Seeing the pleasure my mother was deriving from listening to the old cassette recordings of her well-played, scratchy old 78’s, I decided to give her a surprise and ordered a double CD of Monte Rey’s recordings from 1926 to 1950. These are re-mastered, so to my ears they sound much better, though she has said she prefers the quality of her 78’s and would like to listen to them again. Sadly, we no longer have a record player here capable of playing 78’s.
However, that is not to say she isn’t delighted with the CD. Her great favourite – So deep is the night – is missing, but most of the other songs she loves are on these two CDs including Donkey Serenade. There are also some recordings under his own name of Montgomery Fyfe (or Fyffe) when he was into opera and operettas in his early career.
The sleeve notes are very informative. It seems he was “discovered” by Sir Thomas Beecham who gave him a letter of introduction to Lillian Bayliss, the person in charge of the Old Vic, then the home of English opera. Before he could make use of this, however, he casually auditioned with Geraldo and was hired as Geraldo’s Spanish Tenor under the name of Monte Rey, a name made up on the spur of the moment by a friend, and launched into a highly successful radio career.
A couple of years later, walking down Bond Street, he bumped into Sir Thomas who enquired how he was getting on, since he had shown such promise but appeared to have sunk without trace. “Well,” replied our hero, “I’m that bloke they call Monte Rey.” Sir Thomas’s reply is a gem of wisdom:
“Now listen, my boy, you’re singing well …as Monte Rey many, many thousands will get to hear your beautiful voice who never would even have attempted to listen to you if you had remained Montgomery Fyfe, classic tenor … always remember … sing to the best of your ability and with sincerity, no matter what you sing.”
After reading the sleeve notes on the CD, Mom looked up with a big smile. “I’m so pleased,” she said, “he sounds like a nice man, and seems to have had a long happy life and a happy marriage. That’s good to know.”
Our house is ringing with the sound of Monte Rey for the first time in many years, and I have to confess that I, too, have fallen under his spell!. Move over, Alfie Boe!
This song is not on the CD, and this recording is very scratchy, but it is pretty typical of his “Spanish Tenor” period.