Piano Roll Artists


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Minor Artists


BROWN, Mary E.

Born: May 1884, Chicago, Illinois

Died: 2 March 1934, Maywood, Illinois

Mary E. Brown (also known as Mae Brown) was one of the mainstays of the large United States Music Co., which was active in the roll business from the very early days.

Her father, Samuel, born in Ohio, was of French/Canadian ancestry and worked as a bookkeeper - her mother, also named Mary, was born in New York to Irish immigrants. She studied piano and organ and was highly proficient on both instruments.

Mary's sister Elenor  (b Aug 1887) was also employed as an arranger at the US company, but no information has come to light of her musical activities.

A highly educated woman, particularly in languages, she taught music in many area Catholic schools and served on the faculty of De Paul University.

She lost her fortune during the early days of the Depression, but was still able to live relatively comfortably.

An active member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, she also worked at the Kedzie Theatre from 1914 until 1934, when she died of arteosclerosis and heart failure after an illness of three weeks.





BUSH, Dudley (Artempo)
Born: c1895, New Jersey
Died: ?

Arranged heavier opera and classical works (such as 'William Tell Overture') for Artempo.
Listed in the 1920 US Census as an orchestra cellist.
In the 1930 Census, now living in Canton, OH with wife Edith (English immigrant, married 1923) and stepson Robert Fletcher. Dudley is a musician in a theatre orchestra and Edith is a music teacher.|


   ESBERGER, Walter

23 July 1884, Cincinnati, Ohio
22 June 1962, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Physical Desription:
5'41/2", 149 pounds (1942) Brown hair and eyes.

Walter Esberger was one of the principle artists at the Vocalstyle Music Co. Although some Internet sources claim he changed his name to Walter Davision following WWI and anti-German sentiment, this is inaccurate - Walter Davison was in fact an entirely different person, and both recorded for Vocalstyle.

In 1895 (aged ten) he was climbing a fence in his back yard when a ring on the third finger of his right hand caught on a nail and ripped the finger off his hand. Blood poisoning set in, and a local newspaper reported that 'serious results were anticipated'. Luckily he survived.

1907: Described as 'one of the city's
ablest and most thorough musicians,'.

1910: Census states he's living with his parents, Charles (born in Germany c1852) and Louisa (born in Ohio c1854 to German immigrant father and Ohioan mother) and siblings Walter, Flora, Hubert, Charles Jr and his wife Lillie, and child Eleanor. Walter's listed as a music teacher.

In 1914 he's listed at 1408 Vine St under 'Bands and Orchestras' in a Cincinnati directory

Seems to have composed quite a few tunes, including 'Hallelujah Rag' and 'All Aboard For Alabam'.

Paul E. Bierley's book, 'Hallelujah Trombone!: The Story of Henry Fillmore" is quite unkind to Esberger: "It is perhaps poetic justice that many of the concerts which Henry conducted would ordinarily have been conducted by Walter or Charles Esberger, his successors as leader of the Syrian Temple Shrine Band, and with whom there had previously been unpleasant relations. Walter Esberger was also a composer of marches, and a study of his programs shows that he almost never played any of Henry's music. Henry's friends who played in Esberger's band resented this.

However, earlier in the book he concludes "..references (in the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati Musicians Assoc. minutes) to the Esbergers were sometimes less than flattering.... it must be considered however that ... these men were trying to do the same job with less experienced musicians. They did a very credible job under the circumstances."

1920: "Musician, Own Business"

By 1942 he was employed by Baldwin Piano Co., 142 W. 4th St, Cincinnati. At this time he states in his WW2 military draft card that 'Third finger right hand is amputated'. Physical description at this time is 5'4 1/2", and 149lb, with brown eyes, bald head and light complexion.

The Billboard magazine of 16 January 1943 lists Esberger's marriage to Mrs. Florence Fey on January 7th in Cincinnati, and states he is 'conductor of Esberger's Band, Cincinnati'.

He died

Wife, Irene Helman (c. 1896), married in September 1915.





WALTON, William
POP-Filmusic, Aeolian (1960s)

Credited on some POP/Filmusic popular selections, usually with Vern Elliott. Most probably an Elliott pseudonym, as he surfaces again in the '60s as a credited artist for Aeolian.

Artempo, Welte

Likely a Howard Lutter psuedonym. Appears as a solo and duet artist for Artempo, and some Welte rolls credited to 'Howard Lutter & John Spencer'.





AXTMANN, William

(ARLINGTON, William)

William Otto Axtmann was born August 21, 1891 in NYC and was one of Connorized's staff arrangers. His WWI draft card lists his profession as 'Musician - pianist for P. J. Harvey, 181 St & Boston Road'. Physical description is 'tall, medium build' with grey hair and brown eyes. This tallies with the description from . The 1930 census shows him having married Georgina in 1924 and working as a pianist for a music publishing company.

Following anti-German sentiment during WWI, his rolls Anglicized his name to "William Arlington".

One interesting point is that the only match for William O. Axtmann in the 1900 and 1910 census shows him as born in March 1886, the son of a barber. In 1910 this Axtmann is working as a bank bookkeeper. Axtmann's style frequently uses rapid octave runs in the bass. The rolls credited as 'played by Scott Joplin' on the Connorized label exhibit these same traits, suggesting the rolls were edited by Axtmann.




Atlas, Standard (Perfection, SingA, etc)

John Albert Schmidlin was born November 29, 1891 in Philadelphia, PA. His father Albert was a cooper who arrived in the USA from Germany in 188, and in 1900 is listed as 'widowed'.

On June 23, 1916 he married Mabel Hemple at the German Church in Philadelphia.

His 1917 WWI draft card lists his profession as 'musical arranger, Standard Music Roll Co.' and to be married with wife and one child. Tall and slender with dark hair and brown eyes.


The 1920 census lists his parents as both being born in France, and he is living with his wife and son, 2 year old John R. Schmidlin. His profession is 'musical arranger'.

The 1930 census shows another son, Robert A. Schmidlin, was born in 1921, and the family of four are living at 18 Bradley Terrace, West Orange, NJ. His profession is now listed as 'manufacturer - piano rolls".

He was apparently the last owner and/or president of the Standard Music Roll Co. [FH]


In 1942, his WW2 draft card shows the 50-year-old Schmidlin living at 39 Condit Terrace, West Orange, NJ and working for the Sperry Product Inc. in Hoboken, NJ. He lists himself as standing at 5'11" and weighing 167lb.

He died February 1982 in St Mary Hospital, Essex NJ, and his wife Mabel died in December 1989.



CRIPE, Mabel
QRS (early Autograph Hand Played)

Mabel Cripe, born February 1879 in Illinois, recorded a few superb duets with Sollie Heilbronner in the early QRS Autograph series, including #100074, 'Junk Man Rag', and #100076, 'Nights Of Gladness'.

The 1900 census lists her as 'pianist - musical house'. By 1920 she had married and become Mabel Avery, and appears to have retired from her musical career.



RODOCKER, Roy Vincent

Head Of Department at Columbia/Capitol, and arranged their piano rolls, automatic/coin piano rolls, and organ rolls.

Born September 27, 1887 in Illinois, his WW1 draft card states he is 'Foreman - Melville Clark Piano Co.' - Short height, medium build, black hair and eyes.

AMICA article by Dave Junchen from 1983 states:

The Columbia Music Roll Company was founded in 1920, simultaneously with the beginning of the Clark
Orchestra Roll Company. Ernest G. Clark had purchased the coin operated division of the QRS Company,
and Roy Rodocker, who had been head of the QRS coin operated division, was hired by the Operators Piano
Company to form a roll making division in their building at 22 South Peoria Street in Chicago.

When Columbia first began operations in 1920, their output was entirely rolls for the Coinola pianos manufactured
by Operators, and many, if not all, of the arrangements were copied from QRS 88-note rolls. Within a year, however, Columbia decided to enter the 88-note market, which meant that they had to develop their own arrangements. I suspect that the first Columbia arrangements in 1921 were the work of Mr. Rodocker's drafting board. By 1922 live artists were recording their playing at the Columbia factory, and most popular 88note rolls issued from then on list a performing artist on the label. Roy Rodocker particularly admired the playing of Negro musicians, and artists such as James Blythe, Clarence Johnson, Alex Hill, Lloyd Smith, and James P. Johnson are often seen on Capitol rolls. Mr. Rodocker also persuaded some of the Chicago theatre organists to record for Capitol, including Eddie Hanson, Irma Glen, Pearl White, and Al Carney. He didn't neglect good white pianists, either - so fine musicians like John Honnert and Charlie Garland also joined the Capitol roster.

Quality was a hallmark of Capitol roll production from the 1920 beginning until the bitter end in 1934. The musical arrangements, under Roy Rodocker's editorship, were consistently superb - being easily the equal and frequently the finest of all the roll companies.

In the 1920 census he's listed as 'Manager - music roll mf'g.' In the 1930 census, "Arranger - music rolls".

The WW2 draft card lists him as self-employed. He appears to have been modest about his height in the WW1 draft, since he lists himself as 5'10", 168lb, brown eyes, grey hair, and a ruddy complexion.

He died October 31, 1945 in Illinois, and is at that time listed as being in the coal business.



KEAST, Percy Marwood
Clark, Columbia/Capitol

Interviewed in later life and provided invaluable information about the operations of the Columbia/Capitol company. Arranged piano rolls and automatic/coin piano rolls. Said about the Columbia company's operations..

"Their performances were first done on a recording piano. The arrangements then were edited extensively before they were issued on music rolls. The resulting rolls usually were about 50% performer and 50% editor so far as musical stylistic traits were concerned, but this editing was in excellent musical taste."

Born November 23, 1888 in Illinois.

1910 census - 'Drug store clerk'
WW1 draft - 'Machinist  - Geo. Whitcomb'. 'Lost left leg'(!)
1920 census - 'Music Arranger - music roll mf'g'.
1930 census - "Musician - salesman".

The WW2 draft lists him as self-employed as a band director for 'Grade Schools of Park Ridge & Elmhurst'. Height 5'6", weight 175lb, blue eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion.

He died in April 1978 in Austin, Texas.





According to Percy Keast, Gullman arranged piano rolls and automatic/coin piano rolls, and died in 1925. Probably Ralph Goolman, formerly with Kibbey?



Feb 14th 1872 - Jan 19th 1947

Died of cerebral hemmorgage. Parents names John A. and Clara Stallo Tyler.
Divorced from Harry Plogstedt. Buried in lot belonging to Amy Sherlock (1873-1960) as per her orders.


December 28th 1897 - September 1947.
Died of tuberculosis at Dunham Hospital. Not married


ANDERLIK, Joseph Edward

Born April 2 1892 or April 3, 1893, Chicago IL
Died May 1967, Arlington Heights, IL

May 9, 1914 MTR:

Will Record Artists Here.
Joseph Anderlik, who recently took charge of
the roll cutting department of the Rudolph Wurlitzer
Co., at North Tonowanda, N. Y., returned
a few days ago to the Chicago offices. Mr. Anderlik
is very much pleased with his new work
and announces the practical completion of a new catalog of 200 rolls which will be known as the
Wurlitzer "Rolla Artis" list. While here, Mr.
Anderlik received rolls from the factory which
were played by himself just before leaving, and
which are admirable. They are the "Misere" from
"II Trovatore," and "The Rosary" by Nevin. Mr.
Anderlik announces it as probable that the recording
of these rolls will be done, before long, in
Chicago. This will be an advantage because of
the city's central location, and because of the fact
that numerous first-class artists are here the year

April 28, 1917 MTR: Joe Anderlik, who has been manager of the
local Wurlitzer player roll department and recording
manager of "Rolla Artis" rolls, has resigned.
He has not yet announced his future

13 July 1918: QRS buys Rolla Artis

WW2 - working for Petroleum Heat & Power Co., Chicago




KAPLAN, Dave (Artempo)

Born: c1889, PA

Parents Rusisan Jews

Profession: Musician (1920FC)
Married Jane (b1889) who was born in Ohio


Died Feb 1973, Atlantic City NJ


SCHAIK, Bernie

I suspect it is not a coincidence that the only Bernard Schaik listed in the 1930 Census lives 3 doors down from Capitol head arranger Roy Rodocker!

Rodocker had a daughter the same age, and I speculate Schaik was either her boyfriend or a friend. Unknown as of now is whether he had any hand in recording the rolls, or whether Rodocker simply used his name on some of the Supertone releases from 1930-1933 after Capitol released most of their regular recording artists as the Depression hit.

An obituary for a Mary J. Hannigan (1919-2004) mentions she was born in Chicago, married Bernard J. Schaik in 1941, then moved to Lafayette, 'where her husband taught flight at Purdue University with the Army Air Corps during WWII. Her husband, Bernie Schaik, preceded her in death on Jan. 9, 1997'. The corresponding death entry for Bernard Schaik gives the dates 1914-1997, which fits well with the 1930 Census. Aside from the middle initial, it seems likely this is the same Bernard Schaik.

On 31 January 2010 I contacted a relative I tracked down via a family website. Sure enough, Bernard was a great pianist and played in a band!



Ralph Sparks recorded a few rolls for Vocalstyle, all duets with Herbert Lange with the exception of one solo performance (Estudiana Waltzes).
The only match for this name in Cincinnati appears to have worked all his life as a clerk in a box making factory, so seems an unlikely match.

LEE, Betty
Betty Lee recorded a few early rolls for Vocalstyle, some duets with Walter Esberger and Herbert Lange and a few solo rolls (notably 'Beets and Turnips' rag).

JONES, Jimmie
Jimmie Jones recorded a few early rolls for Vocalstyle, all solo performances, the most interesting sounding roll being #50022, Jimmie's Medley Dream.

Willie Blackman recorded two rolls for Vocalstyle, Friml's 'Tis The End, So Farewell from Katinka, and a duet with Herbert Lange, There's Egypt In Your Dreamy Eyes, a jazz onestep.