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A Billy Murray Iconography   
(1900 1953)

Note: This historic material contains racially derogatory language and images that do not
reflect the publisher's or contributors' views.


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Two of the earliest sheet music covers to picture Murray. "The Black Sheep Loves You Best of All" was copyrighted in 1897, but this is a later edition, set up to accomodate custom printings on which different performers' pictures were inserted to
order — a common practice at the time. "Who Knows" was copyrighted in 1903 and features a rather unflattering  early portrait that was quickly retired. (John S. Roberts)


A rare glimpse of Al G. Field's Minstrels on stage c. 1902, with the possibility that Murray could be among
them but if so, where? This photo dispels the common misconception that minstrel shows featured
only blackface performers. (Mainspring Press)


The announcement of Billy Murray's first Victor releases, in the
November 1903 supplement. The records were issued in both
7" (Victor) and 10" (Monarch) versions. (John R. Bolig)  


The first appearance of Murray's photograph in a Victor catalog, from the
June 1905 monthly supplement. (John R. Bolig)


A new Murray portrait appeared in the April 1906 Victor supplement. "The Grand Old Rag"
changed from "Rag" to "Flag" on later pressings was one of Murray's longest-lived
Victor records, with a later double-sided pressing remaining in the catalog
until January 1923. (John R. Bolig)


(Left) An early Murray appearance on sheet music (Howley, Haviland & Dresser, 1903). Music publishers sometimes customized their covers with different performers' photos, for a fee, which appears to have been the case with this title. An alternate version (right) pictures one Belle Belmont does anyone know who she was? She also appeared on Howley, Haviland & Dresser's 1903 cover of "Up in a Cocoanut Tree," another song that Murray recorded.(Jill Sutton / Art Dickson)


Victor Light Opera Co. with Murray, 1911
Billy Murray (bottom, third from left) with the Victor Light Opera Company, March 1911.
(John R. Bolig)



Victor Talking Machine Co. recording ledger

A portion of the Victor recording ledger book for December 5, 1911, covering an American Quartet session.
A handwritten "M" indicates that a matrix was mastered for release, a handwritten "D" — not to be confused
with the "D" stamped into early Victor pressings, which indicates a Duranoid Co. pressing — that
it was to be destroyed (which, however, did not always happen).


One of the crowd: By 1913, Victor had generally stopped giving its studio artists individual listings
in the monthly supplements, instead grouping their releases on a single page. The practice
was reversed in the late 'teens. (John R. Bolig)



Murray and other popular studio artists of 1914, from the Victor Monthly Supplement. Note that Victor
was still using a very dated portrait of Murray. Of particular interest is the listing of Morton Harvey's
"Memphis Blues," the first issued vocal recording of W. C. Handy's classic
which, unfortunately, was treated by Harvey as a comic novelty.
(John R. Bolig)


Billy Murray and other Victor Talking Machin Co. recording artists

Murray and other Victor black-label artists, from the June 1916 Victor supplement
(John R. Bolig)


Billy Murray blurb, 1916 Victor Records catalog

Billy Murray's 1916 Victor records catalog blurb used a much earlier photo,
probably taken at the same time as the shot used for the 1911 Edison
supplement. (Mainspring Press)



Murray on the cover of a song he didn't record for Victor. Victor instead assigned the song to William J.
"Sailor" Reilly, who recorded it on March 21, 1918, only to have all takes destroyed. (John S. Roberts)


A Victor publicity stunt, circa 191819, with Murray at the wheel of his Haynes Roadster. (Dick Carty)


Billy Murray amd Irving Berlin ad, Emerson records

One of the last advertisements for Murray as a freelance artist before
he signed his exclusive Victor contract in July 1920,
from The Talking Machine World. (Mainspring Press)


Announcement that Murray, Henry Burr, and the other members of the Peerless Quartet had signed exclusive
Victor contracts
. This ad appeared in January 1921, although the contracts were signed the previous year.
(Mainspring Press collection)


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Annotations and graphic restorations 20062010

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