Thursday, February 19, 2015

William MacEwan - the voice of "The Old Rugged Cross"

William McEwan Graphic

William MacEwan 13 02 1932 Hartlepool

Back in 2011 (to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his first recordings) I posted here a ten-part biography of the Glasgow-born singer William MacEwan (1871-1943). He came back into my head this week when I found the above advert, from Hartlepool on 13 Feb 1932. He last recording session was in London in March of that same year. I also found this online, confirming my own researches:

'... Good sales could not always be guaranteed, but Columbia scored an equally important success with its 1927 American recording of Scottish-born gospel singer William MacEwan's rendition of the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" coupled with "Let's talk it over bye-and-bye" (Columbia 4148). By 1933 British sales of this record had exceeded 250,000, at a time when all but a handful of the most successful dance and popular music record enjoyed sales of 100,000 and most record companies considered sales in excess of 10,000 copies a "hit" ...' - source here.

MacEwan's voice made The Old Rugged Cross world famous. By the year he died, 1943, it had sold a reported 20 million copies around the globe, both vinyl and sheet music. If you're interested in reading the full biography, here are all ten parts:

- Part One

- Part Two

- Part Three

- Part Four

- Part Five

- Part Six

- Part Seven

- Part Eight

- Part Nine

- Part Ten