Do you remember the Frank Sinatra tones of Matt Munro? His daughter Michele is appearing on QVC on Tuesday 27th April at 9am, 1pm and 6pm with his new 'Greatest' CD, DVD and book collection to share her stories. We caught up with her to find out more…
Tell us a little about your dad's career
Terrence Edward Parsons, as he was born, started singing in pubs anywhere, anytime and mostly the punters would pass a hat round for him at the end of the evening.
By the time he entered the army at 17, he was hooked. He started entering talent contests but having won so many times, the organisers banned him thinking it would make the contest look rigged.
Instead they offered him his own radio show on Hong Kong Rediffusion. The offers started coming in but although he was able to earn good money he was constantly in trouble for being absent without leave.
There was a constant curfew in place and Terry was frequently busted for returning to base later than allowed. He couldn't risk the front gate as it was all lit up with guards so he used to come in over the wire at the back of the compound.
The night before his first broadcast, Private Parsons returned to his unit rather later than allowed. Coming in over his usual spot on the perimeter fence, he jumped straight into the arms of the RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major). He was promptly placed under house arrest and sent to the cells.
Luckily he was on fairly good terms with his C.O. and persuaded him to allow his appearance on the pre-booked programme. Two armed guards escorted him to the radio station and stood either side of him throughout the broadcast. The story goes that the C.O. listened to the radio show and must have enjoyed it for on return to the barracks, the charges had been dismissed.
That was the start of an outstanding career and with a name change from Decca Records, Matt Monro was catapulted to stardom. The crux was that he was a normal guy who could sing well and part of his charm was that the audience felt he was only singing to them.
He was a humble soul; never quite understanding what all the fuss was about. Every performance was important whether a working men's club or a Royal Command performance.
He was up against many fads of the age – rock and roll, flower power, long-haired youths – but his achievements ensured he stayed in style while most of his peers fell by the wayside, and decades on his name is still remembered with great fondness.
What was it like having a famous dad?
I first became aware my father was different when I was at school. I didn't understand why people were always asking him to sign bits of paper and the like and I remember watching him on the television but not knowing what he was doing there.
When I first saw him live, it sank in that my father was really famous. People applauded each song and after the show I was literally pushed out of the way as loads of excitable girls forged their way to his side. But I was secretly pleased that at the end of the night he came home with us.
Who are the biggest names you remember him working with?
In a career that spanned some twenty odd years, there were many outstanding performances and special shows that I bore witness to – the Royal Variety Show, the coupling with Tony Bennett at the Talk of the Town and a duet with Sammy Davis Jr in Vegas. But there is one moment that has stayed with me always.
In 1984, Dad was booked with Don Rickles at the Resorts International, Atlantic City and I went with him, which was hugely exciting. Meeting Don Rickles was also a great thrill – the man's comedic timing and insulting comments were hilarious and I understood why the two men got on so well. Their humour was so well matched.
When I took my seat before the curtain went up, I was beside myself with excitement. One would think by looking at me that this was the first time I had seen the show, but the truth of the matter was that it all felt so new, so fresh, so full of suspense.
When my father made his entrance on to the stage bathed in spotlights to thunderous applause, I realised I was holding my breath. The audience's acceptance of the artist before he had even sang a note brought a lump to my throat. I felt so proud that this singing sensation was my father.
By the time Dad took his final bow I had tears in my eyes and hugging him backstage I was so overcome with emotion I could hardly talk but I savoured that private moment. Minutes later the spell was broken as the dressing room was overtaken by a deluge of well-wishers and show folk wanting to bask in his glory and Matt Monro was lost to me in the crowd.
The unique quality of his voice made him a star amongst the stars and earned him the title 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.
I think one of his favourites couplings was when he worked The Tony Bennett Show. Tony had arranged to come to England to record a series of shows and Dad was asked to appear on three of them. On each one they performed a duet together and the performances were absolutely sublime. They had a ball together and it showed.
What's your favourite song that your dad sung and why?
This is not actually an easy question for me as my response changes all the time depending on my mood. To me my father's songs are like close intimate friends, something I grew up with. Some I fell in love with instantly and some I learnt to love over time. Some are passionate, some sad and some are breezy, bright and uplifting.
I know them really well; they have seen me through my private nightmares, my highs and lows, my reveries and my demons. They take me to a wonderland of imagination and sometimes I can quite easily live there for a while and when reality hits, I'm better for the song I've heard.
He was a fantastic performer. 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 is 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, father and friend – I miss him.