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Billy Mayerl (1902–1959) was a great favourite in the Lane household when I was growing up in Brisbane. My father used to entertain us with Marigold (1927) or Song of the Fir Tree or Autumn Crocus, and the gentle syncopations and attractive tunes proved irresistible. Marigold became Mayerl’s signature tune. He indicates it should be played slowly and lightly, but his own performances of it were often breathtakingly fast.

Mayerl was a natural. Born in Tottenham Court Road, right by London’s West End theatre land, he won a scholarship to study at Trinity College of Music while still a young boy, and soon after performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto at the Queen’s Hall. As a young teenager he played in dance bands and accompanied silent films, and a little later was the pianist in the prestigious Savoy Havana Band. His recordings and broadcasts brought him renown and in 1925 he gave the British premiere of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, his ‘lightning fingers’ filmed by slow-motion camera. He wrote for revues all over the country and composed musicals for which he formed a twenty-six piece orchestra. In 1926, with great enterprise, he went into business and started a ‘Correspondence Course in Modern Syncopation’, which proved popular and became a worldwide affair with more than 30,000 subscribers. The war interrupted proceedings and momentum was never fully regained. It finally closed in 1957, two years before Mayerl’s premature death. Like Dame Myra Hess, he did his bit for the war effort. He led his own band in a radio programme, Music while you work, designed to support wartime factory workers; its enduring popularity ensured its continuance for a further twenty years. Mayerl’s prolific and delightful, if somewhat eccentric, output demands a proper revival.

from notes by Piers Lane © 2013


Piers Lane goes to town
Studio Master: CDA67967Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track-specific metadata for CDA67967 track 6

Recording date
8 June 2012
Recording venue
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Rachel Smith
Recording engineer
Ben Connellan
Hyperion usage
  1. Piers Lane goes to town (CDA67967)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: September 2013
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