Billy Murray sings "I'm Glad I'm Married" on Edison Standard Record 10018, issued in December 1908.
Music is by Albert Von Tilzer. Music is by Jack Norworth.
Billy Murray (25 May 1877 - 17 August 1954) was arguably the most popular recording artist of the acoustic era. He worked as a solo artist but was equally comfortable in duets, trios, quartets, and quintets. His ability to adapt to changing musical trends resulted in heavy session work from 1903 until the advent of electric recording. Though his popularity was in decline after 1925 or so, he recorded steadily until the onset of the Great Depression, even returning to studios during World War II.
William Thomas Murray "squalled for the first time in 1877" in Philadelphia, according to an article attributed to Murray and titled "My Twin--The Phonograph" in the January 1917 issue of Edison Phonograph Monthly.
His parents, Patrick Murray (born in 1849) and Julia Kelleher Murray, appear to have emigrated from County Kerry, Ireland, when young. The family moved from the East to Denver, Colorado. Victor catalogs nicknamed him "The Denver Nightingale."
Printed in 1912 was a record slip for Edison Blue Amberol 1602, featuring "When I Get You Alone Tonight," which gives some biographical information. It states, "Billy Murray...ran away from his home in Denver when but thirteen years old, and after working as a newsboy and jockey in San Francisco, returned to Denver and got a job as property man in a local theater. He became friendly with the night watchman of the theater, and together they originated a singing and dancing act, which they practiced in secret in a nearby barn, until finally they were able to try it on the stage."
When he was around 16, his parents allowed him to join Harry Leavitt's High Rollers Troupe as an actor in 1893. Harry Leavitt was a touring impresario.
In 1897 Murray and Matt Keefe visited the Bacigalupi Brothers in San Francisco. Murray cites an earlier year in "My Twin--The Phonograph," but the fact that one song recorded was published in 1897 suggests he was off by a year. Murray states, "In 1896 I was trouping with a minstrel show, and finally landed in 'Frisco.' The Edison Jobbers in San Francisco were Bacigalupi Brothers, and one of the members of the firm, or one of their customers, attended a performance at which Matt Kief [sic], the famous minstrel, and myself sang 'The County Mayo'['The Lass From The County Mayo']...As a result, Matt and I were engaged to go to the store and make some records of the song. At that time many dealers had devices by which eight records could be made at once, and Matt and I were set to work in front of one of these."
No Bacigalupi cylinders by Murray are known to exist. Murray soon joined the Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels as a blackface singer and dancer.
When the troupe reached New York City, Murray visited record companies. Murray came with letters of introduction from the Edison distributor in San Francisco, testifying that cylinders made for local distribution had been successful and that he was a "natural" recording artist. Murray secured an engagement with Edison's National Phonograph Company.
His first Edison cylinders, probably the first Murray records to be marketed nationwide, were released in August 1903. The July 1903 issue of Edison Phonograph Monthly announced the August release of the "coon" songs "I'm Thinkin' of You All of de While" (8452) and "Alec Busby, Don't Go Away" (8453). It also calls Murray "a new man on our staff of entertainers." The performances were probably recorded in June 1903. He cut the same two titles for Victor in September though no Victor takes of "Alec Busby, Don't Go Away," a song by Hughie Cannon, were issued.
At this time, artists such as Harry Macdonough, Arthur Collins, Byron G. Harlan, the team of Collins and Harlan, Albert Benzler, Frank C. Stanley, and the Edison Concert Band recorded so regularly for Edison's National Phonograph Company that a new title featuring each artist was issued virtually each month, year after year. The young Murray joined these veterans, a new cylinder being issued nearly each month, year after year. Other release dates and titles from his first year as an Edison artist include the following (after each song title is a genre type cited in Edison promotional literature, followed by the cylinder number):
September 1903: "I Could Never Love Like That" ("Coon song"), 8477
November 1903: "Under a Panama" ("Coon song"), 8541
December 1903: "Bedelia" ("Irish coon serenade"), 8550
December 1903: "Up in the Cocoanut Tree" ("Love song of the cocoanut grove"), 8564
January 1904: "Under the Anheuser Bush" ("Waltz song with orchestra accompaniment"), 8575
Columbia records featuring Murray were possibly made slightly earlier, but Murray himself told Quentin Riggs that his initial East Coast recordings were made for Edison in 1903.
Murray's first Victor session was on September 2, 1903.