Margreth Måård (Margaret Johansson) was one of the most popular singers in Sweden during the ca 1935 to ca 1950 period.
Margaret Johansson was born in Chicago in 1913. Her mother, Lilly, had migrated there from Sweden and married a fellow Swedish emigrant. However, Margaret Johansson’s parents did not live together for very long. By 1916 Lilly had left her husband and returned to Sweden with her daughter. A couple of years later Lilly met another man. She and Margaret went to live with him in Läckeby, a few miles north of Kalmar, where Lilly worked as a so-called ‘housekeeper’.
Margaret Johansson’s step-father, Axel Svensson, was a wealthy man. He was apparently convinced that Margaret Johansson’s future lay within the musical world. He provided her with a piano and lessons in how to play it. In 1930, whilst she still lived in Läckeby, Margaret Johansson attended the Kloster singing school near Alvesta, founded by the music director and vocal coach Karl Nygren-Kloster. Several of the leading Swedish actors and singers had been students at this school. In 1931 Margaret Johansson and her family moved to Nybro. This was an important stage in Margaret Johansson’s career development as there she joined the Madesjö-Nybro choir, led by the cantor Johnny Rudwall. If her friends are to be believed Margaret Johansson’s singing ability generated a lot of attention during church services. In early 1932 Johnny Rudwall set up the Nybro children’s choir which came to encompass 100 (!) children. Although Margaret Johansson was too old to be a member, Johnny Rudwall allowed her to appear with the choir on several occasions. Her appearances – particularly at a so-called soirée at Nybro Folkets hus in 1933 – was reported in the press and made her a local celebrity.
Nybro (which gained city status in 1932) had a health spa called Nybro Brunn och Badanstalt where one could drink the waters and take therapeutic baths every summer. For the visitors’ entertainment there were daily concerts whilst dance-music was played at weekends. In 1932, 1933, and 1935 the music was provided by a trio from Stockholm, led by music director John Malm (born 1901). He had worked with several of the stars of the day in Stockholm and elsewhere.
During his time in Nybro John Malm became acquainted with Johnny Rudwall. The subject of Margaret Johansson surely came up at some point, and in 1933 she was introduced to John Malm. Despite their age difference they fell for eachother and this influenced both of their futures. John Malm returned to Stockholm once he had finished his stint in Nybro, and later that autumn Margaret Johansson followed him there. She immediately moved in with him, despite the fact that he was married and had a 10-year old son, although they presumably lived in separate dwellings. Margaret Johansson’s activities during this early period in Stockholm remain a mystery. At some point, probably during 1934, she took lessons with Joseph Hislop, a Scotsman who was a singing instructor at the Stockholm music high school.
The autumn of 1935 was a milestone in terms of Margaret Johansson’s career development. During the latter half of September she made her first recording for the Silverton label. It was at this point that she changed her name to Margreth Måård. Her first album included the tunes “Ville” and “Vill du spela för mej, så ska jag sjunga för dej”. Before the end of the year she had made another two recordings. Each of the records contained a tune from the 1935 film Äktenskapsleken in which Zarah Leander played the lead role.
1936 was somewhat of a quiet year for Margreth Måård as she only recorded one album that year. 1937, in contrast, was different and became the year of her breakthrough. She made her debut as a variety show artist at the Royal theatre. Director Anders Sandrew organised a so-called variety revue show that summer. Margreth Måård, who was presented as a “new Swedish singing sensation” appeared in the show throughout the first half of July. She received consistently favourable reviews for her contributions and on several occasions – as with Vecko-Journalen – they were genuinely positive. Her success on the stage was matched by her album successes. She made a total of ten records for several different labels that year. Her biggest hit was “Djungelflickans sång” from the film Djungelflickan. She later stated that 20,000 copies of the record were made.
Margreth Måård’s success was so well-established that she became involved in the Folkparkernas Centralorganisation (central organisation of the people’s parks) and had her first major tour in 1938. Nybro was one of the destinations at an early stage during this tour. The local press, Nybro Tidning, stated that it was not easy for “a girl from the countryside” to make a go of it in a world “which was awfully crowded and where competition was harsh”. Margreth Måård was a success thanks to her ‘have-a-go’ attitude and she was now a real celebrity. Years of touring followed, involving appearances at a variety of places ranging from Ystad in the south to Kiruna in the north. The posters and public announcements indicate that John Malm was still her companion. Although they were a couple for over ten years, they appear to have separated during 1945. Their musical collaboration carried on a few years longer but finally came to an end around 1950. It was around this time that Margreth Måård reduced the amount of touring she did. She married Georg Lundqvist, a press photographer, in 1952 and a few years later they moved from Stockholm to Gävle. In 1954 they had a daughter and two years later their son was born. In 1980 they got divorced.
During the period of 1935–1951 Margreth Måård recorded around 125 album sides, the majority of them on the Odeon label, and sometimes under the pseudonyms of Lilian Falk and Margit Lindgren, usually accompanied by the orchestras of Einar Groth or Tore Jederby. She had composed some of the songs herself, either under her own name or a pseudonym, whilst a couple had been composed by John Malm. Some of her own compositions were recorded by other artists. According to Myggans Nöjeslexikon her greatest success was “Den gamla Moraklockan” from 1937. Press reports from the 1940s indicate that she had great success at that time with the tunes called “Violer till mor”, “Mavoureen”, and “Små svalor”. The latter, from 1943, was named by Orkesterjournalen as a ‘number one’ for a couple of months. It was a huge hit for Anita Hegeland in 1970, with new words and re-titled “Mitt sommarlov”.
Margreth Måård appeared frequently on the radio, several times on Sigge Fürst’s programme Frukostklubben. She appeared in a number of advertising clips and had a prominent role in the 1988 short Ljusglimtarna, which was well-suited to the 78-year old as it dealt with pensioners who entertained other pensioners through music.
Margreth Måård died in 2002. She is buried in Ovansjö in Gästrikland.