čtvrtek 15. října 2015

Michele Monro: "I think my dad would love to know that his music means so much to so many different people."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Matt Monro's passing. I am very happy that Matt's daughter Michele was kind enough to answer a couple of questions exclusively for Stardust Melodies. Here's to Matt and his wonderful music...

What is fondest childhood memory?
Some of my happiest childhood memories of my father is seeing him perform. In the day he was just a regular dad, feet up on the settee watching television, telling me off for wearing too much make-up, helping me with my homework and raising eye brows when I brought boys home.  But on work days he came alive, a different persona took over and he took on the role of an idolised pop star.  It is interesting to note that he was more revered in all other countries except his birth place and spending up to nine moths of every year away was sometimes tough on all of us.  But he was in constant demand and in an ever changing business you went where the work took you.

Donning his trademark dress suit, dapper and suave he took to a stage like a duck to water, he came alive singing the songs that he loved and that had made him popular.  Applause is a natural drug and any artists is able to attain a performance high for a grateful adoring audience. It was strange at first being pushed out of the way in favour of excitable woman who stampeded a path to get close enough to him for that sought after autograph or photograph and a kiss on the cheek, some became quite rude in their quest pushing and shoving others to gain entry to the inner sanctuary of a dressing room but it came with the territory.

There wasn’t one performance he didn’t glow in the aftermath but then analyzed how it could be improved or bettered.  He was a perfectionist in his art and he never rested on his laurels, he felt every audience deserved his best.

And We Were Lovers

Who has been your biggest influence in life and why?
My father has been the biggest influuence because he is the one who inspired me throughout my life. He taught me I can do anything I want, be anyone I wanted to be and to never give up. I never saw a nasty side to my father. Even when researching the book I interviewed over 200 people and yet I didn’t meet anyone who had a bad word to say about him, he was quite simply a very nice person and that is always something to aspire to.

My father’s early life was extremely diffiicult and throughout his informative years he received a lot of knock-backs but he perservered. My mother belived in him 100% and she would not have let him give up on his dream of being a singer. He lost his own father at the age of three and was put into a foster home when his mother fell ill and was put into a santitarium. The journey he travelled, the tragedies he endured, the sadness in his early life all gave him license to grow up to be a bitter and selfish man but he was anything but. That’s what inspired me to document his life in the book ‘The Singer’s Singer’ - his was a remarkable story from a remarkable industry and era. He was a wonderful entertainer, artist, friend and father and I miss him.

When did your parents first meet, I know your mother was also working in a music business at the time of their meeting... 
My mother, Mickie Schuller was the first women music plugger in the business. Working at Mills Music It was her job to get records heard on the radio. She had agreed to go with publicist Les Perin to a record launch thrown by Winifred Atwell for a new singer. 

At the appointed time she made the short journey to New Bond Street. Winnie Atwell was terribly excited about her new discovery and with a simulated drum roll she played tracks from Blue and Sentimental, the new album that had just been delivered by Decca. Each track received enthusiastic approval from the invited crowd and it was the general consensus of opinion that Winnie had picked a winner.

It wasn’t long before her new prodigy arrived. As Matt Monro walked through the throng, applause rippled the air and people vied for a chance to congratulate him. Mickie had a different opinion. Having listened to the songs with the strong romantic voice she imagined him to be tall, broad shouldered with chiselled good looks, a real Adonis.  Although she couldn’t fault the voice she was hugely disillusioned because he was much shorter than the mental picture she had conjured up and he bit his nails. The man didn’t go with the voice. The girls in Winnie’s office were swooning all over him but her opinion was that he was cocky although he didn’t really say or do anything wrong. While not impressed with Mr Monro she loved the album and thought his voice was beautiful.

Having spotted Mickie across the room Les came over to say hello with the singer in tow. The publicist made the introductions and as she looked at Matt’s features more carefully she noticed his clear hazel eyes, his mink coloured hair and broad shoulders. He was easy to talk to and half way through a conversation he was pulled away by Lew to be introduced to important contacts. Mickie was niggled by the fact that everyone was fawning over him and her irritation grew. It didn’t dawn on her that in the strange workings of the mind, the dislike probably sprang from the fact that deep down she was attracted to him.
Mickie saw Matt several times over the next week. He was due to start with the Showband shortly and would pop in to discuss his work and ask her advice. Each time he came to the office he would ask Mickie if she wanted to go for a coffee but she turned him down, even with a crowd in tow. She automatically refused.  She realised that every time she heard his cheery voice greeting the doorman, she’d reach for her powder compact and check her hair.

But events were to keep them together. Mills Music was throwing their annual festive social gathering later that month and asked Mickie to put his name on her list of contacts – the idea being to get Matt to feature their songs.  Her first step was to ask him to the Mills Christmas party of 1956 at her firm’s request. As they say... the rest is history.

I would like to talk a little about your wonderful book called Matt Monro: The Singer's Singer . When did you first got the idea to write about your father and his life? The book has been a great success and I wonder what was the most imporatant think you feel you accomplished by publishing it?
There were actually two reasons I was inspired to write the book. I suffer from the disease multiple sclerosis. Having suffered a near-fatal car crash a few years ago as I was being cut from the wreckage, I suddenly had this awful thought that if I died my son would never know his true origins or family roots. It is simply not enough to know that Matt Monro was a great singer; I wanted my son Max to know the man behind the voice.  The book brings insight into the man, the husband and the father and I hope makes Max proud to know, that this then, was his grandfather. Like the music, this book immortalises the man. It explains the legacy he left behind for all of us and I dearly hope that his legacy burns brightly over the coming years.

The unique quality of Matt Monro’s voice made him a star amongst the stars and earned him the title The Singer’s Singer. During his career, he had solidly established himself as a leading entertainer and recording star across the globe. He had earned the reputation of being the Singer’s Singer as evidenced by his celebrity following. Names like Sammy Davis Jr, Doris Day, Hoagy Carmichael, Steve Lawrence, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin had lauded his efforts and every night he went on stage there would be a liberal sprinkling of American show business in the audience including such names as Quincy Jones, Count Basie and Billy Eckstine.  As far as I was concerned Matt Monro, simply put is, The Singer’s Singer.

The second reason was that by having a book published I knew it would sit in the British Library for all time, and whereas dad’s CD’s preserve the legacy of his music, the book immortalizes the man.. It means the legacy that Matt Monro left behind will continue to burn brightly well after I’m gone.


I know your brother Matt Jr. has also been doing a great justice to your father’s memory...  Can you tell us more about his recent projects. I know he‘ on UK tour right now...
This year is my father’s 30th anniversary and to mark the ocassion mybrother and I decided to stage The Matt Monro Story around the theatres in England. I wrote the script and my brother is singing those great songs that made my father famous. I had hoped to be the narrator on the tour but sadly my health is just not up to the gruelling travel schedule that the tour requires.

It is so seldom that you hear live bands anymore and Matt Jnr has a great bunch of musicians with him and the show opened to great success on Thursday 1st October. It is our accolade to our father and his legacy of music.

I believe your father’s memory will live on as soon as music surrounds us. I feel  that thanks to new generation of artists who have been singing the old standards and older songs, young people got to know Matt Monro’s legacy and are now listening to his music more than ever...
What makes Matt Monro special is that he sang a song how it was written, he made people feel special and sang with true feeling. He made people feel good about themselves.  He chose good lyrics, great musicians and the best producers in order to give the song the best possible treatment. He didn’t try and fool an audience with a lack lustre performance, when he went on that stage he meant it and it came across.

If you have never heard of Matt Monro then you are in for a treat, there is a wealth of material to chose from but if you only want one product then I would probably choose “The Singer’s Singer which is a collection of 4 disc, all of his well know hits are included as well as some of the lesser known rarities.  The fourth disc is of very rare material including a selection of jingles from various TV and radio promotions.    If one didn’t want to have that much of a choice than I would opt for “The Ultimate Matt Monro” which has a cross section of his hits.  My favourite DVD has to be the live Australian concert.  The diction and phrasing is letter perfect and his wonderfully controlled breath control is what made him unique. A fantastic performance for a wonderful entertainer.

 Birth of the Blues

What do you think your father would like to be remember for the most?
My father grew in an industry, which was riddled with rock and roll and electric amplification, flower power and longhaired youths gesticulating across a stage with a guitar in tow. He survived many fads of the age but survived their impact because good music won through.  Ballads although out of fashion with certain critics were not out of flavour with his public.  His achievements ensured he stayed in style while most of his peers fell by the wayside, long forgotten and decades on his name is still remembered with great fondness and his music still sells even against the hip hop and rap market.  In an age where you could understand the words and sang the lyric as the writer intended, I think to still be earning gold records is a wonderful accolade to his talent. I think my dad would love to know that his music means so much to so many different people.
Through his music Matt lives on...

He is irreplaceable.

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