldsmobile” (1905), “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (with the Haydn Quartet, 1908), “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (with the Haydn Quartet, 1910), “Casey Jones” (with the American Quartet, 1910), “Come, Josephine, in My Flying Machine” (with the American Quartet & Ada Jones, 1911), “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” (with the American Quartet, 1911), and “K-K-K-Katy (The Stammering Song)” (1918).

He recorded many of the definitive versions of songs from famed songwriter George M. Cohan. Among them are five which make the Dave’s Music Database list of the top 1000 songs of the 20th century. Those are “Yankee Doodle Boy” (1905), “Give My Regards to Broadway” (1905), “You’re a Grand Old Flag” (1906), “Harrigan” (1907), and “Over There” (with the American Quartet, 1917). The first two are also in the Grammy Hall of Fame while “Flag” is also in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Murray’s highest-ranked song according to the DMDB

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