Matt Monro Sings (Not Now Music)
Available 24 March 2008
On 28th October 1956 Terry Parsons stepped through the doors of Decca Recording Studios, in West Hampstead. Those few steps were to transform the Teddington bus driver into one of the most sought after singing stars of the 60’s.
While working as Terence Parsons on a Number 27 Highgate – Teddington bus during the day – he sought to establish himself as a band singer at night. He sang first as Terry Fitzgerald and then as Al Jordan. His biggest break over that period was with the popular Harry Leader Band. During the various trips he became friendly with a couple of musicians in Scotland and talked them into going into a studio with him. “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” was the first disc Terry Parsons recorded. He hated it so there, for the time being, his aspirations rested.
Meanwhile the girlfriend of one of the Glaswegian musicians had been sending copies of the disc throughout the music industry and it eventually came to the attention of Winifred Atwell. She was so impressed that an introduction to Decca Records and an audition followed. They shared Ms Atwell’s zeal so much that they took the practically unheard of step of launching a new singer with an LP and a recording contract. The usual practice would have been a single disc release. It was made with the Malcolm Lockyer Orchestra and called “Blue and Sentimental”. Terry, who was still driving his Number 27 bus turned up at the studios one morning to cut his first professional disc. It was a chilly miserable Sunday and Terry’s temperature was not helped by a grade A attack of nerves. Partly to keep himself warm and partly to have the comfort of familiar things he kept on his heavy blue serge bus driver’s jacket.
It all looked a trifle bizarre. An aggregation of the country’s finest musicians, looking very professional, all the mechanical clutter of a recording studio looking very intimidating…. And in the middle of it all, a bus driver wearing his pasteboard roundel indicating that he was licensed to drive a public service vehicle. No wonder the orchestra looked a little startled and wore a “now we’ve seen everything” look. Certainly Terence was a little uneasy upon recognising several top musicians in the business.
They ran through the first number “Okay let’s take this one” boomed a voice from the control box. They took it. They played it back. The musicians listened, looked at the not-so-tall singer and after a pause, burst into applause.
Terry Parsons had satisfied the toughest, most cynical, and certainly the most musicianly audience he ever had to face. He sang with a gimmickless freshness as if the lyrics were his own personal thoughts … he phrased it with a maturity that belied his inexperience.
From that moment on he was one of them. He loosened his tie, opened his collar, and took off his bus driver’s jacket. That action symbolised Terry’s entry into a new career.
Decca decided he needed a different name. “Matt Monro” was decided upon in only a matter of minutes. “Matt” was taken from the first name of a Fleet Street journalist, the first to have written a spread on Terry Parsons, and “Monro” from the first name of Winifred Atwell’s father. Matt Monro was born.
“Blue and Sentimental” was released in England as a 10-inch and a 12-inch in the U.S.A. with the added tracks “The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else” and “My Old Flame”.
Between 10 November 1956 and 14 January 1957 Matt released three singles with the company making a total of 20 tracks that were recorded while under contract with Decca. It is interesting to note that two other tracks were also laid down at a session on the 16th January 1957, “I Never Had a Dream Like This Before” and “Mare Piccola” and although they are listed on Decca’s paperwork, they have never been found.
Also included are photographs from the original recording session that have never been released before and only located in 2007.
By contrast, “An Evening With Matt Mono” is the singer at his best, working to a live audience in intimate surroundings, and giving us such unforgettable classics such as “My Kind of Girl”, “From Russia With Love” and “Born Free”.
For nearly 40 years a film reel of this performance lay in the family garage covered in cobwebs under a mountain of other forgotten debris. Its discovery was momentous: the only known film of Britain’s greatest singer had at last been found.
Odeon Entertainment had approached the Matt Monro Estate with a view to making a documentary on the singer’s life. Weeks were spent pouring over photographs, press cuttings, flyers, brochures, radio interviews and cinematic footage. One of the conditions of the contract was that, at Odeon’s expense, they would transfer all of the Monro’s video and cinematic footage to DVD, the newest format on the market. One unmarked canister was also handed over to Odeon to check its contents. It was taken off to a specialized processing plant and a phone call came to explain that the footage looked to be a live performance. Weeks followed while everyone held their breath, waiting for news that the footage was undamaged.
The day that a rough cut was delivered to the Monro’s was heavy with expectation and with trepidation running through the room the Monro’s played the footage. It was as first thought, a full-length undamaged performance of the singer in cabaret at the New Twenties Club in Melbourne, Australia. The clarity was fantastic and the actual performance pitch perfect.
Odeon pleaded that the contract be amended and that this performance supersede the documentary “A Portrait of Matt Monro” which everyone agreed to.
Now for the first time, this audio edition is available. If Matt Monro had gone into the studio and recorded this presentation, it couldn’t be any better vocally. The added bonus here is that the listener is able to share in the singer’s warmth and love he has for his art while catching a glimpse of his rich personality which rarely comes through on a produced record.
This truly is a unique find and packaged together with the artist’s first ever album we can enjoy the singer’s journey from the days of Terry Parsons to that of the legendary artist we know as Matt Monro.
Matt Monro with Love
Heart of the Man
Touch of Class
Very Best Of