Harry Macdonough was one of the most well liked ballad singers of his time, his popularity second only to that of Henry Burr. Macdonough was born John Scantlebury Macdonald in Hamilton, Ontario, on May 30, 1871. He later changed his name, believing Harry Macdonough to be a more suitable name for a romantic balladeer. He had musical training as a youth and began his singing career as a church soloist.
In 1898, he made his first recordings for the Michigan Electric Company of Detroit, which were used in its slot-machine phonograph parlours. In 1899, he was invited to sing second tenor for the Edison Male Quartet with John Bieling (tenor), S.H. Dudley (baritone) and William F. Hooley (bass). The group then began recording for Berliner and Victor as the Haydn Quartet, which "[rose] to fame by concentrating on sentimental ballads, old standards, and gospel hymns" (Hoffman). Macdonough had great success, both as a soloist and in concert with the Victor Mixed Chorus, the Victor Light Opera Company (circa 1909-12), the Victor Opera Trio, Quartet & Sextet (1915), the Lyric Quartet (1906-15?), the Orpheus Quartet, the Original Lyric Trio (1899) and the Christy Minstrels (Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet).
Over the years, Macdonough became more involved with the administrative side of the business (as early as 1905 he had supervision of all Victor recording outside Camden, New Jersey) and by 1920, had retired from singing. Until 1922, he was a sales manager for Victor Talking Machine Co. From 1923-25, he held the post of manager of Artists & Repertoire at Victor. In 1925, he took a job at Columbia as director of recording studios, where he worked until his death in 1931.
In the course of his singing career, Macdonough recorded hundreds of solos, duets and ensemble pieces. Among his recordings were "Tell Me Pretty Maiden" (with Grace Spencer), "Hiawatha", "Annie Laurie" (with the Haydn Quartet), and "By the Light of the Silv'ry Moon" (with the Haydn Quartet and Billy Murray). A discography can be found in Roll Back the Years.
Selected recordings available
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- Hoffmann, Frank W. ; Carty, Dick ; Riggs, Quentin. Billy Murray : the phonograph industry's first great recording artist. Lanham, MD : Scarecrow Press, 1997. x, 544 p. AMICUS 14865920
- Macdonough, Harry. Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560
- Moogk, Edward B. Roll Back the Years : history of Canadian recorded sound and its legacy : genesis to 1930. Ottawa : National Library of Canada, 1975. xii, 443 p. AMICUS 80154. Also published in French under the title: En remontant les années : l'histoire et l'héritage de l'enregistrement sonore au Canada, des débuts à 1930
- Walsh, Ulysses. "Favourite pioneer recording artists : Harry Macdonough". Hobbies, the magazine for collectors. (Nov. 1943) ; (December 1943). AMICUS 28072063