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Howard Lutter

Born: 10 June 1889, Newark, New Jersey, USA.
Died: 3 May 1959, California, USA
AKA: Stuart Gregory, John Spencer, Lester Albertson?
Labels: Artempo, Welte, Aeolian/MelODee, Atlas, Republic, Mastertouch, Broadway



Talented in-house arranger for Bennett and White company, who produced 88-note rolls on the Artempo label, and later on reproducing rolls for Welte as the head of their popular music department. Following the piano roll industry's decline, he went to work for Vitaphone in California, producing sound effects for films.

Howard Harry Lutter was the son of a German immigrant, and studied piano with Rafael Joseffy, the Hungarian pianist and composer. He is mentioned in the autobiography of another Joseffy student, Moriz Rosenthal - one of the titans of 20th century classical playing.

 Lutter married twice and had two children from his first marriage. His great grand-daughter is aware of his music roll-related activities and owns many of his rolls.

Lutter's first career was as a clerk in the 1908-1910 period, but by 1910 he lists himself as a musician in the census and city directories. The Artempo line of music rolls was established in early 1914 and Lutter may have been present from the start. By the time of the WWI draft in 1917, he stated on his WWI military draft card that he 'objected to all forms of war and fighting' and applied for exemption on the grounds he was indispensable to his employers, Bennett & White, as chief recording artist for Artempo. He also noted he was of medium height and build, had light brown hair and blue eyes.

Lutter was an integral part of Artempo for the rest of the 1910s, featuring heavily in every monthly bulletin, but left in 1920 and briefly joined Aeolian in the arranging department of their Melodee subdivision. The September 25, 1920 Music Trades Review states "..well-known as an arranger of music rolls...he has assumed an important place in the arranging department of that company". He did not stay for long, however, as by July 1921, Lutter had joined the staff of the Republic Player Roll Company, and when they switched their entire focus to producing reproducing rolls for the Welte Licensee, he became the principle of the recording department, popular music division, responsible for both working on editing recordings by other pianists into the finished product as well as releasing rolls performed by himself.

His rolls from the Welte period reach new musical heights, being described as 'musically audacious' and 'thrilling' by collectors. They often feature instrumental interludes quoting other popular tunes of the period before returning to the original piece.

Following the decline of the music roll industry, he took a job for Vitaphone, and lists himself as a radio worker throughout much of the 1930s, changing to 'sound engineer' in 1938. In the 1940 Census his occupation is given as 'janitor - temporary - Newark Board of Education'. This is an odd change of job for such a talented musician - his income is shown as $1445 per year which is near the US average of $1368, but he also indicates he has income from other sources - perhaps musical royalties. He also owns his house which is valued at $5000, so is not in a bad position for a nation emerging from the Depression. The 1941 Newark Directory states he is a 'sound engineer and janitor's helper', which further muddies the waters. Lutter's WW2 draft card (1942)  lists the Newark Board of Education as his employer.

Used many pseudonyms, in particular 'Stuart Gregory'. His rolls are highly regarded by collectors for their musical value. Artempo masters were also supplied to Australian roll companies Mastertouch and Broadway under license, some remaining in the catalogue until Mastertouch ceased operations in 2005.