Matt Monro - Biography
By J Poet
Matt Monro was a singer’s singer, praised by Frank Sinatra himself for his perfect pitch, clear enunciation and swinging musicianship. Monro never became a household name in America, but he was a superstar everywhere else in the world - Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Africa, Middle East, Europe, and South America. In England he was one of the few crooners to prosper during the Beatles Era and topped English charts regularly until his early death in 1985.
Monro was born Terry Parsons in 1930 in Shoreditch, London, the youngest of five children. He sang from an early age and dropped out of high school in 1943 to find work. After three years of dead end jobs he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Hong Kong. After winning several talent shows, Redifusion, Hong Kong’s biggest commercial radio station, gave him a regular slot headlining the program Terry Parsons Sings.
After ten years in the service, Parsons returned to London and started driving a bus, the Number 27 from Highgate to Teddington. At night he sang with a series of swing bands under various names including Terry Parsons, Terry Fitzgerald and Al Jordan. With several musician friends he made a single “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” that seemingly vanished without a trace, but eventually the music manager Winifred Atwell heard it and helped Parsons get an audition at Decca Records.
Decca signed him, liking his Sinatra like tone, and renamed him Matt Monro. The 10-inch LP Blue and Sentimental (1957 Decca UK) got great reviews for Monro’s sentimental delivery and flawless diction, but it wasn’t a major seller. For the next few years he made a living singing commercial jingles. His wife Mickie supplemented their income singing on demos for songwriters.
In 1959 Monro met George Martin, who was producing an album for comedian Peter Sellers called Songs For Swinging Sellers (1960 Parlophone UK). Sellers was looking for a singer to perform a parody of a Frank Sinatra tune called “You Keep Me Swingin’” that he could copy to get down his own Sinatra impersonation. Sellers liked Monro’s rendition so much he used it on his album, but credited the singer as Fred Flange. The Flange song wasn’t a hit, but Martin became Monro’s producer. Martin worked with Monro on Love Is the Same Everywhere (1961 Parlophone) and My Kind of Girl (1961 Parlophone), which included Monro’s first Top 10, hit “Portrait of My Love.” They also made Matt Monro Sings Hoagy Carmichael (1962 Parlophone) and I Have Dreamed (1965 Parlophone), which was a best selling album. Monro was then offered the title tune of the current James Bond film From Russia with Love. “From Russia with Love” was a hit and its inclusion on the From Russia with Love Soundtrack (2003 Capital) made Monro an international star. He was also the first singer to cover The Beatles “Yesterday” and took it to #9 on the British charts.
Monro toured heavily, with most of his American gigs in cabaret rooms at hotels like Persian Room in New York, The Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, and the Century Plaza in Los Angeles. He also played Vegas regularly. Parlophone moved him to Capitol, and he moved to LA to make it in the States. This is the Life (1965 Capital), Let’s face the Music and Dance (1965 Capital), and Here’s to My Lady (1966 Capital) led up to the title track from Born Free (Soundtrack) (1966 MGM) another international hit. He was immensely popular in South America and made several best selling albums for that market including Tiempo de Amor (1967 Capital Latino), Alguien Canto (1967 Capital Latino), and Matt Monroe en Españia (1970 Capital Latino),
Invitation to the Movies (1967 Capitol) which featured “Born Free”, was a big hit as were These Years (1967 Capitol), The Late Late Show (1968 Capitol), Invitation to Broadway (1968 Capitol), We’re Gonna Change the World (1970 Capitol) and Close To You (1970 Capitol.) In 1970, Monro returned to London, and lived there until he died. He continued recording for British labels and made For the Present (1973 Columbia UK), The Other Side of the Stars (1975 Columbia UK), The Long and Winding Road (1975 EMI UK), If I Never Sing Another Song (1979 Columbia UK) and Heartbreakers (1980 EMI). Since his death in 1985 there have been dozens of retrospectives and Best Ofs on the market. The most inclusive is the four CD box The Singer’s Singer (2001 EMI UK.) Less comprehensive sets include From Matt Monro With Love (2007 EMI UK) and The Ultimate Matt Monro (2005 EMI.)