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MMD > Archives > June 2005 > 2005.06.15 > 09Prev  Next

Choice Of Tunes For Rolls
By Matthew Caulfield

What Art Reblitz reports P.M. Keast as saying about selecting tunes for
music rolls makes a lot of sense and seems to be in keeping with
Wurlitzer's philosophy.  It is obvious from their rolls -- and they
bragged about this in their advertising -- that they chose the hit tunes
of the hour.  Well, mostly.

An occasional roll will have a tune that is decades older than the other
tunes on the roll, which are generally much less than a year old.
Sometimes that older tune was in revival, but other times not, making it
look like the company needed to find a quick fix to get the roll out on

Although most Wurlitzer tunes fall into the "top 40" category (to apply
a current term to an old practice), the company did make a conscious
effort to also issue rolls containing tunes that had all survived the
test of time and were likely to stay "evergreen," and therefore
saleable, for years and years, unlike their "top 40" rolls, which were
not kept long in stock.  I think Wurlitzer was conflicted between
issuing rolls of short-term popularity, which would require rapid stock
turnover but would also mean that customers would buy new rolls more
often, and issuing evergreen rolls that they could keep in stock but
that their customers would not seek to replace with new purchases.

In the 'teens of the 20th century, it appears that a large number of the
tunes which found their way onto Wurlitzer rolls were published by the
Vandersloot Music Publishing Company, Williamsport, Pa.  There may have
been some kind of mutually beneficial business relationship between
Vandersloot and Wurlitzer, 200 miles to the north.  Unfortunately
Vandersloot was sold in 1930(?) and moved to Philadelphia.  There are
probably no records in Williamsport that would shed light on the
connection, if there was one, and even fewer records left in the
Wurlitzer archives in the Smithsonian Institution.  Whoever weeded the
Wurlitzer papers before sending them off to De Kalb, Ill., where they
first landed, showed a heavy interest in the financial side of the
business, but little interest in the technical or operational side.

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, NY

(Message sent Wed 15 Jun 2005, 15:13:53 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Choice, Rolls, Tunes

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