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MMD > Archives > September 2005 > 2005.09.13 > 04Prev  Next

Source of Wurlitzer Style 125 Music Rolls
By Matthew Caulfield

Les,  Although nothing has happened to Play-Rite's specialty roll
department (music rolls for band organ, orchestrion, Violano, etc.),
their player piano roll operation in Turlock, Calif, at 401 S. Broadway,
burned down Feb. 2, 1997.  One of the big, irrecoverable losses from
that fire was the stencil machine for printing lyrics onto word rolls.

Play-Rite's specialty roll operation was -- and still is -- run out
of owner John Malone's house in Turlock, where he has at least three
production perforators of various design.  The big loss there was the
recent death of Jeanne Malone, John's mother, on Aug. 16, 2005, at the
age of 93.  Jeanne Malone pretty much single-handedly did all the work
of producing Play-Rite specialty rolls.  The report is that John Malone
intends to continue production,  contingent on the hiring and training
of capable people to replace Mrs. Malone.

But Play-Rite does only full-run custom production work, meaning that
you have to give them a pretty sizable order and then be prepared to
buy the full run of copies of the rolls you want made.  That can mean
taking as many as 18 copies of a roll, which then put you into the
roll-selling business.

This function used to be largely performed by Ray Siou, of Oakland,
Calif., who had Play-Rite produce huge numbers of Wurlitzer rolls,
which Ray would retail in lots of a dozen rolls for around $15 per
roll, with freebies from the Post Office surplus sales that Ray would
attend thrown in as surprise gifts with most orders.

If you wanted a single roll, or less than the dozen that was Ray's
minimum, Ray would sell whatever you wanted back to Play-Rite, and
Play-Rite would sell it to you at a hefty markup.  It was a system that
worked to everybody's advantage.  But Ray, a retired butcher by trade
(he used to use old chicken boxes for packing the roll orders) and a
diabetic, got too old to lug heavy boxes of rolls to the post office,
and he quit the business.

Now your only source for style 125 rolls is -- aside from the
occasional roll that is advertised on eBay or on the MMD -- is Mike
Grant, Columbia City, Ind. (phone 260-248-8288).  Mike can cut four
copies of any Wurlitzer roll at a time, and he sells them for $35
(maybe $40 now) per roll, singly or in quantity.  Mike also sells
a loose-leaf, well-researched and well-indexed catalog of all known
Wurlitzer 125 rolls, which any serious collector of 125 rolls should

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, New York

(Message sent Tue 13 Sep 2005, 16:12:17 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  125, Music, Rolls, Source, Style, Wurlitzer

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