The crooner Al Plunkett was one of the most famous of the soldier-entertainers with the First World War Canadian concert party, the Dumbells. Plunkett joined the Canadian Army's 58th Infantry Battalion while still underage and saw active duty in the trenches overseas from 1916. After being wounded, he returned to duty with the YMCA as an entertainer for the troops, working for his older brother Captain Mert Plunkett. Mert chose Al as an inaugural member of his new concert party, the Dumbells, in the summer of 1917 in France. On their return to Canada in 1919, Al assisted Mert in planning a Canadian tour of their successful Dumbells act, which lasted until 1932.
Al's role was the suave man about town; he sang in top hat and tails, danced and performed in comic sketches. His signature tunes with the Dumbells included "Those Wild, Wild Women Are Making a Wild Man of Me", and "I Know Where the Flies Go in Wintertime", which sold record amounts of sheet music. He also starred in the Dumbells' adaptation of HMS Pinafore. After a great success on Broadway with Biff, Bing, Bang, Plunkett turned down a job offer from Al Jolson. Al Plunkett's recordings for HMV included humorous songs such as "And Her Mother Came Too" and "Shall I Have It Bobbed or Shingled?".
After the Dumbells disbanded in 1932, Al Plunkett continued to sing on radio and in nightclubs in Canada and the United States. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War and served in Canada before being honourably discharged. Later, Plunkett became a road inspector for the Ontario Department of Highways and still later, managed a nursing home with his wife, Marie. The former star died in April 1957.
For more information on Al Plunkett's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.
"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. 2048560
Plunkett, Albert William ; Earle, Patrise. -- Al Plunkett : the famous Dumbell. -- By Patrise Earle, as told by Al Plunkett. -- New York : Pageant Press, . -- 107 p. -- AMICUS No. 13090515
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