Inducted: April 16, 2016

Billy Murray

Born May 25, 1877, in Philadelphia, Billy Murray and his family moved five years later to Denver, where he spent most of his early years expressing an interest in show business. Following a stint as part of a “rube” song-and-dance act with neighborhood pals, Billy’s parents allowed him to join Harry Leavitt’s High Rollers troupe as an actor at age 16.

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He spent the next decade honing his skills in a succession of minstrel shows and small-time vaudeville venues.

Murray found his way to New York, where he could achieve success in the rapidly emerging field of phonography. In 1903, he secured an engagement with Thomas Edison’s National Phonograph Company, and his initial recordings, released and marketed nationwide, became immediate hits. Murray’s ability to sing loudly, in full voice, was suited for making precise, vibrant records during the acoustic era of sound process, which employed recording horns rather than the electronic microphone.

Murray emerged as a huge solo recording star, introducing the public to the music of George M. Cohan (“You’re a Grand Old Flag”) and a host of familiar tunes—“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (written by Irving Berlin), “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Over There,” “Casey Jones,” “Pretty Baby” and “That Old Gang of Mine.”

The labels had him record a wide range of styles, including material from Broadway musicals, sentimental ballads, comic fare, vaudeville sketches, “ethnic” and topical pieces. He served as guest lead vocalist for the Haydn Quartet, known for its spirited interpretations of ragtime and novelty numbers (the biggest was “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”), and became leader of his own group, the American Quartet. He also recorded duets with popular female artists of the day.

Murray remained a prolific artist throughout the 1920s; when the industry transitioned to electronic recording, he adjusted to a softer, crooning delivery for jazz and band-oriented dance numbers. During the 1930s, he recorded spoken dialogue for children’s stories and film cartoons. He retired in 1944 and passed away on September 17, 1954, on Long Island.

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Murray emerged as a huge solo recording star, introducing the public to the music of George M. Cohan (“You’re a Grand Old Flag”) and a host of other familiar tunes.

Billy Murray Discography

Give My Regards to Broadway

1905 – Under the Anheuser Bush

1909 – Oh, You Kid

1920 – You’d Be Surprised

1915 – Gasoline Gus

1904 – Teasing

1905 – Everybody Works but Father

1908 – In My Merry Oldsmobile

1903 – Up In a Cocoanut Tree

He Goes to Church on Sunday

1906 – Sweet Anastasia Brady

1915 – Goodbye Girls, I’m Through

1905 – Yankee Doodle Boy

1910 – She Sells Sea Shells

1913 – On the Old Fall River Line

1906 – You Look Awful Good to Father

1919 – The Worst Is Yet to Come

1923 – Barney Google

Good-Bye Sis

1920 Oh! By Jingo

1906 – Cheyenne

1904 – Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis

1926 – I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight

1909 – Shine On Harvest Moon

1906 – Not Because You’re Hair is Curly

1922 – In My Heart, On My Mind

1916 – Pretty Baby

2002 – Anthology The Denver Nightingale

1924 – You May Be Fast but Your Mamma’s Gonna Slow You Down

1919 – Can You Tame Wild Women

1906 – The Grand Old Rag (Flag)

1920 – Rose of Washington Square

1906 – College Life

1914 – He’d Have to Get Under

1906 – It Takes the Irish to Beat the Dutch

1908 – It Looks Like a Big Night tonight

1916 – Hello, Hawaii, How Are You

1919 – The Alcoholic Blues

1924 – Charley, My Boy

1906 – I’m Afraid to Come Home in the Dark

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