Henry Burr the Most Prolific Recording Artist of His Day

Henry Burr

Henry Burr the Most Prolific Recording Artist of His Day

Born in St. Stephen in 1885, Henry Burr, a highly prolific recording artist of his time, made recordings under various names including his real name, Harry McClaskey, and pseudonyms like Irving Gillette, Harry Haley, Alfred Alexander, and Shamus McClaskey. In total, he has been associated with at least 11 different names for various companies who could afford his services.

As a child, McClaskey started singing and became a boy soprano with a Saint John concert band at the age of 13. Giuseppe Campanari, a Metropolitan Opera baritone, heard him and recommended that he study in the United States. In New York, McClaskey was mentored by Ellen Burr and John D. Meehan. He performed at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in New York and began recording for Columbia as a teenager in 1902.

From 1910 to 1928, Henry Burr managed a vocal group that recorded for Columbia as the Columbia Male Quartet and for Victor as the Peerless Quartet. Albert Campbell, a tenor with whom Burr recorded numerous duets, was also part of the quartet. Additionally, they performed as members of the Heidelberg Quintette and the Sterling Trio. In total, Burr is known to have collaborated with around 15 ensembles and recorded on 76 different labels.

In 1915, McClaskey established the Paroquette Record Manufacturing Co and operated a music publishing firm under his name in New York for several years. He penned the lyrics for Ray Perkins’ song “Stand Up and Sing for Your Father an Old-Time Tune.” Burr’s radio career began in the early 1920s, featuring on New York’s Goodrich Zippers and Cities Service programs. 

After his recording career faded, he became a beloved performer of old-time ballads on WLS’ “National Barn Dance” in Chicago. Burr recorded an impressive 12,000 titles, with around 3,000 of them listed in “Roll Back the Years.” Four of his performances have been reissued on cassette. Arthur Makosinski’s ongoing research on Henry Burr, including a discography, can be found at the Stanford University Music Archive, and a significant collection of his recordings is housed at the National Library of Canada.

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