Cafe: Your father was born Terence Edward Parsons How did Terry Parsons come to be known as Matt Monro?
Michele Monro: Less than six weeks after signing his recording contract, Terry was booked in at the studios to cut his debut album Blue and Sentimental with The Malcolm Lockyer Orchestra. Decca Records soon decided Terence Edward Parsons needed a different name for his recording career and it took a matter of minutes to choose. ‘Matt’, taken from Matt White, an Australian Fleet Street journalist who worked for the Daily Sketch at the time and had written a centre-page spread of adulation about the singing bus driver, and ‘Monro’, from pianist Winnie Atwell’s father, Monro Atwell. Matt Monro was born. In later years, Matt’s name was legally changed, but the constant misspelling came to irk him; it was either spelled Munro, Monroe or even Munrowe, sometimes as many as three different ways within the same article.
Cafe: Most film fans remember Don Black as the lyricist of classic movie songs like "Born Free" and "Diamonds Are Forever." What different job did he perform for Matt Monro?
Michele: Don Black met Matt Monro while working as a music plugger in Tin Pan Alley and they immediately became firm friends. Matt encouraged his friend to write at every opportunity and even recorded a plethora of the budding lyricist’s songs in order to give him a boost. When Matt hit it big with "Portrait of My Love," he asked Don to leave his job and come on board as his manager. It was a successful relationship and the job role gave Don ample opportunity to continue writing.
Cafe: What role did Peter Sellers and producer George Martin (of Beatles fame) play in Matt's career?
|Matt Monro in concert.|
Cafe: Matt met a dozens of other big stars during his frequent television appearances on television series like The Ed Sullivan Show. Who were some of his favorite singers?
|Tom Jones and Matt Monro.|
Cafe: The Oscar-winning song "Born Free"--written by John Barry & Don Black and sung by Matt-- was cut from the movie at one point. What's the story behind that?
Michele: Matt’s first single for Capitol was one of the songs he will forever be associated with. Producer Carl Foreman had partnered with Columbia to film Born Free, a simple tale about lions in captivity and John Barry and Don Black were chosen to compose the music
Matt attended the Royal première of Born Free at London’s Odeon Leicester Square and it wasn’t long before Don received an anguished call from the singer telling him they’d cut the song from the final cut of the movie. Carl Foreman had approached Matt in the lobby after the film’s closing credits and apologised for the omission. He explained that they’d dropped the first reel of the movie and fractured the film so the soundtrack couldn't be used. But the truth was that he thought it was in the film’s best interest to drop the song and he’d gone back into the cutting room and re-edited the film, removing the song and replacing it with an orchestral version for the opening.
The trio were apoplectic, but Foreman was adamant that his decision wouldn’t be reversed. However, as it transpired "Born Free" had rocketed up the American charts and the Roger Williams orchestral version, complete with backing choir, was now sitting in the number one position. Carl Foreman couldn’t justify his decision any longer--he had to reverse it. For a song to be eligible for an Academy Award, it had to be featured in every print of the film. The heads of Columbia, the publishers, Screen Gems and the producers all clamoured to reclaim every piece of celluloid that had been distributed, so as to put the song back in, spending vast sums of money on an Oscar campaign to promote the new version. In 1966, both the song "Born Free" and John Barry’s score won Academy Awards.
Part 2 of this interview will be published on Wednesday.
Black & white photos are from The Singer’s Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro © 2012 Michele Monro. Titan Books provided a review copy to the Classic Film & TV Cafe.