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MMD > Archives > March 2016 > 2016.03.25 > 02Prev  Next


Woody Frisino, Mel-O-Art Piano Roll Artist
By Ed Gaida

Warren (Woody) Nicholas Frisino was born in Baltimore, Maryland,
on July 22, 1900, the fifth child of Biaggio (Benjamin) and Antonia
Genovese Frisino.  By 1915, there were ten children, six boys and
four girls, living in the Baltimore row house at 619 North Linwood.
Benjamin was a barber at the Baltimore Country Club and Antonia was,
quite naturally, a housewife.

The first written evidence found on the Internet for Woody is his
registration for the World War I draft.  His date of registration was
September 12, 1918.  Whether or not he saw service in the military is
unknown at this time.  His job, at that time, was as a payroll clerk
at the Bartlett-Hayward Company, then the largest iron foundry in the
United States.  They made stoves and cast giant ornamental fronts for
buildings.

Just when Woody entered the music field is unknown, but by the 1920
census his occupation was listed as _musician_ and would be the same
until his death.

Ancestry.com furnished me with two other people who have done research
on Woody and I wrote emails to both of them.  Within four hours I had
one answer -- a direct descendant -- and she furnished me with further
information.  She had no idea he had anything to do with player piano
rolls!

If you have any player rolls made by the Meloart Company of Baltimore,
Maryland, chances are they are "played" by Woody Frisino or one of his
many pseudonyms.  I won't say too much about Meloart in this post as
I am preparing more information about that short lived but obviously
prolific firm.

I have scans of thirty-seven Meloart rolls and they all sound like they
were played by the same person.  I sent five midi files to a musician
friend of mine; no titles, just the music.  I used files attributed to
five different label artists.  My friend's opinion was that all were
arranged by the same musician.

Woody quite possibly used the following names, and others, for his
roll making career:  Lee Jackson, Herb Johnson (appears most in blues
recordings), Ray Dixon, Al Taney, Jack Roxey and Lem Austin.  I am sure
there might have been others but only the acquisition of more rolls or
paper ephemera will help solve the problem.  It may have been that
Woody was Meloart's _only_ full time arranger of music rolls; only time
and interest will tell.

Frisino's playing style is easy to spot and sending out the MIDI files
to my musician friend was only to confirm my own thoughts on the matter.
He is at his best playing blues compositions, most of which do not
appear on any other label that I am able to find.  His interpretations
of Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport's works are particularly well done.
Label credits usually have his first name listed in quotation marks,
i.e., "Woody".

The family member who graciously answered my email has some sheet music
by him and I have a professional photo which will be posted on a soon
to be created page on my website.

I have fourteen of Woody's rolls (using all of his "stage names")
under production and will announce the completion to this forum first.

Woody died at an early age on January 26, 1946.  You can find his
published sheet music on line, however, it is a tedious process.

If any "paper" ephemera exists on Meloart it is probably in the
Richard Howe collection now housed at Stanford University.  A finding
aid has yet to be created on the collection which contains 225 _feet_
of material.  Don't hold your breath while the index is being created.
The University of Maryland never created such an aid or index and one
would imagine they were only too happy to ship it to Stanford and
create storage space for what they considered more "significant"
material!

Ed Gaida - Preserving music by punching holes in paper.
San Antonio, Texas


(Message sent Fri 25 Mar 2016, 15:26:54 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Artist, Frisino, Mel-O-Art, Piano, Roll, Woody

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