Regarding Pauline Alpert's rolls, I spoke with her in Philadelphia
about 1979 when she attended the AMICA convention there. She sounded
bitter about the fact that in those days, women were given a short
shrift on everything, and because she was a woman, received only
$50 per recording.
The chief editor and head of the recording department at that time was
Robert Armbruster, who admitted to all of us that Pauline played so
fast and profusely that he had to ask her to not play so many notes,
because nobody would really believe it was hand-played for a Duo-Art.
(Not to mention the fact that they would have to record at about a
120-140 tempo, and few if any Duo-Art popular rolls were ever recorded
like that to my knowledge.) It would have doubled the cost of the roll
and their profit would have gone right down the drain (they figured).
Duo-Art wasn't too critical about their pop tunes being performed
authentically. They used a "formula" pop coding style, mostly.
Aeolian always considered their piano a classical instrument that could
also play pop tunes. I suspect that may be why they emphasized the
Ampico later [after the merger of the companies in the '30s] as a
"popular music" instrument, like the "Lambada" advertisement: an
attempt to prevent too much overlapping and self-competition. But it
gave the Ampico an unfair disadvantage, later.
Pauline didn't mention Frank Milne, or any other financial arrangement
in which they would use her style and her name, but I suppose it didn't
matter anyway on these watered-down versions of her style. They're
still good but not authentic, or anything to get excited about. I
believe it was just a good way to keep her name before the public as a
performer on call.
What would be more valuable today would be an arranger who could cut
some rolls in Pauline Alpert's style by listening to her actual playing
on records. I know of one person in particular who would be up to
that, and when I finished the job, you would swear that Pauline had
just been resurrected! : George Bogatko !
[ That would be great! Another "pair of good ears" would be John
[ Farrell; he's made lots of roll transcriptions from phono recordings
[ which appear on "JAM" and "Hot Piano Classics" labels.
[ Thanks for writing with your recollections, Craig. I seems that all
[ who spoke with Pauline Alpert heard the same basic story. And isn't
[ it great that her boss at the time, Robert Armbruster, confirmed it!
[ -- Robbie