Henry Burr

Henry (b Harry) Burr (b McClaskey). Tenor, b St Stephen, southwest of Saint John, NB, 15 Jan 1885, d New York 6 Apr 1941.

Burr, Henry

Henry (b Harry) Burr (b McClaskey). Tenor, b St Stephen, southwest of Saint John, NB, 15 Jan 1885, d New York 6 Apr 1941. The most prolific recording artist of his day, he recorded not only as Henry Burr (for Emerson, Aeolian-Vocalion, Starr, and Lyric) and under his own name, Harry McClaskey (for Monarch, Victor, Columbia, and Pathé), but as Irving Gillette (for Edison), and as Harry Haley, Alfred Alexander, and Shamus McClaskey for any company able to pay his fee; at least 11 pseudonyms have been identified. McClaskey began singing as a child, and at 13 was a boy soprano with a Saint John, NB, concert band. The Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe Campanari heard him and suggested that he be sent to the USA for study. McClaskey's teachers in New York were Ellen Burr (from whom he took one of his professional names) and John D. Meehan. He sang at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in New York and, still in his teens, began recording for Columbia in 1902.

Burr joined in 1906 and managed 1910-28 a vocal group which recorded for Columbia as the Columbia Male Quartet and for Victor as the Peerless Quartet. A member of the quartet was Albert Campbell, a tenor with whom Burr recorded many duets. The two sang also as members of the Heidelberg Quintette and the Sterling Trio. Altogether Burr is known to have worked with some 15 ensembles and to have recorded on 76 labels. In 1915 McClaskey organized the Paroquette Record Manufacturing Co, and for a few years he operated a music publishing firm under his own name in New York. He wrote the words of Ray Perkins' 'Stand Up and Sing for Your Father an Old-Time Tune'. Burr began his radio career in the early 1920s on the Goodrich Zippers and Cities Service programs from New York. After his recording career waned, he was a great favourite singing oldtime ballads on WLS' 'National Barn Dance' from Chicago. In all, Burr recorded some 12,000 titles, of which about 3000 are listed in Roll Back the Years. Four of his performances have been reissued on cassette (Vintage 1001, 1014). A draft of ongoing research on Henry Burr by Arthur Makosinski, including a discography, is deposited at the Stanford U Music Archive, and a major collection of his recordings is held at the National Library of Canada.


Further Reading

  • Walsh, Ulysses. 'Favourite pioneer recording artists,' Hobbies Magazine, Apr, May, Jun 1943