Automatic Music Hall of Fame
Automatic Music Hall of
at Mechanical Music Digest
This site is a collection and remembrance of the people, both the living
and the long-departed, who contributed or are contributing to the Automatic
Music industry and its musical pleasure. Some rogues and villains
appear here, too! Names marked with the asterisk (*) have been selected
by MMDigest for special recognition because of their significant impact
upon the industry.
Please contact MMDigest if you can help write short biographies of these
During the Heyday:
Industrialists & Marketeers
Ignatz Blasius Bruder (Waldkirch
Hugo Popper (Welte-Mignon)
? (Aeolian Piano Co.)
? (American Piano Co.)
George W. Giddens (Welte
Inventors & Engineers
*Carl Frei (Dutch Street Organ)
R. F. Stoddard (Amphion
Clarence Hickman (Ampico)
Hobart M. Cable (Operator's)
Noteurs & Arrangers (& a few composers)
* Max Kortlander (QRS/Imperial)
*J. Lawrence Cook (QRS/Imperial)
*Rudy Erlebach ("ROE") (?)
Mae Brown (U. S. Music?)
Herman Avery Wade (U. S.
Heinrich "Henry" Burkhard
(Welte, New York)
J. Russel Robinson (QRS)
James P. Johnson (QRS)
Eubie Blake (various)
In recent times:
Larry Givens (music roll
copying and production)
Art Reblitz (nickelodeons
Joe Roesch (music
Nancy Fratti (music
Robin Biggins (music
Freyer (music roll copying and production)
Armstrong (restoration supplies)
Writers & Publishers
*Q. David Bowers
Charles Davis Smith
Dealers & Collectors & Museums
Hathaway & Bowers
G. W. McKinnon
Museum of Deansboro, New York
Don Rand & Ed Openshaw
A. C. Raney (Whittier, CA)
During the Heyday: Industrialists &
Justis P. Seeburg -- Built the Seeburg company from a modest
beginning in 1907. At least a part of Seeburg's success was due to their standardization
of models and the music rolls which they used. While most other firms changed
designs and styles practically every year or two, J. P. Seeburg offered
essentially the same models year after year. Seeburg pioneered the
use of the style "A" music roll which later became the industry standard and was used
by dozens of other firms. The Seeburg style "G" roll was likewise an industry
standard. In the 1920s Seeburg secretly operated the Western Electric Piano Co.
to provide sales competition to the Seeburg line.
Max Kortlander - The arranger who created and virtually
defined the solo piano sound of the 1920s which everyone today recognises
as "piano roll style". He joined QRS as a lad and rose quickly
to become the chief of the recording department. He purchased the
assetts of the company when QRS went bankrupt in 1930 and formed his own
firm, Imperial Music Industries, which continued business until the 1970s
when it was purchased by Ramsi Tick and incorporated as QRS Music.
Edwin Welte (1876-1958) and his brother-in-law, Karl Bockish,
developed the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano in 1904 for M. Welte &
Soehne of Freiburg, Germany. Music roll recording commenced in 1905.
The recording piano and the reproducing system were entirely new inventions
which astounded the musicians and fans in Europe. In 1906 (?) he
established "The Welte Artistic Player Piano Company" in a showroom in
New York and soon was producing pianos and music rolls for American customers.
In recent times:
Ed Freyer -- In the early 1960s Ed Freyer, of Flemington, New
Jersey, rebuilt a few Link orchestrions and placed them on location.
It wasn't long before the old music rolls wore out and became unplayable
so he rebuilt an old Acme perforater and made a roll copying machine.
His first batch of recuts were of Link rolls provided by collector Murray
Clark, then Harvey Roehl convinced Ed to expand to recutting style A and
G rolls. This photo by Harvey Roehl was reproduced on page 209 in
Put Another Nickle In, by Q. David Bowers, ©1966 by
The Vestal Press, with the caption: "Ed provides collectors all over the
country with quality recuts of A, G and Link rolls."
Durrell Armstrong (1933-2008) began rebuilding player pianos
in 1951, shortly after he graduated from high school. He founded
the Player Piano Co. in Wichita, Kansas, to supply hobbyists and professional
rebuilders the parts and supplies needed to restore aging pneumatic player
pianos and nickelodeons. "I was working at a printing company making
75 cents an hour" he told ABC
News. "I found that I could earn $2 an hour repairing player
pianos." At its peak in 1973 his business had 31 employees.
"I still think of it as an overgrown hobby," he said.
31 January 1999, 09 November 2005, 31 December 2008, 04