She was HUGE. Her first name all you needed. That was her, the famous singer, the Australian girl who had gone to England and become a star.
It was the 1930s, when Australia was self-consciously claiming its place in the world. We loved an international champion. There was our great aviator, Charles Kingsford-Smith; our great cricketer, Don Bradman; our great racehorse, Pharlap. And there was “Our Glad”.
Who? Her star has faded, but Gladys Moncrieff, “Australia’s Queen of Song” was the Kylie Minogue of her day. Born in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 1892, she became the top leading lady in Australian musical theatre. A critic wrote of an early performance:
It was good to hear a crowded Australian audience acclaim the success of a slim, straight young Australian girl … It was a personal triumph in which hard work, talent and youth bore fine fruit.
By the mid-1920 she was earning 150 pounds a week, making her the highest paid entertainer in Australia. In 1926 she sailed to England, and after a few false starts again broke through: “Before the night concluded” wrote a reviewer, “even the dullest critic must have realized that a new star of amazing brilliance had climbed above London’s theatrical horizon”.
She also recorded nearly 100 gramophone records, and was the first Australian artist to regularly outsell recordings from abroad. This is one, her version of “The Old Spinning Wheel”, written by the great American songwriter Billy Hill.
She could really sing, our Glad.
- Artist: Gladys Moncrieff with orchestra Conducted by Gil Dech
- A side: The Old Spinning Wheel
- Format: 10”, 78 rpm, shellac, mono
- Label: Regal Zonophone
- Made in: Australia
- Catalogue: G22098
- Year: Unknown (c. 1934)
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