Billy Mayerl

Biography

Born: May 31, 1902; London, England   Died: March 25, 1959; Beaconsfield, S. Bucks, England  
Billy Mayerl achieved considerable popularity from the 1920s to 1950s through his radio broadcasts and recordings as a bandleader, a pianist noted for his novelty compositions and songs, and through his many theater scores.

Mayerl's prodigal talents were recognized early: He was granted a scholarship to Trinity College and performed Grieg's Piano Concerto at Queens Hall when he was only 12. His skill as a silent film accompanist earned
Read more him the sobriquet "wonder boy." As his studies advanced, he discovered he was attracted to American popular music. In 1921, while working in a Southampton hotel band, he was asked to join the Savoy Havana Band and he soon became a celebrity. His compositions, small suites, and collections, at this time demonstrate his love of tone poem-like description: Egyptian Suite (1919) and the Six Pianolettes ("Jazz Master", "Eskimo Shivers" [the only tune that Mayerl recorded on a piano roll], "Jazzaristrix", "Jazz Mistress", "Virginia Creeper", "All-of-a-Twist") written in 1925, published by Keith Prowse. These compositions have in common an emphasis on syncopation, unusual accents, delightful melodies, dazzling upbeat atmospheres, and varied textures. Mayerl also created many transcriptions of popular tunes of the day.

In 1926, Mayerl left the band to open his School of Syncopation that taught pop piano techniques (stride and ragtime styles mostly), which eventually led to a "Learn How to Play Like Billy" correspondence course, and he also founded a dance band agency. Mayerl recorded many sides for the Vocalian label through 1927 and later worked for HMV, Decca, British Columbia, and others. He also appeared as soloist in the London premiere of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

One of Mayerl's biggest hits was Marigold (1927). Other pieces of this time included Four Piano Exaggerations (1926, including Sleepy Piano), Hollyhock (Syncopated Impression) (1927), Honkytonk (1928), his popular Jasmine (1929), Six Studies in Syncopation (1930 - 1931), and the Four Aces Suite (1933). The Ace of Spades is remarkable for its atonal introduction and bi-tonality (similar to Stravinsky's Petrushka, which Mayerl admired). Many of his compositions were also in the British pastoral style, intimate and contemplative, such as the Pastoral Sketches (1928).

Between the wars, Mayerl scored shows for many of the top British music hall stars, including Nippy (1930), Sporting Love (1934), Twenty to One (1935), and Over She Goes (1936). He continued to play vaudeville houses and variety shows and broadcast regularly. His wife, Jill, was also a fine pianist who had her own recording career.

Mayerl's Aquarium Suite (Willow Moss, Moorish Idol, Fantail, Whirligig) of 1937 was another colorful and subtle "impression" that was much admired. The following year, his spectacular Railroad Rhythm created another hit. During WWII, his published compositions were considerably fewer, but Mayerl returned to full speed with his beautiful In My Garden series of 12 pieces during 1946 - 1947, his upbeat Postman's Knock (1951), and other delightful pieces through 1959. Mayerl did not incorporate the later riff and freer bebop improvisatory styles in his piano playing, but is still remembered for his melodic creations. Read less
Browse 1-17 of 17 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Piers Lane Goes To Town
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67967 Release Date: 09/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Katharine Parker,  Alan Lane,  Anthony Doheny,  John Ireland  ... 
    Performer:  Piers Lane
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  • 2.
    Billy Mayerl: Piano Music Vol 1 / Philip Martin
    Label: Somm   Catalog: 124 Release Date: 06/11/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl
    Performer:  Philip Martin
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  • 3.
    Beethoven Invents Jazz
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 0709232 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Modest Mussorgsky,  Claude Debussy,  Igor Stravinsky  ... 
    Performer:  Truls Otterbech Mork,  Juhani Lagerspetz,  Jean-Bernard Pommier,  Michael Collins  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Simon Rattle,  Alberto Zedda,  Wayne Marshall  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos Ensemble London
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  • 4.
    British Composers: A Celebration
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 95480 Release Date: 05/03/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Charles Hubert Parry,  Gustav Holst,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Ian Hare,  Sir Andrew Davis,  Bruce Russell,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sir Adrian Boult,  Sir Andrew Davis,  Christopher Bishop  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Choir  ... 
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  • 5.
    The Golden Age Of Light Music: Orchestral Gems In Stereo
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 5165 Release Date: 08/10/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tolchard Evans,  Jerome Kern,  Jule Styne,  Charles Trenet  ... 
    Conductor:  Carmen Dragon,  Paul Weston,  Warren Barker,  Xavier Cugat  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Victor Silvester & His Silver Strings,  101 Strings (Orchestra)
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  • 6.
    Cascade Of Roses - A Piano Bouquet / Janice Weber
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 92102 Release Date: 01/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Reynaldo Hahn,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Janice Weber
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  • 7.
    Mayerl: A Miscellany For Solo Piano Vol 2 / Leslie De'ath
    Label: Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog: 7229 Release Date: 09/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl
    Performer:  Leslie De'Ath
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  • 8.
    Golden Age Of Light Music - Going Places
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 5151 Release Date: 03/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marguerite Monnot,  Oliphant Chuckerbutty,  Carroll Coates,  Peter Yorke  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Hayman,  Ray Martin,  Peter Yorke,  Sidney Torch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Louis Voss Orchestra,  Ray Martin Orchestra,  Peter Yorke Orchestra  ... 
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  • 9.
    A Miscellany For Solo Piano - Billy Mayerl / Leslie De'ath
    Label: Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog: 7211 Release Date: 11/11/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Percy French,  Billy Mayerl
    Performer:  Leslie De'Ath
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  • 10.
    British Light Miniatures - Vintage Tv & Radio Classics
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8570332 Release Date: 03/27/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl,  John Dankworth,  Montague Phillips,  Alan Langford  ... 
    Performer:  Andrew Vinter
    Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland,  Paul Murphy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 11.
    The Piano Music Of Billy Mayerl / Eric Parkin
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10324 Release Date: 07/26/2005   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl
    Performer:  Eric Parkin
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  • 12.
    Listen, Learn & Grow - Playtime - Imagination
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8555811 Release Date: 08/20/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Gioachino Rossini,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Bedrich Smetana  ... 
    Performer:  Zdenek Tylsar,  Bedrich Tylsar,  Dario Müller,  Idil Biret
    Conductor:  Richard Edlinger,  Michael Halász,  Michael Dittrich,  Barry Wordsworth  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Istropolitana,  Zagreb Festival Orchestra,  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 13.
    Listen, Learn And Grow - Playtime
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8560050 Release Date: 06/19/2001   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Gioachino Rossini,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Adolphe Adam  ... 
    Performer:  Bedrich Tylsar,  Zdenek Tylsar,  Balázs Szokolay,  Péter Nagy  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Edlinger,  Michael Halász,  Michael Dittrich,  Ondrej Lenárd  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Istropolitana,  Zagreb Festival Orchestra,  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 14.
    A Classic Thanksgiving - We Gather Together
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8555293 Release Date: 10/19/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Takako Nishizaki,  Dave Green
    Conductor:  Gary Carpenter,  Josef Kopelman,  Stephen Gunzenhauser,  Barry Wordsworth  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Capella Istropolitana,  Northern Chamber Orchestra  ... 
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  • 15.
    O Dear! What Can The Matter Be? / Michael Stairs
    Label: Dtr/Direct-to-tape   Catalog: 9701 Release Date: 07/07/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Swinstead,  Haydn Wood,  Henry Balfour Gardiner,  Billy Mayerl  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Stairs
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  • 16.
    Scallywag - A Further Tribute To Billy Mayerl / Eric Parkin
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 565 Release Date: 05/27/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl
    Performer:  Eric Parkin
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  • 17.
    British Light Music - Billy Mayerl / Ball, Carpenter
    Label: Marco Polo   Catalog: 223514 Release Date: 10/04/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Billy Mayerl
    Performer:  Andrew Ball
    Conductor:  Gary Carpenter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
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