Guilaroff, Vera

Vera Guilaroff. Pianist, composer, b London 26 Oct 1902, d Montreal 23 Oct 1976. Taken as a child to Montreal, she studied piano with her sister Olga (b ca 1894, d 1989), a renowned piano teacher in the 1920s, and played in her teens for silent films at the Regent Theatre (Montreal), first as a substitute for Harry Thomas and after 1919 as his replacement. Briefly a pupil of Walter Hungerford at the McGill Cons, she also was a protégé of Willie Eckstein, with whom she collaborated in radio and nightclub performances in Montreal (eg, as the Piano Ramblers) and whose exhibitionistic 'novelty' ragtime style she adopted. For her broadcast work in Montreal, she was billed as the Princess of the Radio. Guilaroff toured in US vaudeville in the late 1920s with her husband, Harry Raginsky, a drummer and xylophonist, and was heard in Britain in the late 1930s on the BBC (as Canada's Melody Girl), on two 78s of 'film hits' for HMV, and on tour. Back in Montreal, she performed 1940-5 for the armed forces and later turned to composition. Among her other recordings (all listed in the Canadian Jazz Discography) are some 78s for Apex (Montreal, 1925-6) and piano rolls for Vocalstyle (Cincinnati, 1926). Her 1926 recording of Maple Leaf Rag, reissued in 1972 on the LP Black and White Ragtime (Biograph BLP-12047), clearly displays her improvisational skills.