Walter Van Brunt: The Second Walter Scanlan

Brooklyn-born singer and songwriter Walter Van Brunt (1892-1971), a.k.a. Walter Scanlan, a.k.a. Walter Scanlon came into the world this day.

Van Brunt discovered the joy of singing as a boy soprano at Trinity and St. John’s churches in New York. A tenor after the fashion of Billy Murray, he performed in vaudeville, on Broadway, and on record, with the likes of Ada Jones, John Bieling, the American Quartet, and Elizabeth Spencer. His first vaudeville partner was Halsey Moore. He also co-wrote songs with Harry von Tilzer and others.

Van Brunt’s recording career, for such labels as Edison, Victor, Columbia and others, was extensive, and began in 1909, when he was only 17. Many of these recordings are accessible to listen to online.

In 1917, when he was cast in Victor Herbert’s Broadway musical Eileen he took the stage Walter Scanlan (sometimes rendered “Scanlon”), which he used for many years.  The name was apparently appropriated to insinuate an association with an older Irish singer by that name from an earlier era. Van Brunt was not Irish, however, but (obviously) Dutch. Van Brunt was also in the shows Somebody’s Sweetheart (1918-1919), and Always You (1920) under the name Scanlan.

In 1925, he was hauled into court for bigamy. His legal wife Lillian divorced him. His second wife, who styled herself Ruth Scanlan, had born him a child.

From the late ’20s through the early ’30s, Van Brunt was frequently on the radio with Billy Murray and others. In 1929, he and Murray did voices for a Fleischer animated short called Finding His Voice. By the late 1930s, however, (the swing era) his style of music was outmoded to put it mildly, and he seems to have faded out of the business by then. When he died in 1971 he was living in the tiny town of Magnolia, Ohio. 

To learn about vaudeville, please consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,