Today I received a note from Ray Siou. Anybody with an instrument
using Wurlitzer rolls knows who Ray Siou was. During the 1970's
and the '80's, up into the '90's, Ray Siou was the person who made
Play-Rite recuts of Wurlitzer rolls available at prices that couldn't
be beat and that never have been equaled since.
Ray lived on East Fourteenth Street in Oakland, Calif. His place was
filled with a collection of mechanical musical instruments, and the
areas not taken up by them were filled with a huge stock of Wurlitzer
rolls. The late Jeanne Malone, mother of Play-Rite's John Malone, ran
the Play-Rite specialty roll perforators at her home on North Palm
Street, Turlock, Calif., and produced all the Wurlitzer rolls Ray Siou
John Malone would deliver the stock each week to Ray's home on his
trips from Turlock to his day job in San Francisco. Ray then sold the
rolls to customers in one-dozen lots at $15 per roll. If you wanted
fewer than a dozen rolls, Ray referred you back to Play-Rite, where
John Malone would fill your order at a good markup, using Ray's roll
stock to draw from.
When your bulk order arrived from Ray, you would find the unused spaces
in the box filled with surprise items that Ray had picked up at the
Post Office unclaimed item sales that he liked to frequent. It might
be an apron, a bottle of cologne, handkerchiefs, some postcards,
tubes of toothpaste, very often a bunch of tape cassettes. You never
knew what you might get with your order of rolls.
Ray always said that when he quit the roll business, nobody would ever
sell rolls at his prices again, and he was right. In one of his lists,
titled "To The Next Generation of Organ Mogul," he wrote "The last list
took me five years to sell out of and this one may take longer, but no
matter -- nobody is going to make any more '165' style rolls and sell
them as cheap as I have over the years." He ends with, "To the cheap
old geezers, a word of advice: Spend your money on some new rolls, it's
later than you think it is."
Well, age and diabetes got the better of Ray and he couldn't wrestle
the heavy boxes of rolls to the post office any longer. So he stopped
selling Wurlitzer rolls in the 1990's. Ray has now moved temporarily
to his mother's old condo and is looking for an assisted living place.
He has put all his collection and his assets into a trust. His
church-pipe 165 organ hasn't worked for the past few years, and his
heirs-to-be are trying to sell it for parts. Ray's life consists
mostly of watching TV and listening to music, he says. Ray was always
a cat lover and, in settling his estate, he has made handsome provision
for his cats, as well as for his descendants.
True to form, Ray enclosed two music CD's in his nice note to me. This
all brought back fond memories of what once was.
Irondequoit, New York