David Lloyd: The Early Years
By David Hughes, St. Louis Park Historical Society Member
David and Barbara Lloyd were very kind to me in the summer of 2008 when I asked David to reach back as many as 75 years regarding his friendship with Bob Hull (1918–1962), whose biography I am preparing. In many cases David gave me a first or last name with which I was able to make tentative or definitive corroborations. I am happy to return the favor by drawing on my interviews with David in order to provide the Lloyd family and the St. Louis Park Historical Society with some information that is not captured in David’s obituaries nor in the histories collected in Something In The Water (Don Swenson, ed., SLPHS, 2001).
—David Hughes, 30 March 2013
David Lloyd, 1952. Photo by Fabian Bachrach
David Lloyd, born 29 February 1920, Minneapolis; died 08 February 2013, New York, NY
Although David Lloyd already had musicianship in his very essence through his mother and her father, he told me that the driving force behind the vocal music at St. Louis Park High School in the 1930s was Alvira Osterberg, an alumna of St. Olaf College in Northfield, who was listed as Glee Club instructor in the 1936 Echowan yearbook. (David was club vice president of the boys that year and Bob Hull was secretary.) The Glees also featured a girls’ sextette, boys’ quartet (including David), and ten-member mixed Madrigals (also including David). The latter group won first place in a district competition that year. David told me the quartet’s singers included Danny Justad, sometimes replaced by Jack Stone. Justad wrote that the other boys in the quartet were Ray Carlson and Jim Seirup (SITW, 179). Spotted by scouts at the Minnesota State Fair, David recalled that the quartet was asked to become the first member of a “better barbershops organization.”
One year in high school, David recalled that he, Bob Hull and Bob’s sister Betty, Joan Whelan (1936 Junior Class secretary), and others climbed the St. Louis Park water tower and painted on its black exterior in silver letters, “Oh, Doctor!”—the title of the operetta that the students were to present as an oratorio. Roberta Forsyth Wesley also wrote about the incident (SITW, 205).
David’s mother, Louise Lupien Jenkins, was the daughter of Prim R. Lupien, a barber and also a violinist, who had an orchestra in Spring Valley, Minnesota, where the family lived, according to David’s brother, Bill Jenkins. Bill wrote that by age eight, Louise already was playing with the orchestra. In 1918, the elder Lupiens bought a summer cottage in St. Louis Park, and as of the 1930 U.S. Census, three generations of the family lived there, at 5616 Vermont Street. As bill wrote, “The little cottage bulged at the seams.” (SITW, 146)
Louise taught piano at the Minneapolis College of Music. She also taught privately, and her students included Bob Hull. David competed with Bob in a piano competition one year. “He got 1st, 2nd, and 3rd; I got nothing,” David told me. It was David who encouraged Bob Hull to pursue a major in music, but it was “probably a mistake.” He recalled that most likely it was the informal music salons that David’s mother held with her former students, returning from prestigious music academies, that revealed to Hull his limitations as a pianist, even though David felt “Bob was far and away the best musician in our school.” After several semesters in music school, Hull would change his major to chemistry. And, of course, David Lloyd would enjoy a stellar career chronicled in many periodical articles over the ensuing decades.
Regarding the Park high school strike of March 1936, precipitated by the resignation of beloved principal J. W. McNeal, David told me, “I’m sure I was a ringleader.” He recalled that the walkout was partly inspired by parents, especially Mrs. Earl Ingersoll. Indeed, The Minneapolis Journal quoted her on March 22: “I have two children on strike. My house has been a regular strike headquarters.” Wittily, as David told me, “We were standing up for our principles and our principal.”
Graduating high school in St. Louis Park in 1937, David participated in at least one reunion for the Class of 1936. I was confused by this and he explained: between 6th and 7th grades he had a ruptured appendix and it was decided by the doctor and school officials that he should stay back. (Being born in early 1920, he should have been in the Class of 1938, and so might have skipped a grade as well.) He took classes with his grade, but was six months behind, thus the late graduation. In 1987, David attended the 50th reunion of the Class of 1937, at which his quartet (mentioned above) reunited. Sadly, Jim Seirup had a heart attack and died as the four were being applauded (Bill Jenkins, SITW, 147; Daniel J. Justad, SITW, 180).
At some point, perhaps while attending Minneapolis College of Music from which he graduated in 1941, David told me he was a choir director under Peter Tkach, director at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis whom the Boston Globe (20 Apr 1958) credited with “establish[ing] a cappella singing in America’s public schools.” According to the Winona Republican Herald (02 Dec 1948), David sang for Minneapolis Symphony conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos during his senior year at the college. It was Mitropoulos who advised him to go east for further study, which he did at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. That school gave him a special diploma when he joined the Navy in February 1943. While in the service, he told me, “I had a choir wherever I was stationed. We were awakened by admirals who wanted us to sing.” David was commissioned an ensign in the Navy air corps and served in Hawaii and later in Saipan where he did air-sea rescue. Returning to Curtis for a post-graduate “refresher course,” he studied with Eufemia Giannini-Gregory.
In the spring of 1946, at the age of 26, David won the annual “Voice of Tomorrow” contest in Philadelphia, outdoing 600 other contestants. He recalled to me that the New York Philharmonic played for the contest in the football stadium, with “twelve grand pianos behind me in a chorus of high school students—5,000 singers.” The competition was sponsored by Columbia Artists, which became his agent, suggesting that he drop his last name. “I had to tell my parents that I was bequeathed with the name David Lloyd.” He worked with artists’ manager Arthur Judson, whom The New York Times (29 Jan 1975) said “wielded a power in the music world that has never been equaled.”
Thus began the career of David Lloyd, whose artistic life is documented in obituaries published in The New York Times, Opera News, and other publications.