Walter Van Brunt (April 22, 1892 - April 11, 1971) was an American tenor known initially for his recordings on Thomas Alva Edison's Blue Amberol Records and later for his rôle in a scandal involving a stage name and case of adultery.
Van Brunt began his singing career at age 17 as an imitator of singer Billy Murray. He was soon performing with Ada Jones and John Bieling as well as the American Quartet. He worked in vaudeville and on Broadway, including in the musical Eileen. Van Brunt had 40 hits on pop charts, including his 1914 duet "When the Green Leaves Turn to Gold" on YouTube with Elizabeth Spencer.
In the late 1910s, Van Brunt began embroiling himself in a scandal which shook Broadway and put his career into decline. The difficulties started in 1917 when Van Brunt began using the name "Walter J. Scanlan" (the scandal was further confused by newspapers which rendered the name as "Scanlon") to assume the identity of Irish tenor Walter J. Scanlan who had had an established career before dying without making a recording. Allegations were raised, but never proved, that Eileen's Irish-American conductor, Victor Herbert, had encouraged the subterfuge.
The scandal became overlapped with Van Brunt's bigamy with a woman known as Ruth Scanlan, siring a child with her and prompting his wife Lillian to sue for divorce, which was granted in 1925 by an Irish-American judge who, in announcing his decision that Van Brunt should pay alimony, stated that Van Brunt had besmirched the reputation of the Irish.
From 1929 to 1933, Van Brunt's career was partially rescued by Murray's use of Van Brunt on various radio programs.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license