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MMD > Archives > February 1998 > 1998.02.24 > 01Prev  Next

Pseudonyms of Roll Artists
By Bob Conant

Karl Ellison wrote:

> I was crushed to read that Pauline Alpert was actually a man ...
> I had a picture in my mind of what she should have looked like,
> and now I feel disillusioned and cheated.  ;)  ... Why did player
> piano roll publishers make pseudonyms for their artists?

Karl,  I expect you will get replies much more informed than mine but
I would like to add my little bit to this discussion.  Pauline Alpert
certainly did exist and was a beautiful young lady as well as an
absolutely outstanding pianist.

Pauline was mugged (set upon by thieves) and grievously injured.
After that she was very crippled and in much pain but she recovered
sufficiently to remain a virtuoso pianist.  She was noted in particular
for her extremely fast fingering.  She survived long enough to become
an honorary member of AMICA (or was it MBSI, I have no records here
with me) and was a guest at one or more conventions where she played
for a delighted audience.  So keep your vision of a great artist who
was a real lady.

With regards to all the pseudonyms, certainly, especially in the early
days, all the major manufacturers had "house artists".  These artists
used several names to make the roster look larger at the time.

Now, these house artists were no slouches.  Adam Carroll, for example,
made nearly 25 % of the Ampico rolls under his own and other names, yet
he was an outstanding artist in his own right and had a continuing
career in radio and TV after the roll business dried up.

Often, the names used reflected the type of music presented.  Milton
Suskind, his real name, was a major artist with Ampico and recorded
under several names.  One of the most prominent was Edgar Fairchild.
He recorded classical music under the Suskind name and popular music
under the Fairchild name.  He became so well known as Edgar Fairchild
that later on he legally changed his name from Milton Suskind to Edgar

In a rather different category are those rolls that are "played in
the style of ..."  In these cases, the artist was real but someone --
whether Frank Milne, J. Lawrence Cook, Hi Babbit, Rudy Martin or
whoever -- has studied their technique and has produced a roll done in
that style.  These are pseudo rolls and should be enjoyed for the music
they make available.  They usually copy artists no longer around to
make their own rolls.

As a final comment, even some rolls that were played by a real person
were sometimes not actually played by them.  Vincent Lopez was an
artist who did not take well to the recording process and most of his
rolls were done without much participation from him.  Rachmaninoff, on
the other hand, would take as much as 6 months of re-editing until his
rolls were acceptable to him.  Incidentally, Milton Suskind was the
only roll editor that Rachmaninoff considered to be a great enough
musician to be trusted with his material.  Most of these people were
really good, pseudonyms or not.

Just my views.

Bob Conant

(Message sent Tue 24 Feb 1998, 21:29:49 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Artists, Pseudonyms, Roll

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