The Hollywood Walk of Fame, all 2,700-plus stars of it, attracts millions of visitors every year. It's probably a safe bet that not many of them have heard of the musician whose star, unveiled in 1960, can be found at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.

His name was William Primrose. He was born in Glasgow 119 years ago - August 23, 1904 - and he died in Provo, Utah, USA, of cancer, on May 1, 1982, aged 77.

The Herald: William Primrose's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.William Primrose's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. (Image: PR)

Obituaries referred to him as the greatest violist of his time. To the Glasgow Herald's classical music critic, Malcolm Rayment, he was "one of the greatest viola players the world has known".

Reported the New York Times: "During a career of some 50 years, Mr. Primrose was soloist, chamber-music player, orchestra musician, teacher and proselytizer for his chosen instrument. He also found time to fly a plane, play chess on a high level, play cricket and golf and become an authority on certain phases of American history".

Primrose was described by Yehudi Menuhin, no less, as "the first star of the viola". And some of the most prominent composers of the century - including Benjamin Britten and Bela Bartok - wrote new works for him.

In 1998 the Herald's Michael Tumelty, previewing the 26th annual International Viola Congress, to be held in Primrose's memory at Glasgow's RSAMD, reflected that Primrose's career as a soloist "took him into the echelons of superstardom, and the viola into a sphere it had not previously inhabited". Primrose had "pushed back the technical boundaries of the instrument, and polished its public persona until it gleamed".

The Herald: The flats in Maryhill where William Primrose was bornThe flats in Maryhill where William Primrose was born (Image: Peter Sandround/Herald and Times)

Various efforts have been made in his native land to remember Primrose's remarkable career and stellar achievements, but he is not as celebrated here as perhaps he ought to be.

This was, after all, the musician of whom the New York Times could say: "As a soloist, he was renowned for the sweetness and purity of his tone and for an unusually high degree of musicianship. He could and did play virtuoso music, such as the Paganini Caprices, but he was much more identified with chamber music and with many of the important contemporary composers of his day.

Food of love for his viola

"He commissioned and gave the first performance of the Bartok Viola Concerto and also introduced concertos and other viola pieces by Hindemith, Milhaud, Walton, Rubbra, Fricker and many others".

A memorial plaque can be seen at Primrose's childhood home at 18 Wilton Drive, behind Maryhill Road. It reads: "One of the greatest musicians of all time the viola player William Primrose was born here 1904".

The Herald: The memorial plaque outside Primrose's childhood homeThe memorial plaque outside Primrose's childhood home (Image: Peter Sandground/Herald and Times)

When William was only four years old, his father, a violinist in the Scottish Orchestra (now the RSNO) bought him a quarter-sized violin and, by the time he was 12, he had made many concert appearances in Glasgow.

At some point in his fledgling career the Sunday Post put him on its front page. "Glasgow boy's rise to fame", read its admiring headline. Beneath was a sub-deck: "How Willie Primrose has amazed the critics with his fiddle".

The Herald: William Primrose holds two violins made for him by William Moennig Jr. in Philadelphia in April 1950William Primrose holds two violins made for him by William Moennig Jr. in Philadelphia in April 1950 (Image: AP Photo/Jules Schick)

At 15 he moved to London when Sir Landon Ronald, the conductor of the Scottish Orchestra, heard him play and declared him a genius.

The Herald takes up the story in 2004, on the centenary of Primrose’s birth. “Although he received a gold medal, the Guildhall School of Music's highest honour, he later admitted he hated his time there and regularly skipped lessons. Primrose secretly preferred the viola - which was then held in poor esteem - to the violin and in 1926, when his career as a professional violinist began to falter, he went to Belgium to study with Eugene Ysaÿe, who persuaded him to put aside his violin in favour of the viola.

“In his memoirs he described the move as a life-changing experience. He wrote: 'I had become a violist full-fledged. I had burned all my bridges. I had walked the Damascus road, seen the light, repented of past transgressions and turned to the viola'.

“He toured Europe, playing in London, La Scala in Milan, and Berlin, before being asked by the legendary Toscanini to join the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York. In 1939 NBC even invited him to form the Primrose Quartet.

Music: William Primrose Festival, RSMAD, Glasgow 4/5

“After the Second World War, his career took off and he played with the Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneaopolis, Philadelphia, St Louis and Utah symphonies, as well as with orchestras throughout Europe.

“In 1953, he was made a CBE and in the following decades turned his hand to teaching viola at the University of Southern California, Indiana University and the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music”.

Plaque for music pioneer

Primrose was a member of the Brigham Young University music faculty, at Provo, Utah, as a guest lecturer between 1979 and 1982. The Primrose International Viola Archive, described as the largest repository of materials related to the viola in the world, is held at the university.

In August 1947, on the occasion of the very first Edinburgh International Festival, William Primrose, together with the pianist Artur Schnabel, the violinist Joseph Szigeti and the cellist Pierre Fournier played Brahms, Schubert and Mendelssohn at the Usher Hall.

One of world's music greats who is hardly known at home: 'First star of viola' has place on Walk of Fame

"The engagement of four eminent soloists who have only recently formed an ensemble may have been regarded with misgivings by some people", noted the Glasgow Herald.

"But these artists are not only fine solo performers on their respective instruments; each of them possesses that quality of sincere musicianship which enables them to play as an ensemble without any thought of the 'rights of the individual'. With them the music always comes first".

Also impressed by the quartet's performances that the great novelist E.M Foster could write: "What a mercy that such music and such interpreters exist. They are a light in the world's darkness. They have the power of making us feel great".