Jack Ayre, a pianist for silent films in Toronto, enlisted as a private in the Canadian Army during the First World War. He was chosen by Captain Mert Plunkett to be the pianist with the Dumbells concert party. He remained with that unit, with the rank of corporal, until demobilization, performing such favourite tunes as "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary" and accompanying the singers. Ayre composed the Dumbells' theme song "The Dumbell Rag," which eventually sold over 10 000 copies of sheet music. This tune was often whistled by the troops as they marched to the battlefield.
On his return to Canada in 1919, Ayre joined the Dumbells as pianist when they transformed their act into a civilian touring show. He occasionally conducted the orchestra, and was the first Canadian to conduct an orchestra in a hit Broadway show (Biff, Bing, Bang at New York's Ambassador Theatre). After the demise of the Dumbells travelling show, Ayre continued to play the piano for club and charity performances. He was the last of the original Dumbells to die, passing away in 1977.
"The Dumbells". -- Encyclopedia of music in Canada. -- Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. -- 2nd ed. -- Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. -- xxxii, 1524 p. -- AMICUS No. 12048560
Rasky, Frank. -- "When shells fell in World War I, he played on". -- The Toronto star. -- (November 9, 1974). -- AMICUS No. 3491943
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