|The Billy Mayerl Society|
Billy Mayerl (1902-1959)
Born in Tottenham Court Road on 31st May 1902, a stones throw from Londons West End theatreland, pianist Billy Mayerl won a scholarship to nearby Trinity College while still only a small boy. Before long he publicly performed Griegs "Piano Concerto" at the Queens Hall and by his early-teens was playing in dance bands and accompanying silent films in a variety of cinemas. Before he reached his majority he became solo pianist with the prestigious Savoy Havana Band at Londons top hotel on the Strand.
Numerous recordings and broadcasts quickly brought Billys name to the fore and in 1923 he married his childhood sweetheart, Jill Bernini. Two years later he gave the first British concert performance of Gershwins "Rhapsody in Blue" and his "lightning fingers" were filmed by a slow-motion camera. Then, in 1926, he launched out into the unknown with a "Correspondence Course in Modern Syncopation" from rented premises in Oxford Street.
By the late-Thirties he had a staff of more than 100, with 117 branches word-wide and a clientele in excess of 30,000 students. It was not to last however and although he tried to revive it after the war, this proved ineffective and the Billy Mayerl School finally closed down in 1957. It was a sad end to a brilliant career and within two more years, the "nimble-fingered gentleman" himself had expired early from a heart condition, probably exacerbated by a punishing schedule of concerts and composition.
Throughout the Twenties, Billy made many appearances in Metropolitan and provincial variety theatres and also contributed songs for a host of London revues. By 1930 he was performing with the Co-Optimists and was ready for full musical scores, the first of which was Nippy, followed by The Millionaire Kid, Sporting Love, Twenty to One, Over She Goes, Crazy Days and Runaway Love, many with horse-racing as the central theme. Although none of the musicals was a spectacular success, each had a healthy run in a large theatre.